finding the new

I've been playing around with recently. I like the idea of it -- there's a plugin you load into iTunes which spies on you and phones home to the server. So in theory, I get to do what I usually do (listen to my own collection) and the website makes recommendations based on that.

But, I've been seeding it for a couple months now and it has recommended very little that I wasn't already familiar with, and most of the others have been head-scratchers.

Also the " Player" program that runs when you click on "listen" links on the site is pretty crappy. Do I really have to click on the link four or more times before it plays that song, or is it just lagged all to hell? I'm still not sure. And of course a 30 second preview is barely enough to get past the intro of a lot of songs, so it's mostly useless even when it does work.

Then they've got the usual blogging / popularity contest crud bolted onto the side, as is de rigeur for every web site these days. I haven't even looked at that part.

Pandora seems like it could be cool, but like most of these sorts of sites, it's far too interactive. To use it, I have to be listening to their stream and end up having to kill songs a lot -- which doesn't even work, since they will only let you skip like 4 songs an hour or something, so to use it, you end up being forced to sit through a lot of crap, just like that "radio" thing they used to have back in the nineteen-hundreds.

Is there anything that works better for discovering new music?

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31 Responses:

  1. porphyre says:

    You can trick pandora by changing stations then changing back. it re-sets the number of skips you're allowed.

    • jwz says:

      I'm sure they'll fix that eventually.

      • georgedorn says:

        I'm pretty sure they won't fix it unless someone complains. They're following the letter of the law, not the spirit - they couldn't care less whether you get to skip extra songs by "changing stations".

        Anyway, I've trained four stations on pandora and I'm pretty happy with the results. You do need to stick with it for a bit, but it does get smarter. I tend to only kill about two tracks a day now.

        I do wish they had a button that meant thumbs-down for this station, but thumbs up for station x.

  2. patrick says:

    I'm not interested in listening to the streaming radio stations of either site, but I do like for the statistical element. You can also make it record the music from your ipod, so the strange things like audiobooks and podcasts all show up on there.

    • telecart says:

      how do you do that..?

      • patrick says:

        There is two options that I have seen for doing this. You can use this program instead of iTunes
        or you can you this plugin for itunes instead of the offical plugin

        The only catch is that the server will only accept the latest music you listen to. So you have to submit everything on your ipod before you can listen to something on itunes or the streaming radio. So sync your ipod after listening to it before using itunes.

  3. xrayspx says:

    I have been wondering for a couple of weeks how that's been working out for you. I've been doing it for about 2 months, and I do find myself looking for "who's listening to this, and what else do they have", which is how I bumped into your (sickeningly prodigious) profile via Unwoman.

    I don't really like that the weekly stats actually only update weekly, and that there doesn't seem to be a "daily" stat, just the ten recent tracks, and then the weekly stuff.

    Amarok uses this to make a suggested artists listing in their context menu, which I do like. I've used the Player one time, and that will be about it.

    I think they might also be overreaching with the blog aspects. I can see the point of the communities based around different players or artists, but I don't need another place to post to. Likewise, I don't see myself using the tagging feature much or making any friends.

    Overall, I like it just for the stats features, and to look back at my aggregate history, but in the end, does it matter? Does it get me laid? Probably not.

  4. krick says:

    I used yahoo's LaunchCast service for a year and I liked it a lot. You basically set up your own "radio station" based on what you like. Then you select other users to be your "influences" and then it will play stuff that they like on your station. You can rank every artist and/or album and/or individual song from one to ten and it will adjust the playlist accordingly. This gives you the ability to add a single album or certain songs from an artist to your playlist. This is particualarly useful for that situation where the artist only has one or two good albums and the rest suck.

    A friend of mine made a radio station that played nothing but Frank Sinatra and classic Misfits. It was fucking awesome.

    You can use the service for free or you can pay $36 a year for higher quality and unlimited skipping privleges. The only reason I cancelled is that I got an XM satellite radio and I can listen to XM online for free now.

    • jwz says:

      Yeah, most of the other sites are exactly like that. It sounds like A) a lot of work, and B) mostly useful if you don't actually possess (have access to) any of your own music.

      • krick says:

        A) It's not really that much work. In the beginning, I just searched for three or four people that had bands I liked on their playlists and made them my influences. Then I searched through the LaunchCast band list and gave high ranks to a few of my favorite bands. You don't have to rank stuff that plays if you don't want to. You can just hit "skip". I only ranked stuff (negatively) that I really hated so that it didn't play again.

