Set up a development environment

To contribute to the ListenBrainz project, you need a development environment. With your development environment, you can test your changes before submitting a patch back to the project. This guide helps you set up a development environment and run ListenBrainz locally on your workstation. By the end of this guide, you will have…

  • Install system dependencies
  • Register a MusicBrainz application
  • Initialize development databases
  • Run ListenBrainz locally on your workstation

Install dependencies

The listenbrainz-server is shipped in Docker containers. This helps create your development environment and later deploy the application. Therefore, to work on the project, you need to install Docker and use containers for building the project. Containers save you from installing all of this on your own workstation.

See the different installation instructions for your distribution below.


sudo yum install epel-release
sudo yum install docker docker-compose

Debian / Debian-based systems

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install docker docker-compose


sudo dnf install docker docker-compose


sudo zypper install docker docker-compose

Ubuntu / Ubuntu-based systems

sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get install docker docker-compose

Register a MusicBrainz application

Next, you need to register your application and get a OAuth token from MusicBrainz. Using the OAuth token lets you sign into your development environment with your MusicBrainz account. Then, you can import your plays from somewhere else.

To register, visit the MusicBrainz applications page. There, look for the option to register your application. Fill out the form with these three options.

  • Name: (any name you want and will recognize, e.g. listenbrainz-server-devel)
  • Type: Web Application
  • Callback URL: http://localhost/login/musicbrainz/post

After entering this information, you’ll have a OAuth client ID and OAuth client secret. You’ll use these for configuring ListenBrainz.


With your new client ID and secret, update the ListenBrainz configuration file. If this is your first time configuring ListenBrainz, copy the sample to a live configuration.

cp listenbrainz/ listenbrainz/

Next, open the file with your favorite text editor and look for this section.

# MusicBrainz OAuth

Update the strings with your client ID and secret. After doing this, your ListenBrainz development environment is able to authenticate and log in from your MusicBrainz login.

Also, in order for the Last.FM import to work, you should also update your Last.FM API key in this file. Look for the following section in the file.

# Lastfm API

Update the Last.FM API key with your key. After doing this, your ListenBrainz development environment is able to import your listens from Last.FM.

In case you don’t have a Last.FM API key, you can get it from Last.FM API page.

You also need to update the API_URL field value to http://localhost.

We also have a Spotify importer script which imports listens from Spotify automatically using the Spotify API. In order to run this in your local development environment, you’ll have to register an application on the Spotify Developer Dashboard. Use http://localhost/profile/connect-spotify/callback as the callback URL.

After that, fill out the Spotify client ID and client secret in the following section of the file.



The hostname on the callback URL must be the same as the host you use to access your development server. If you use something other than localhost, you should update the SPOTIFY_CALLBACK_URL field accordingly.

Initialize ListenBrainz containers

Next, run the script in the root of the repository. Using docker-compose, it creates multiple Docker containers for the different services and parts of the ListenBrainz server. This script starts Redis, PostgreSQL, InfluxDB, and web server containers. This also makes it easy to stop them all later.

The first time you run it, it downloads and creates the containers. But it’s not finished yet.


Initialize ListenBrainz databases

Your development environment needs some specific databases to work. Before proceeding, run these three commands to initialize the databases.

docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yml -p listenbrainz run --rm web python3 init_db --create-db
docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yml -p listenbrainz run --rm web python3 init_msb_db --create-db
docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yml -p listenbrainz run --rm web python3 init_influx

Your development environment is now ready. Now, let’s actually see ListenBrainz load locally!

Install node dependencies

You also need to install some JavaScript dependencies.

docker-compose -f docker/docker-compose.yml -p listenbrainz run --rm web npm install

Run the magic script

Now that the databases are initialized, always start your development environment by executing the script. Now, it will work as expected.


You will see the containers eventually run again. Leave the script running to see your development environment in the browser. Later, shut it down by pressing CTRL^C. Once everything is running, visit your new site from your browser!


Now, you are all set to begin making changes and seeing them in real-time inside of your development environment!

Test your changes with unit tests

Unit tests are an important part of ListenBrainz. It helps make it easier for developers to test changes and help prevent easily avoidable mistakes later on. Before commiting new code or making a pull request, run the unit tests on your code.


This builds and runs the containers needed for the tests. This script configures test-specific data volumes so that test data is isolated from your development data.

To run tests faster, you can use some options to start up the test infrastructure once so that subsequent running of the tests is faster:

./ -u # start up and initialise the database
./    # run tests, do this as often as you need to
./ -s # stop test containers, but don't remove them
./ -d # stop and remove all test containers

Also, run the integration tests for ListenBrainz.


When the tests complete, you will see if your changes are valid or not. These tests are a helpful way to validate new changes without a lot of work.