Spotify acquires The Echo Nest and its musical smarts

Streaming radio service Spotify is acquiring The Echo Nest, a Somerville, Mass., startup focused on building the world’s largest graph of data about music. The Echo Nest already powers music recommendation for Spotify, as well as many other streaming services, so it’s a natural move for Spotify to want to bring that capability in-house.

The Echo Nest was founded by MIT Ph.Ds. Tristan Jehan and Brian Whitman, and has collected more than a trillion data points about over 35 million songs. These data points cover a variety of stuff, from genre to media mentions to the actual musical attributes of the songs themselves. All of it comes together in a large graph that The Echo Nest says lets it recommend content and deliver information about music better than most, if not everybody, around.

The company — which was founded in 2005 and has raised more than $25 million in venture capital — also offers a free API for developers who want to build some of its musical data into their applications.

Brian Whitman

Brian Whitman

Whitman will be speaking at our Structure Data conference March 19-20 in New York as part our Data Lab sessions. He’ll be talking about the state of the art in machine listening — the practice of teaching computers pick out the features of songs and sounds — and its potential applications across industries.

For Spotify, the acquisition helps it compete with the likes of Pandora(s P), Google(s GOOG) Now Music, iTunes(s aapl) Radio and now Gracenote without relying on a third party. Every company in the streaming music space has its own advantages and its own strategies around recommendations, and some — like Google — are already out showing off their prowess in analyzing music data, too. As large music libraries and recommendation systems become standard fare, the best services are going to have to find ways to do them better through data science.

The acquisition should also provide Spotify with additional momentum as it prepares for a long-rumored IPO. Speaking of which: Bloomberg reported Thursday that Spotify is working with Goldman Sachs on raising a credit facility, which could be a precursor to a public offering in the coming months.

This post was updated at 10:35 am with additional information about Spotify’s plans to go public.