Letting obsessed music lovers create my recommendations for me

I stayed with my little brother Mitch in Los Angeles last week while on a trip to the Yahoo! offices there.  He invited me to join him on his podcast Notes Underground, a weekly program talking about and playing alternative music.  We had a brief discussion about the new economies of art distribution on the show, but, unfortunately, we weren't recording the next morning over breakfast while talking about music discovery.

He had some interesting ideas on how people discover new music.  He's clearly an advanced music searcher, perhaps obsessed even, with several different methods for staying in tune with the market.  Being an employee at MySpace gives him a lot of visibility into the underground scene.  As a content creator, he has self-imposed deadlines for finding a few new tracks each week to play for his audience.  Listeners to his show email him ideas for things to play.  He goes to live shows.  His friends are obsessed with music.  He has a handful of labels that provide jumping off points to new artists.  He subscribes to some email newsletters.  And he gets a CD delivered to him each month, a compilation of new music called the Cornerstone Player.

I asked Mitch to estimate how much of his time is spent finding new music, including listening to things for the purpose of learning as opposed to simply enjoying music.

"I mean, that's a joke.  It's maybe like several hours a day.  I have momentary detours into something all the time, so I'm basically always doing it."

There's a certain gratification in finding an unheard of band.  He said discovery can even be a competitive thing.  A band is suddenly not as interesting when someone else finds it first or when someone less sophisticated in their music tastes mentions it.

Discovering new music is part of life for him.  But it seems to me that there must be ways to help people who have a genuine interest in music to get closer to the discovery trail that Mitch is blazing without all the heavy lifting.  I have a lower tolerance for a bad signal to noise ratio when it comes to music than he does.

Fortunately, I can listen to Mitch's podcast and get a glimpse into his world, but I don't like all the same music he likes.  He can't be my only filter into the world of music.  I want to stitch together a network of the obsessed in the genres along several different content axes that interest me and let them pull me along in their journeys.  

I wonder then how this translates into other genres of content such as photos and world news and local events and shopping deals and Hollywood gossip.  The obsessed are putting context around their worlds that the rest of us should have access to in sensible ways.  They are uncovering new depths and adding value in their perpetual quests.

Nick Hornby might have characterized Rob Gordon in his book High Fidelity a little more like Mitch had he written it in 2005, constantly online jumping from source to source to source on a neverending search.  If you're like me, you may have heard of the Beta Band before that film, but it was just another source in a genre until the view through his obsessed world brought life to that track Dry the Rain.  

Show me the Top 5 music freaks in my Top 5 favorite genres.  Then give me the Top 5 most-listened to tracks amongst their followers.  Throw in X random tracks per 100.  Flag the ones my friends like for context.  Readjust monthly.

Now that would be a kick ass music station to listen to.


Re: Letting obsessed music lovers create my recommendations for me
by Chris on Wed 30 Nov 2005 02:24 AM EST

Hi Matt, I came over from Pete Cashmore's site. Have you tried Pandora (www.pandora.com)? It's really impressive.

Off-topic, there are way too many steps to go through to leave a comment here...


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