I showed one of my co-workers my 2009 Year In Review this week, and he mentioned that I might be able to turn some of that data into useful information. He meant more along the lines of incorporating a matrix into my mileage and calculating how many calories I burned over time, while dynamically updating my weight over time to increase accuracy.
What I immediately thought of, though, was music.
Last.fm can be a great predictor of what music I might like. So can Pandora. Even so, I find myself hearing a song, saying, “Yeah, I like that,” marking it as such on the website, then never coming back to it again.
I don’t remember where I heard about TuneGlue, but it uses data from Last.fm to display an expanding web of related artists. It’s not just the data, though; the interface is half the fun. Go try it for yourself and see what I mean: input the name of an artist, then hover over the tiny LP that appears. Select “expand” to see related artists spring out from the first. Drag them around and watch them spring back into position, then choose another artist to expand. Rinse and repeat.
My musical taste is firmly rooted in ’90s alternative, as evidenced by my Top 10 Most Played Artists of 2009: eight of the ten could arguably be said to have reached their peak of popularity in the 1990s. I assumed, therefore, that if I searched for one, another would be closely related.
I was right:
I searched for Greg Dulli, then expanded to see his bands and side projects. It only took me two degrees of related artists to get to Sugar, part of the Bob Mould conglomerate that I counted as #3 on my list.
This isn’t exactly getting me NEW-new music to listen to, but it’s at least getting me to some new-to-me music. A few of these bands I’ve heard of and can name one song: Screaming Trees with “Nearly Lost You“; The Lemonheads with “It’s a Shame About Ray“; Buffalo Tom with… what was their song? Oh, right: “Taillights Fade” (thanks, Google). Some of these artists I’ve heard of, but couldn’t name a song off the top of my head: Bettie Serveert, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin. Then there are a few that are new to me: My Jerusalem, Soulsavers, Superchunk, Jeff Klein, Matthew Ryan.
If we were still in the mid-’90s, I’d borrow some CDs from the library and from friends and make myself a mixtape. As it is, I’m unfettered by any sort of time constraint, since I plug my 30GB iPod into the trusty Kia Forte every day during my 20-minute commute.
I’ll probably acquire a few songs by the artists I don’t already know — most likely, I’ll snag the most popular songs as listed on Last.fm — and I’ll throw them into a playlist with the songs I know (and already have on my iPod).
I do miss the days when I could turn on the radio and every song was awesome, and every music store had an “alternative rock” section, and everyone had at least one friend who could regularly introduce them to great new music. It seems like such a challenge now. It’s possible, yes, with indie music podcasts and whatnot, but the results aren’t as consistently awesome.
If I end up liking the playlist I concoct, I’ll let you know…