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Is The Web Really Helping Us Find New Music? : Comments

By Chris Wright

November 25, 2008


Ben Smith

November 26, 2008 2:37 AM

This is a really interesting read and you make some valid points. In my own humble opinion, the human form of reccomendation will always be superior to its digital counterpart. In agreement with some of your reasoning, we should not eb understood as monolithic ceratures. The more discerning music listener will have eclectic taste and will strive to develop their tastes over time, often in quite opposite directions. Digital refferal doesn’t take this into account. Just because I have Coldplay on my play list, purchased however many years ago doesn’t mean I want to be listening to Coldplay 2.0, when I next buy an album. My tastes have matured I’m wanting to push the boundaries, I’m wanting to take a risk, i’m wanting to be bold, hell i might even want to listen to a panpipe interpretation of dolphin sounds.

“The Human Factor” is much more able to account for this dynamism, as peoples reccomendations are not solely motivated by commercial values. The Amazons, Itunes and’s of this world are only interested in getting you to buy something else, anything else!


November 26, 2008 8:09 AM

as a shameless plug, i’d suggest my own band (i’m a designer & a musician) – mojavemusic ! it’s acoustic rock, if you’re into that. or just skip straight to itunes

Joel D Canfield

November 26, 2008 8:39 AM

I’ve been making fairly human music recommendations on my musiblog ( since 2002, spreading the word about great new bands like Marvelous Toy, great but obscure old bands like King L, and, as any music writer should, nodding to the genius of Michael Nesmith.

I try to write about music that any music lover could appreciate, even if they don’t end up buying the album. I try to explain what and who it sounds like, but in the end, I try hardest to share why it struck a sympathetic passionate chord with me. If people connect to the passion in a song or band, that’s when genres get crossed and you find something really new (even when it’s really old.)

We need new taxonomy for music. Machines really could offer more intelligent recommendations and create genuine discoveries, if we can resurrect enough speaking and thinking ability to actually describe a song or band with words other than “like nothing you’ve ever heard before” since that’s not only impossible, but pointless.

Jamie McCue

November 26, 2008 9:00 AM

I think a true music lover won’t rely on a genius list, itunes, or any other passive recommendation. I love to use, I check out a label whose sounds I appreciate and check out other artists on that label. Then once I find a group I like, I check out what other labels they have released on and look into that label. Its an endless maze of labels and artists and I love doing it. I miss record shops, I miss digging and I miss chatting with the person at the counter.

Relying on any major website or application to decide my music might work in the short term but there is no satisfaction like digging through the crates or winding your way through different online shops. I guess this works for me because I listen to mostly electronic music and not so many bands.

Cool article! It will be interesting to see where the future brings us and I do hope that person to person contact is part of that future.

Support net based DIY and independent labels as much as possible and forget buying music from Amazon or Itunes unless you really have too.



November 26, 2008 12:14 PM

As a fan of the music genome sites, I want to say that with all the music out there, even listening to a station based off favorites is going to yield some fun unexpected results, not just occasionally, but quite often. Some are great, some not. Just like how any band will take some solid song style and add dimension to it. If you want to seek out music, all those sites have people’s channels, or stations on them that you can grab as a station for yourself.
I think the main question is, do these websites do anything but help music lovers? I think they are very beneficial. There’s enough music out there where you couldn’t listen to all of it before your life will come to an end. Better just listen and enjoy whatever your experience and tastes in music ends up being. Travel through life with an open mind and the music will come.

Lastly, I went to a talk the Pandora guy gave once in Kansas City a couple years ago. He explained part of the process used to create the genome and there is much human intervention in terms of defining and describing a great deal of songs in the most useful vocabulary they could.


November 26, 2008 5:25 PM

Bingo! You’ve hit on the number one reason that I’ve never been interested in online “music recommendation” services. I’ve always had eclectic tastes, and I want to keep it that way. My favorite music site is, which literally covers any music released anywhere in any format. Even my music is on there, and I’m pretty damned obscure!

But let’s face it: most listeners are not like us. They want stuff that sounds like what they already listen to. And the music industry has understood this since long before anyone had heard of the internet. Record store clerks were encouraged to lead customers to music that “sounds like” the customer’s favorite band. Critics who gave a favorable review to one record soon found their mailboxes stuffed full of similar records. Radio stations would spend hours playing tracks that plagiarized whatever the number one single was. And record companies, of course, would sign twenty copycat bands for every platinum seller.

