In a world where music streaming apps have become the go-to platform for many music lovers out there, still, a lot of people continue to tune into the radio and just let the DJ run their playlist. The big problem, unlike its music streaming cousin, is that listening to the radio can be quite a pain. Oftentimes, music is interrupted between songs for traffic updates (even though your Waze or other navigation app is already open), commercial after commercial (even though you pay premium for a music app), news broadcasts (despite having 24-hour news updates blinking on your phone), and of course it’s hard to ignore the sometimes annoying DJs running their mouths instead of playing tunes. So, an Israeli developer decided that he wants to enjoy both worlds, and create a smart playlist.

Listening to radio playlists on Spotify, without turning on the radio

“I really love listening to music on the radio, but between the annoying broadcasters, news updates, traffic, and commercials, listening to the radio has become more of a nuisance, ruining all the musical fun,” explains Yaniv Lerman, a 32-year-old back end software engineer at Chegg. Lerman decided to put his skills to use, and develop an app that allows him to enjoy the radio without all the aforementioned annoyances.

Lerman created Live Playlists, an app that samples songs from radio stations, identifies the song, locates it in Spotify’s database, and adds it to a dynamic playlist. “This is how I create playlists that are updated based on what’s playing on the radio at a given time, enabling a radio-like listening experience but without interruptions, and complete playlist management abilities.” Currently, the service is available for Israeli and British radio listeners - Radio Virgin and Capital Radio.

“The first development that operated cleanly from end-to-end took something like two weeks,” tells Lerman. “The app itself is written in NodeJS and rests on Amazon’s EC2 machine… Basically, the app preforms HTTP reading for music played on the radio, samples 5 seconds from a song and identifies it.” The song identification is done through AcrCloud and AudD, and these services often offer direct link to Spotify, saving Lerman valuable time of searching and matching different songs.

However, not all of these services provide a the necessary link. “This is the big challenge,” admits Lerman. Spotify’s API demands the exact name of the artist and song, which is easy for English titles, but becomes more challenging when dealing with songs in different languages - like in Hebrew - where the song could be spelled out in English letters or fully translated, causing more than enough confusion for current user searches of non-English songs.

“Over time I exported many logs, realizing that I’m missing a lot of songs. In order to overcome this challenge, I searched for a way to create all the possible combinations, when given a song and artist.” For this to work, Lerman turned to Google Translate, Deezer, Discogs, and Musixmatch to collect all the different variations of song titles. “Once I utilized this method, I rechecked the app’s stats and found that it can now identify 99% of the song titles.”

I tested the service in real-time, and yep the playlist is update almost immediately, maybe a few seconds after the song started playing on the radio. Although, I also encountered instances when a song wasn’t uploaded to the playlist for unknown reasons. So, it’s not what I would call perfect, but still works great.

Already receiving interest

“I wasn’t really planning on putting the app out there. At first I did it for myself, but it caught on really fast… and people started messaging me and even calling!”, notes Lerman, who also says that even one Israel’s most prominent radio stations called and offered Lerman to move the app onto the station’s servers, as well as to transfer the playlists into the station’s Spotify account. “I preferred to decline,” claims Lerman.

Lerman developed the app on his own free time and started a webpage to ask for donations to keep the servers maintained. Furthermore, he also started a Facebook page so that users can request new radio stations, and he does his best to add stations based on the requests of people who donated over $60 for server maintenance. Next, based on request, Lerman will look into creating automated playlists for Deezer.