Admit it. You are beginning to get a little fed up with the same old music on your iPod. That is not to say that your library isn’t excellent. It is. You love every song in it. But how much longer can you keep listening to Dido on the way to work, U2 on the way back, Bryan Adams when it’s drizzling romantically outside, Yanni when you want some peace and quiet, and Sukhbir for all-purpose daily home and office amusement?
Most modern MP3 players can hold thousands of songs. Even mobile phones can carry dozens, if not a few hundred, tracks. Unfortunately most people only ever fill up their devices once—shortly after they buy them. After that it’s the same tracks over and over.
Imaging by Jayachandran/Mint
Partly the problem could be finding interesting new music. Now this isn’t so much of a problem if you listen to little else besides film music, or the popular tracks that get plenty of air time on TV or radio. In this case you don’t have to find the music, it’ll find you.
But what if you wanted to listen to artistes and songs similar to the ones you already have on your iPod or your CDs? How do you discover music?
With the help of a few software applications and websites, it can be easy, and fun, to find new artistes and tracks. And by using some short cuts you can restrict your finds to music that you are likely to try, buy and listen to often.
Last.fm is a popular online streaming music service that also has a discovery engine built in. Go to the website (www.last.fm) and punch in the name of an artiste or a genre. The site will then generate an online radio station based on your input. Usually Last.fm does a great job of choosing music to match your tastes.
Listen to the tracks that play, and keep an eye open for music you like. The site allows you to show your preference by “liking” or “disliking” the track that is playing. You can also bypass the listening process by clicking on artiste names and looking at the list of similar artistes thrown up by Last.fm.
In addition to this active search, you can also let Last.fm search passively. The site has a downloadable app for desktops and popular mobile platforms that “scrobbles” while you listen to music. This means the app constantly keeps track of what you are listening to and uses this information to understand your preferences. Last.fm can then generate stations based on a history of your likes.
Overall Last.fm does a great job of recommending lesser-known artistes. For instance, feed in, say, Dido, and the recommendations include Jem, Sarah McLachlan and Dolores O’Riordan.
Apple’s proprietary software for managing music and iOS devices is probably as popular with users as venereal disease. The software is a mammoth download, hogs memory and comes with draconian restrictions. But one of the more useful things newer versions have is the Genius application. Genius can work for you in two ways. On the one hand it can help you build playlists of similar sounding music from your library. A boon if you already have a large and unruly collection.
But Genius can also help you find new music. While using the iTunes interface, summon the Genius sidebar by clicking on the button in the bottom righthand corner. Now click on any song and iTunes will automatically suggest other tracks, artistes and albums in the sidebar.
Genius works best with international music. Keep an eye out for which version of iTunes you use. That could affect how you use the system.
Grooveshark is a great way to both find music and play it. Unlike Last.fm, which doesn’t let you actually choose the songs you want to listen to, Grooveshark.com gives you much more control. You can search for artistes, build playlists and listen to them at leisure.
Grooveshark helps discovery in two ways. The most simple way is to search for an artiste and then look under the similar artistes section.
A more comprehensive alternative would be to switch on Grooveshark’s Radio function. You can start by choosing a genre. Grooveshark will then dynamically start building a playlist based on whether you like or dislike what is playing. This is a little more involved than Genius or Last.fm, but is actually great fun on a lazy Sunday morning.
Packed with trivia, comprehensive biographies and respected reviews, AllMusic is a pretty comprehensive site for music lovers. Like Grooveshark, AllMusic.com also has two ways of discovering music. The first is straightforward listings of similar artistes under artiste biographies. The second is a little more involved. Every artiste or album profile also has a listing of genres, styles and moods (moods include things such as “soothing”, “intimate” and “melancholy”).
Click on any one of those descriptors to find recommendations. This method may be less accurate than Last.fm or Genius, but allows for a lot more serendipity.
This site was a popular randomized music player a few years ago, and one of the first to be based on what mood you wanted—you had to choose a balance between energetic, calm, dark and positive.
Now Musicovery.com has grown to include an artiste discovery tool that works like Last.fm, a dance radio and the good old mood matcher.
Some of these services also have mobile apps for discovery on the move. Last.fm and Musicovery have exclusive apps, Genius is built into iPods and Grooveshark has a great app available, sadly, only on iPhones.
Once you’ve discovered the music you like, you can then spend all your savings from last year on albums.
And when you get bored of those as well, rinse, repeat, discover.
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