So what’s changed? Not much, really. You’ve still got a minority of die-hard music fans who are seeking out the new and different, and every once in a while we can help launch a new artist into the mainstream. But you’ve got a huge majority that wants more of the same, and a handful of giant corporations who are quite capable of giving them just that.

But if you really want to hear something new and different, I suggest you do what generations of musicians have done before: pick up a guitar (or whatever instrument you prefer) and make your own noise!

Jim Amos

November 26, 2008 8:05 PM

Very interesting conversation. I’m a big fan of Pandora and LastFm but have to admit most of the new music I discover is from reading professional reviews or by browsing a coworker’s library whilst connected to the office network. Lastfm has tried to tap more into the social aspects of sharing and recommendations but hasn’t quite found the correct formula. You’re still basically listening to lists of music you’ve chosen according to preferential/experiential conditioning rather than being suprised by totally new sounds.

Recently I discovered new kid on the block Groove Shark ~ will be interesting to see how successful they become with their own spin on things.

Daniel Craig Jallits

November 26, 2008 10:39 PM

I don’t know about you, but I probably have blown a few hundred bucks on iTunes ever since Genius appeared in the sidebar. It is addicting, but not because it was new music. Nope, I was downloading tunes I had forgotten about from my early and mid teen years, when my allowance and part-time job didn’t allow me to purchase $16.99 tapes and CD’s.

It may not be new, but it wasn’t necessarily old, let’s just call them born-again tracks.

Katy Wright

November 27, 2008 9:45 AM

I have never used or downloaded any itunes, but after being inspired by this excellent article. I now feel I have a better understanding and feel I know where to look in the future. Thank god for people like chris who have nothing else to do!!!

Jamie McCue

November 27, 2008 9:55 AM

This just came into my mailbox:

This is a music service that combines free music streaming, ala, with an interface just like iTunes. So unlike other services that are just like radio, or where you download mp3 files for a fixed fee, this service is completely free (if you accept non-annoying audio ads every so often) or low cost. You do not download music files, but you can create your own playlists or play individual songs or albums from a very comprehensive library.


November 27, 2008 1:21 PM

Yep, just about right there. Editorial work is enlightening and insightful, machine recommendations is often just noise. So I like e.g. boomkat’s 14tracks which is just like a mixtape of old, but from a highly knowledgeable source. They try to do different themes, and really hit a high mark in my book, – most of the time. Oh, and while we’re at it: go check my band here SKYPHONE: AVELLANEDA

Rick McLeod

November 28, 2008 9:03 AM

A lot of things were discussed in this article that makes me think that the author’s answer to his question is: no. But let’s be straight, the web makes it way easier to find bands than ever before. When I was in college in the early 90’s you had to trust local merchants or Rolling Stone reviews in order to find new bands to listen to. Although this might sound like the “good ol’days” it was, in fact, incredibly inefficient because you couldn’t buy every recommendation you were given, only some. You were then left with a bunch of junk and a few great albums.

Today, I can go to my favorite music sites, read reviews, and then go to myspace and listen to 3 tracks from ANY band that catches my eye. I also get to read reviews from sources all over the world that I never would have dreamed to have access to. We used to have to drive to New York (uphill, barefoot, in the snow, both ways) and pay 10 bucks to get a copy of NME. Now I get it free on my laptop while I sit on the couch.

My answer: yes.


November 28, 2008 2:07 PM

Rick, I think you’ve raised several very good points. For those of us who are actively seeking new bands and new music, the web is just flat-out freaking awesome. As a music fan, I couldn’t be happier with how things have evolved.

(As an independent musician I can tell you that things aren’t quite as peachy as some Web 2.0 evangelists would like you to believe, but that’s another topic.)

I think the author’s criticism was directed specifically at the “music recommendation” services, which don’t cater to those of us who enjoy discovering new sounds, and not just new bands. To be fair, those services were never intended for people like us.

So I guess my answer to the question of “Is The Web Really Helping Us Find New Music?” would be: yes, for those of us who are actively seeking new music. But for everyone else? Maybe not so much!

