21st Century Media.
Sunday, October 01, 2006
  Musical genius.
I'm a HUGE music person. I spend about 50% of my online time on social networking sites (I know, it's humiliating), 25% educating myself, and 25% on music. A huge interest of mine in new media is the new culture of recommendations, and music is on the cutting edge of all this.

About a year ago, a friend introduced me to Pandora Internet Radio, a music portal that retains your personal music preferences and makes channels based on an artist or song that you select. Pandora is possible thanks to the efforts of the Music Genome Project, a group of music lovers who have attempted to make the most exhaustive encyclopedia of music, analyzing everything from lyrical topics to harmony styles. I'm in no way an internet radio person - it usually tends to bore me - but Pandora keeps it pretty interesting, particularly in the fact that channels are created using both mainstream and very underground music. My only complaint is that the musical license seriously limits how many songs you can listen to per hour.

I recently just found this neat little toy called Liveplasma, a self-proclaimed "discovery engine" that makes maps that link artists to one another according to style. Liveplasma, formerly Musicplasma, recently incorporated a search for movies, actors and directors. I don't really get the relations - what does Something's Gotta Give have to do with Kill Bill Vol. 1? - but its interesting to see the connections, and it's also more interesting than looking at lists. Downfall: no information about the things on the map!

Last but not least, we come to my personal favorite: Last.fm. Last.fm operates by installing an "Audioscrobbler" into your iTunes, keeping a record all of the songs that you play on your computer and making lists of your listening habits. My personal "dashboard" will display recently played tracks, top weekly artists, overall top artists and overall top songs. Seeing your own habits is interesting - I was completely unaware that I actually listened to "Sorry" by Madonna 5 times - but the features that connect you to other people are much better. "Neighbours" are people with similar music taste. There is an option to add friends, join groups, and write on people's "shoutboxes." It feeds the needs of internet radio junkies, with neighbour radio - what your neighbours are/were listening to - and regular recommendation radio. The best part? You can tag artists, songs and albums in your own personal music journal, which reaches a community of listeners just like you.

Last.fm is the winner of the musical recommendation game as far as I'm concerned. It mixes the best elements of digital media and new technological capabilities with the one thing you can always trust - good old word of mouth.
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