Finding New Music

Update 8/28/2005 @ 9:10 PM: After downloading Last.fm’s desktop player, I wasn’t impressed. The streaming music would drop every five seconds, even on the direct Internet connection I have at my office. I used Pandora for a couple of days on my Macintosh, and it worked perfectly. The variety of artists was great and the sound quality was amazing. Scoble has been using it for a week, and he appears to be very impressed with it too. Thanks for pointing me to it last weekend!

My musical obsession for the last week (no, not that one) has been Green Day’s American Idiot album. I loved the band when I was in high school and college, but they sort of fell off my radar until recently. I feel that Idiot, which was released late last year, is their best to date. It lets you really see how far Green Day has come since Dookie, the groups breakout album from 1994. If you like any of their music, you should definitely take a look at American Idiot.

Which brings me back to the title of this post – finding new music. Just the other week I was telling Casey how I’d really like to find new artists I might be interested in, be they independent or with a major label, but I just didn’t know where to start. The iTunes Music Store‘s recommendation engine is currently pretty useless and I simply don’t have time to browse the store listening to 30 second sound clips. We both agreed that we’d be interested in a program that would recommend music based on artists we like.

Well, it turns out there are already at least a couple such programs/services. Pandora, currently in beta and invitation only, and Last.fm. I received my invitation to Pandora last night and have been playing around with it since. So far it’s been pretty cool – it’s a bit buggy (it is beta after all), but seems to do a good job of finding songs and artists with similar musical characteristics of those you choose. Best of all, it creates a high quaility streaming “station” where you can continue to train its recommendations.

I wasn’t very with my initial visit to Last.fm, but I may give it another try. Their recommendations seem to stick to more mainstream artists, but it does appear that they also offer customized stations very much like Pandora. I do like the Last.fm interface better than Pandora’s too – it’s not nearly as slow. I’m going to download their desktop player to see if their listening experience compares to Pandora’s.

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