Chris Wright

November 29, 2008 3:05 AM

Rick sums it up well above.. I am saying the web is not helping us find new music. But as Marcello stated I’m talking about a particular type of new music – the stuff that’s different to anything you currently have or are listening to. Of course the web has made it easier to find music, couldn’t agree more. But I’m looking for some of the existing services to realise that human editorial is no bad thing, and can complement what they are offering. As with many things, and its sounds like a cop out but isn’t, a comprismise of the two is probably the best way forward.

ali reid

November 30, 2008 9:07 AM

the radio has always been good i thought. and CD shops, but theyre all disappearing here in hong kong

Nate Brenk

December 2, 2008 10:58 AM

I’m REALLY particular when it comes to what music I like (mostly Rock and Blues). A lot of different sounding bands can get grouped into rock. Just because it’s listed as rock doesn’t mean I’ll like it. I have found a site called CDBaby that is an online independant music store. Their claim is that they actually listen to the bands they recommend. Believe me, it works (my wish list gets bigger almost everytime I visit the site)! I’ve bought everything from urban folk, alt pop to blues and rock jazz. At least half I simply stumbled upon and just love! There is great music out there and lot’s of places to find it (including here apparently, I’m totally digging Mojave right now!) You will most likely have to dig for it and not rely entirely on a generated list.

One day I’ll be able to talk about CSS like I do music!

December 2, 2008 10:04 PM

Yes. But you knew…. And not only help us find more music we like but help us like the music we find more. That is to say we are finally getting the music we want only and all 12 songs on the “album.” That said, with the RIAA breathing down our necks, the golden age is past, I’d say. No, the new fontier is copyright. For that, support !!
Now, pandora for TV/movies anyone?

mark rushworth

December 5, 2008 1:24 AM

i loved services like (now deceased) which when combined with the radio function of gives you access to loads of new artists… i wouldnt have found the likes of neon neon, you me at six and crystal castles without these services!


December 5, 2008 10:06 PM

Forget all that…

Go here:


December 9, 2008 12:02 AM

How was completely overlooked in this article and all these comments? I constantly find great new music on this massively independent / small label site and was able to get my own independent instrumental rock band Grun-Tu-Molani on here, iTunes, and some others. Somehow eMusic is the one that highlights us and gets us more downloads than any of them.


December 9, 2008 7:43 AM

Nothing beats piratebay, soulseek & the newsgroups for finding new shit


December 9, 2008 7:47 AM

Yes, the web really is helping us find new music. While the author focuses more on web services, there is no denying that the web is helping us find different music and music that we don’t have and haven’t heard (new music).

I make what I call Moody instruMental Music. I decided to make my own noise (Marcello) because I wanted music that was different. Even as the drummer for The Upper Room, I wrote and pushed the band to come up with different music. The web helps audiences find us. As for the services, that’s a different story.

I’m looking into all the services mentioned in the responses here. Maybe I can get my music into one of those services where people can find me and maybe they’ll spread the word via the web that they found found my music to be “new”.

Todd Levy

December 9, 2008 11:58 AM

Nice article.

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to discover music, and will occasionally post my findings on my blog Jamtopia

What I’ve found is that each of these different players large and small excels in some specific way and lacks in important others. It’s all about tradeoffs, but you’ll need a strong understanding of all the options to know what’s best for a particular goal.

For example, if you want a really granular way to search music, you can’t beat Soundflavor which allows you to search by genre and subgenre, decade, instrument, mood, lyrical subject, tempo, and more.

For making mixtapes, I like Favtape which is a bit like Muxtape used to be. But as an added bonus, it lets you easily create mixtapes based on your and Pandora bookmarks.

You can find more detailed reviews of these sites and three others on my blog post entitled Five FREE Music Sites You’re Not Using Yet.

HypeMachine is another good discovery option. It’s an mp3 jukebox of songs scraped from music blogs, with a variety of ways to discover, listen to, and buy the tunes. I’ve got a more detailed review of that one here… More about The Hype Machine.

I’ve also been enjoying Songbird lately. It’s an attempt at an iTunes replacement. Not quite there yet, but since it’s open source with an active developer base it’s steadily improving. I expect a bunch of music discovery type add-ons will be forthcoming. More about Songbird.

In any case, thanks for the article and extra thanks to others who’ve posted links here in the comment thread. It seems that if nothing else, the prospect of better music discovery is quite strong.


Dave Allen

December 11, 2008 8:47 AM

May I humbly suggest my music website Pampelmoose As a professional musician – bass player for Gang of Four – I have long disregarded the idea of a computer program trying to decipher my musical tastes. I decided that all the wonderful music out there on the web could use a human filter so I started my own site.

I now have 2 one hour shows at night on Portland’s 94.7FM KNRK radio station to spread some musical finds over the airwaves too. I then post the playlist and the entire show ad-free as non-drm MP3s.

John Gibbard

December 16, 2008 5:06 AM

Just got pointed to this post by a fellow user-experience professional (thanks tamlyn ) as it covers similar ground to what I posted today and it’s a concern that extends not just to music but just about all ‘recommended for you’ style segmented advertising.

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