Interview with MusicSmart app developer Marcos Tanaka
MusicSmart is a new app that will show you additional metadata and credits for songs in your music library. The app pulls in information about songwriters, musicians, where the song is sampled, trivia, YouTube links, and more.
An app like this could be a huge lifesaver for people in the music industry and just a joy for those music enthusiasts that read all the liner notes for every album they ever bought.
The app comes from MusicHarbor developer Marcos Tanaka and was released two days ago. In this Q&A, he explains some of the problems the app solves and what complicated metadata issues he ran into trying to gather all the information into a single place.
What does MusicSmart do and what made you want to create it?
MusicSmart is an iOS utility to find credits and additional details about the albums and songs in the user’s music library. It can answer questions like who are the writers, producers, and everyone who worked on this music? Which samples were used and which songs have used this one as a sample? And what is the story behind it, and what are the interesting facts?
Often while listening to music I thought about this kind of information, but couldn’t find it in any music streaming app, especially on Apple Music. And while working on my other app, MusicHarbor, I knew some APIs and data sources had this kind of information. So I just merged these two things and created MusicSmart.
Who is this app meant for? And how do you see people using this on a regular basis?
I think it’s fascinating to know more about the music I listen to, so I think people who share this same interest are going to love the app. I also enjoy discovering songs that were used to create a song I like, and also which songs have been inspired by it. I had lots of fun while developing the app because I got to discover a lot of interesting things I didn’t know about my music library.
And that’s how I think people are going to use it: to enjoy even more the music they listen to, by getting to know them better.
What did you learn while creating the app?
The first thing I found is that working with these different music services and databases is tricky because there is no standard way to identify an album or song between them. The naive approach is to use the song, album, and artist name for that, but I was surprised by how inconsistent these things are between different platforms.
I also found that metadata is very dynamic and different, depending on the song. Initially, I thought I could create specific rows for each different credit, like composers, producers, and engineers, but some songs in my library have more than 70 different types of credits! So I had to build the integration in a very dynamic way.
The app was just released, but do you have any additional features coming in the future?
Yes! I received a lot of feedback and suggestions, and now I’m planning the next updates. More specifically, I’ll try to give the users more options regarding the way albums are organized in the main app, with different sorting and grouping options, and I’ll also try to improve the integration between the action extension and the Music app.