iTunes for places, musical geo-tagging

Location-based services and social networks seem to be emerging as this year’s buzz words. In trying to dream up some musical angles to the application of such technologies, I found myself pondering geo-tagging.

Geo-tagging, if you’ve not heard of it, is technology which lets you connect data to a geographic position – so, for example, some images of a place you went to on holiday that you upload and make available to others using, for example, Flickr or Google Maps. Usually this involves images, though video is becoming more popular.

Once you have made your content available then others can access it too – they can use this to get a sense of a place you have been, or to share your experience of being in a place while they are there themselves.

The challenge with images, video or most other user-generated data is that its kind of subjective, Now imagine if you could geo-tag music to specific places. So – you could be looking at a website map for a location, click on a sector of that map and learn that seven different people have geo-tagged songs they felt appropriate for the area. And you get to listen to the songs.

That’s all well and good when you are just on a digital adventure in an armchair or something, but now imagine you are in a place – on the White Cliffs of Dover (well, given the high suicide rate there perhaps the songs would be a little depressing) or on top of a tall mountain, by a river in a forest, on the edge of an ancient stone structure, or just the high street in a small town.

So, there you are, equipped with a location-sensitive device that can go online, you hit a few buttons and get to listen to a track another person thought fitted the place. Perhaps you also contribute your own, perhaps you can listen to several tracks consecutively, kind of like a digital DJ session of songs inspired by the place you are in submitted by others who have been in exactly the same place, but at different times.

I know that Sony Ericsson is developing geo-tagging location based search technologies for music, its filing says: “During the search, the portable device determines location information that identifies a location of the portable device, makes a request that includes the location information to a database, obtains a list of music sources associated with the location information from the database as a result of a search performed based on the request, selects a music source from the list, and outputs an audio signal associated with the selected music source.”

The example here is just one notion of the kind of things that could happen once the power of music meets that of the social networks and location-based services. There’s another idea I’m seeking partners for to attempt to put into effect. Naturally, the one challenge to all these imagined applications of the celestial jukebox will be copyright, licensing and the imagination or lack of it displayed by rights holders. Where’s the money for them?

I’d argue that it doesn’t matter. That songs becoming intrinsically connected to a place would end up becoming songs that could re-connect people to a place after they leave it, a loss-leader to stimulate sales of the song itself.

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One thought on “iTunes for places, musical geo-tagging

  1. Bruce

    I’d wondered about geotagging music myself. In fact when I set up the Geotag Icon Project website I included an audio recording of birdsong as an example, geotagged using ID3 metadata—which seems well suited to the task. This issue is not so much the lack of somewhere to put the data, but rather the current lack of software tools to simplify adding such tags and (perhaps more importantly) search for them.

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