Lucrecia Dalt, “Sobrevolar”
I’ve tried almost every “social” music “discovery” service, and I always append the scare quotes. It’s not for lack of effort or talent on the developers’ part — brains are drained here at frightening rates — but they all run into the same problem eventually: becoming elaborate ways to reshuffle the same hundred albums you would’ve read about anyway. If you want specifics:
- Last.fm was good when it had that popular/obscure slider, but I think they got rid of that. It’s a shame. Even if its most-played structure didn’t tend to reward major releases (and, if you follow critics, the listening cycle) by default, I’ve been disappointed. The radio feature works sometimes. Sometimes the recommendations work, but seldom for the big artists you’d be using this on anyway. And for less well-known artists, there’s not enough data to make the recommendations anything but “other people’s outliers.”
- Pandora is good until it starts recycling the same few artists and the same few songs, and they’ve never produced anyone who sounds enough like Stina Nordenstam. (To be fair, neither has the industry.)
- The Hype Machine is the Hype Machine. You know exactly what it is and where it is good and bad. It’s best as a pointer to places you can download mp3s, which is its own moral thing.
- Amazon’s also-bought lists are surprisingly fantastic. It’s a shame Amazon is more evil than not.
- This Is My Jam doesn’t really count, as it doesn’t try to be anything but a gussied-up “now listening to” widget. An awesome one that I use a lot, and one that works if you have friends whose taste you like, but still. Spotify and turntable.fm are fundamentally different sorts of company, I think.
With services like these, you can find new artists, but it’s usually as a function of picking at and looking behind and otherwise fighting the infrastructure — exactly the opposite of what the infrastructure’s supposed to do. You look at people’s least listened-to songs; you dig through production credits and labels’ back catalogues and Myspace top eights and Yahoo! Groups and off-the-cuff references in writeups. (I don’t mind those, by the way; they’re like little pointers or glossary entries or breadcrumbs — but I’m also the sort to click links and Google things, something that analytics suggests isn’t common.) You learn yourself which users or writers or retailers or resellers or radio stations or other outlets have similar tastes, and go from there. You feel weirdly uncomfortable doing this with strangers, but you ideally get music out of it.
All this is to say: some guy usernamed ogatomartin uploaded a lot of Tychonaut videos I’ve never heard before. On the reasoning that any fan of Tychonaut probably has taste like mine, or at least other videos, I clicked through. He’s uploaded a lot of videos I’d never heard, by artists I’ve never heard; I’m going to be here for hours. I’ve already found one artist whose music is flat-out gorgeous. I would probably never have heard it otherwise.