        B) I found it very useful for work where I wanted to listen to a variety of music and I didn't have access to my CD collection. This was a few years ago before I had a portable MP3 player too.

    • romulusnr says:

      My experience with Launch is that it works great, if you like lots of popular music, and are OK with being thrown a few indie bones, and "greatest hits" rotations from anything older than 8 years.

      The rating system is good, I'll give it that, and was the best thing I enjoyed. OTOH I believe you can only have the one station (compared to Pandora's 100).

      Oh yeah. And it simply doesn't (at least, didn't) work under Linux or Firefox.

  5. errorval says:

    It's different than or pandora, but podOmatic lets you find music based on what your friends like. They have a program called podAmigo, kind of like the spy, that reports what you're listening to in iTunes to the site. Then you can find other people who share your interests. It's more social-networky than the other sites, but due to that fact, you may actually find something new that you like.

  6. Do you have a paid account?

    I think the true goodness of comes with paying the three dollars, or whatever. Then you get access to "neighbor radio" so you just browse through some neighbors or other users who play some of the same things you do (choose some insane thing you like that you're sure nobody else likes, and then find the fans of it, and then browse them) and then play the radio stations of all their music -- hearting what you like as you go along, but if you like something it's good to write it down too, because there is currently no good way to figure out which songs you've tagged as favorites inside the radio player. That's annoying. I wonder what the bullshit reason for that might be.

    Also, yeah, the player is lagged as fuck.

    Mainly what I want to do is have subservient entertainment clones. They're me, only they have to do exactly as I say, and I say that they have to go out there and see movies, watch television and listen to the radio, and then report their findings. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only way to go -- because nobody knows what I'm going to like except for /me/. Of course, over time we'd drift apart due to no longer sharing the mutual experience, so they would be, shall we say -- uh, eliminated, and new ones would be regenerated on a schedule.

    • foaf says:

      I've never given them money but I seem to have access to a bunch of different streams. The "neighbour radio" streams of my neighbours seem to provide the best mix of new music I like and different versions of music I've already heard.

      I've also found that the recommendations have gotten a lot better in the last couple of weeks, and especially since my playcount went over 10000.

  7. romulusnr says:

    Pandora's the best I've found. Yeah, it takes a bit of time to narrow it down. It depends on how eclectic or anal you want the station to be. I have some stations that I simply haven't been able to nail down just the way I want, others that I've nailed down fine, but I've heard what's left enough already that it might as well be the CD that runs all night on an underfunded college station.

    Then there's Emusic, what with its wealth of no-namers, and dearth of big (as in "big enough to ride this ride") names, will more or less will force you to find new music.

    • johnsu01 says:

      I've had good luck finding new music with Emusic. They have decent reviews, their "editor's picks" seem to be in line with what I like most of the time, and the recommendations for people whose lists I might want to check out are sometimes useful also.. and no DRM vanilla mp3 is nice.

  8. taiganaut says:

    It's funny you post this -- I just tried the neighbour radio tonight when my server at home went down and I couldn't access my music collection remotely. I've got 3661 tracks played and so it has a pretty decent idea of my profile. Have you tried it?

    As for your question about the player being lagged -- probably. If you delve into the forums on the site a bit you'll see that they're undergoing a round of upgrades to just about everything. I got into it a few months ago and they've been experiencing a fair amount of growth-related issues. I'd suggest not totally abandoning, as it'll probably get quite a bit better in the future.

    Also, if you have a Squeezebox (I don't recall), there's apparently a way to play the stations on it, but I haven't tried it yet with mine.

  9. stechert says:

    A couple of my buddies wrote It's fairly comprehensive because it's just music listings collected via the p2p networks. There's no fancy collaborative ranking this-n-that. There's no player. Just "people who have this band in their collection also have that band in their collection". You can sort the "also" bands by popularity. It's not perfect, but it is a good tour through other music. There are the obligatory buy-this-album-at-that-outlet links, but i don't think they make a lot (any?) money from it, it's just a pet project because the three of them are music nuts.

    I'd also read Paul Lamere's blog "Duke Listens" at - he seems to follow this stuff pretty closely.

    • krick says:

      I just checked out and it's fcking awesome.

