How We Used Open Source Technology to Democratize Our Office Playlist

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One of the first things you’ll notice when walking into 50onRed’s office at The Cira Center is the great music emanating from the sound system. You may hear hip-hop, punk, pop, 90s R&B, a movie soundtrack or some grungy black metal.

Are these tunes from our local radio station, Pandora, or an employee’s personal playlist? No, every single song that plays in the 50onRed office has been purposefully selected by a 50onRed employee through Musicbot, our open source music selection system.

Bob D’Errico, CMS Developer and co-engineer of Musicbot, described it best during his Redlabs ‘Meet the Team’ interview: “Whenever I talk about the project, I always refer to it as ‘democratizing music.”

This is how it works: Employees can add tracks to the office playlist by typing the the title or artist of the track they wish to hear into the “#musicbot” Slack channel. Musicbot then searches the Spotify catalog and replies with the top five search results. Once the employee selects which song they want, it is queued up on a playlist connected to the Sonos stereo system in our office. If no songs were selected, Musicbot will continuously choose random tracks from our accrued music library. This keeps the music going all day long.

Musicbot has many fun, interactive features. If someone dislikes a track, they can downvote it by typing “veto”, “-1” and even use a thumbs down emoji. If three different users veto a track, it is skipped, and its overall rating is decreased, making it less likely to be randomly selected again.

Users can upvote as well! If three unique users upvote a track, its overall rating increases, along with the likelihood that it will be played again. Songs can also be rated from zero to five stars. Tracks with higher ratings are more likely to be chosen by Musicbot in the future.

Users can also control the volume of the music, see information about the song that is currently playing, as well as what song is set to play next.

As you can imagine, our music library is quite eclectic. Some days the office feels like a corner coffee shop, filled with cozy vibes as The Kooks play softly in the background. Other days (often around 4 p.m.) you’ll hear multiple 80s power ballads playing in succession, taking our attitudes and work to the next level.

Our employees love the fact that they have a say in the soundtrack to their workday. It’s another way we get to socialize, discuss our favorite artists and playfully disagree on which genre reigns supreme.

No matter what music is playing, one thing remains true; our office music system is a democracy, with upvotes and downvotes for all.

Here are some of our favorite selections:

Top rated songs:

  1. No Doubt – “Don’t Speak”
  2. Pixies – “Where Is My Mind? (Remastered)”
  3. Caesars – “Jerk It Out”
  4. The Disney Afternoon Studio Chorus – “Duck Tales Theme”
  5. Seal – “Kiss From A Rose”
  6. System Of A Down – “Aerials”
  7. Queen – “Bohemian Rhapsody”
  8. blink-182 – “What’s My Age Again?”
  9. Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music”
  10. La Bouche – “Be My Lover”

Top requested artists:

  1. Kanye West 
  2. JAY Z
  3. Drake
  4. Tame Impala
  5. Red Hot Chili Peppers 

Permanently banned:

Tim McGraw- “Diamond Rings And Old Barstools”

Rebecca Black- “Friday”