Texas State University

Texas State University

TexasMusicViz: Music, Data and Storytelling

Texas State University is one of the 2014-15 winners of the Challenge Fund for Innovation in Journalism Education. See all 12 winners and the Honorable Mentions.


  • Cindy Royal, Associate Professor, Digital Media, Texas State University
  • Apan Qasem, Associate Professor, Computer Science, Texas State University
  • Stewart Ramser, Founder and Publisher, Texas Music Magazine
  • Haley Howle, Music Innovation, KUT–Austin, NPR affiliate
  • Casey Monahan, Director, Texas Music Office of the Governor
  • Tim Lott, Vice President, Disruptive Innovation, Cox Media Group
  • Brian Boyer, Editor, NPR Visuals Team
  • Kiana Fitzgerald, Production Assistant, NPR Music
  • Harsh Patel, Founder, MakerSquare

Project highlights

Loud Austin by Becky Larson

More projects found at Coding and Data Skills course webpage.

Describe your project as a tweet

Music tells the stories of a community, it’s history, culture, economy and social interaction. Share your story.

What is your live news experiment?

TexasMusicViz will combine data visualization and application development to tell important stories as they relate to music. Music can be integral to a community, not only reflecting entertainment, but also history, economics, culture and social interaction.

Using alternative methods to tell stories can uncover unheard voices and untold tales. By using data and application development, new and important ways to tell stories will be uncovered relating to music in the community. The project will further shed light on how to engage the community and will demonstrate how these topics should be integrated into curriculum.

How is this project unique and innovative?

No one is challenging music journalism, and Austin, as the live music capital, is the perfect place to experiment with new ways to tell music stories.

Music journalism typically consists of music or show reviews and band profiles, either in print or multimedia. But music can be a very important part of a community, with strong historical ties and affecting the economy, social interaction and culture.

Austin has several events focused on music, namely South By Southwest, Austin City Limits Festival and Fun Fun Fun Festival, but music is a central focus throughout the year. Beyond Austin, the state of Texas has a long musical history, covering a range of genres including country, blues, hip-hop, indie-rock, Latino and more.

The project will be developed over three semesters.

How will you collaborate?

Faculty in Mass Communication and Computer Science at Texas State University will develop the curriculum for each course that will be creating the data visualizations and news applications.

Consulting on curriculum development will be provided by other media partners, including NPR, KUT-Austin and MakerSquare. The professional contacts at Texas Music Magazine, Texas Music Office, KUT-Austin and NPR will provide professional insight and access to data and resources.

Students in the classes will work throughout the year on this project. These students will be given training and exposure to the most progressive organizations doing this type of work. They will be split into teams to experiment with different types of stories that can reflect the role of music in the community.

Professional media partners will agree to promote acceptable reporting and visualizations and applications on their websites. TexasMusicViz will operate as a news service providing innovative music stories to media partners.

What technology platforms will you use?

Data visualization will be handled with existing tools, like Chart.js, D3 and High Charts. We will use a current application framework, like Ruby on Rails or Django, to develop the comprehensive applications for community engagement. These will be extremely valuable skills for students and will contribute to the future of journalism curriculum.

Engagement applications will include an application built around the Texas Music Office’s band registry data. Engagement will be implemented further by creating projects to allow the community to submit and map their own music stories. An example of this in another application is the NYT interactive on Where Were You September 11, 2001. Additional promotions may be developed to engage users with social media, including video and Instagram contests.

How will this project provide an educational experience for students above and beyond their current learning?

This project will provide a comprehensive experience for students throughout the academic year by exposing them to innovative reporting methods and tools. Students will understand how to find and use data, how to create engaging visuals and how to develop interactive presentations to engage audiences.

While the emphasis of this project is music, the techniques covered will be applicable across a range of reporting. The results of the project, including curriculum and code, will be shared with the educational community at large.

What are the real challenges you face in implementing this?

This is a new area. Few organizations are working with music data. There are some music applications that are meant to connect people with music, but are not used to tell the stories of the community from a music perspective.

While our curriculum has experimented with data and interactivity for several years, the state of the industry moves very quickly. Curriculum will need to be cutting edge and flexible. And students will need to play an active role in defining specifications and requirements for the project. This won’t be a typical class with homework and tests, and students will need to be guided to pursue their creativity and innovative potential.

If this project works, how might the media organization and academic institution change its practices?

For Texas Music, the micro-site that is created for TexasMusicViz will extend their online portfolio. For Texas State University, this project will form the foundation for future curriculum that can be shared to the discipline at large. It will be the first collaboration between mass communication and computer science at Texas State, which should encourage more of these collaborations in the future.

The Texas State University team provided an update on its project in a July 2015 report. The following are excerpts from that report.

Update: What is the most important impact of your experiment? Any additional collaborators?

In a final project update provided in 2015 by Texas State University, project leaders note that the most important aspect of this project is the exposure of students to this type of storytelling and this range of skills. Every student obtained new insight into data storytelling, working with programming techniques, applying logic and understanding the importance of these skills in their future. Students in this course were able to expand their web development skills, create additional projects for their portfolios and discuss programming and data concepts with greater insight and confidence.

One key result of this project is the promise of new collaborations with Computer Science. Project leader Cindy Royal was working on a coding bootcamp to be taught in Summer 2016 as a Programming for Non-CS Majors course. Additionally, Royal was invited to appear on a panel at the City of Austin, along with data journalists from the Austin American-Statesman and Texas Tribune.

Royal also was part of a team that received another Challenge Fund grant to work with sensors and food trucks, partnering with Matt Waite of Nebraska and Robert Hernandez of University of Southern California.