      It's basically the TiVo suggestions system applied to music using data from p2p networks.

      This is probably the coolest website I've seen this year.

  10. will_sargent says:

    There's an integration of the two available:

    Requires that you trust some random dude on the internet with your password, but it works and it's even played some great music from time to time.

  11. strspn says:

    Emailing the artists I like and asking them what their influences were for the particular works I like, and what they think they might have influenced with them, is a million times better than any algorithmic recommendation system.

  12. fatherbingo says:

    I joined an elitist invite-only bittorrent site and now find new music the way I did back in the early Napster days: search for an album I'm looking for then check out the profiles of people who also downloaded it and see what else they're stealing. Sounds like you're looking for something a little more passive, but let me know if you'd like an invite.

  13. lord_knusper says:

    I too was put off by pandoras horrible interface, and never got around to actually registering with, so:

    - Amazon's recommendations, "customers who bought this also looked at/bought" and "listmania" lists (gotta love the name)
    - teh google finds articles and "my fav music" pages
    - the demoscene (yeah, pretty much a europe-only phenomenon) has got a huge bunch of free music, available e.g. on - actually there's a track by paniq ( I'd recommend to you, but his server is down at the moment, will post the url as soon as it is back up.
    - friends: actually the most reliable option for me. We steadily supply each other with recent discoveries.

  14. mark242 says:

    I would just like to know who keeps poisoning these recommendation engines.

    I listen to Underworld and Massive Attack, and you're recommending Madonna? Come on, people.

    • wisn says: fed me Godspeed You Black Emperor (plus a random ! somewhere) followed by Isis (art-rock death metal) followed by Lightning Bolt (noise death rock metal noise bass noise) followed by Joanna Newsome (chipmunk on qualuudes). I almost got whiplash.

      Other than that, I've been happy with The secret seems to be in using Similar Artist Radio and picking a band that just the right number of people use in their rock math equations. If the band's too popular or name-droppable, you'll be dragged all over the place because, hey, everybody sounds like Radiohead if you squint hard enough. If the band's too obscure, you'll get three songs before the recommendation engine gives up.

  15. marmoset says:

    I, too, was unimpressed with the player. For OSX, there's a nice mini-utility, called Amua, that hands the radio URL off to iTunes. This is especially nice since most of my home listening happens via Airport Express/Airtunes, and the player doesn't support it.

  16. evan says:

    I didn't carefully read the last sentence of this post before 'cause I don't use these services.
    But if you're interested in discovering new music in general, my sources are:

    1) A super-hipster friend with great taste (and a large mp3 site) occasionally sends out an update of what's new and good.
    2) I read a few mp3 blogs. I especially like, though it may be a bit too electronicy and hiphopy for you. (If you look there, try Rodrigo y Gabriela: not really my thing, but the metal-flamenco thing is cute.) I occasionally browse <lj user='mobius-rex'/> but I haven't been able to commit to reading it.
    3) Sorta the same as #2, but my friend <lj user='interimlover'/> has taste that is very close to mine and he will often link to mixes. His most recent post mentions a new genre called "dubstep" with a link to a mix and I'm listening to that mix right now and enjoying it (I guess the closest thing I can compare it to after five minutes is some slower Meat Beat Manifesto). He'll also post mixes of his own every so often, and from these I'll go learn more about the stuff he mentions there.

    I guess these are all electronic equivalents of the old-fashioned "ask a friend with good taste".

  17. cowbutt says:

    - The 'thanks' lists in the liner notes of albums I already have. Compute the transitive closure. ;-)

    and in no particular order:

    - and Pandora (especially) have given me some good recommendations.

    - my local used CD store, a Saturday afternoon and my credit card.

    - Terrorizer magazine. Mostly metal-ish, but some other genres get coverage also.

    - friends.

    - soulseek's recommendation search, combined with the odd search for known track names which reveals cover versions (this can take you in some odd directions though - e.g. Tori Amos' cover of Slayer's 'Raining Blood').

    - Amazon's recommendations.

    - artist interviews.

  18. ocelma says:

    You can try Foafing the Music...

    The nice thing is that you can create an account by simply entering your LiveJournal account. Foafing will take all your (music) interests from there!
    Then, you'll discover new bands, download podcasts, see incoming gigs, etc.

    Cool, isn´t it?