How to find music that will rock your world

Recently, I stumbled upon a couple ways to discover great, new music. These three mechanisms have been around for awhile, but it was only recently that I tested them out and became a fan.

One: Shazam
This app is awesome. It’s a music discovery application that allows you to open the app, point your gadget in the direction of the music, and within a couple seconds, the app gives you the artist, name of the song, album, etc.

Initially, I downloaded the free version which lets you identify and tag 5 songs per month, for free. But on that day I went to identify a song and was told I’d reached my limit of free tagging for the month, I upgraded in about 5 seconds.

I hear amazing music all the time. In the old days (before my iPhone and Shazam), I used to carry a little notepad and pen with me everywhere I went. When I’d hear a song I liked, I’d listen to the lyrics, jot them down in my notepad, and then look up the song when I got home. This system worked, but it was pretty old school. Now, I can point my iPhone anywhere and obtain song details.

One word of caution –Some people may take offense when you Shazam a song in their presence. Case in point: A couple weeks ago I had my quarterly appointment with my Rheumatologist to discuss how the miracle drug he prescribed is working. He was flipping through my chart and comparing this month’s lab results with last month’s. I didn’t consider us to be in an engaging mode. So, when I heard a rare Coldplay song piped into the hospital room where we were sitting, I turned on Shazam and let it do its thing. After I had turned off my iPhone and put it in my bag, the doc asked if I was done and if I was ready to discuss my labs. He seemed to take offense with my use of Shazam. Oh, well.

The thing I like about Shazam is that I can use it anywhere. I’ve used it in a movie theater, watching NetFlix, in an elevator, at a doctor’s appointment, driving in the mountains, in a department store, at the salon, and I would have used it at the Stephen Colbert Report taping, if cell phones were allowed.

It’s genius! Where ever good music is playing, Shazam will help you identify the song.

Two: Starbucks Song of the Week
I’m not sure when Starbucks started this initiative, but it’s great. Each week, they partner with iTunes to feature one musician, and they give away a free download of the song of the week. You take the little card and log into iTunes, navigate your way to the “Redeem” section, enter the passcode (on the back of the card), and boom! You just downloaded a free song.

I think the reason I didn’t participate in the free weekly download is because I thought: “If it’s free, it’s probably some boring artist I wouldn’t like.” But I was soooo mistaken about this. The Starbucks/iTunes artist of the week has introduced me to some fantastic musicians. I’m most recently in love with Broken Bells (especially their song, “The High Road”). Their song was featured a couple weeks ago.

If you visit Starbucks and see the Song of the week cards, take advantage of this offer. You never know who your new, favorite artist may become!

Three: Pandora
This site has an intriguing concept: enter the name of a song you love, and Pandora will play songs that are genetically like the one you entered. It’s like you have the chance to create a radio station that perfectly suits your musical tastes. I tried it out by submitting “Miles Behind Me” by Hotel Lights, and within a few seconds, I was hearing some lovely songs that were like the cousins of this song.

The ability of Pandora to cluster like-sounding songs is made possible by the Musical Genome Project. Essentially, every song in the Pandora database is analyzed and assigned up to 400 attributes (or pieces of metadata).

For a more technical overview of how Pandora works, here’s an excerpt taken from their site:

A song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed using up to 400 distinct musical characteristics or attributes by a trained music analyst. These attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners. The typical music analyst working on the Music Genome Project has a four-year degree in music theory, composition or performance, has passed through a selective screening process and has completed intensive training in the Music Genome’s rigorous and precise methodology. To qualify for the work, analysts must have a firm grounding in music theory, including familiarity with a wide range of styles and sounds. All analysis is done on location.The Music Genome Project’s database is built using a methodology that includes the use of precisely defined terminology, a consistent frame of reference, redundant analysis, and ongoing quality control to ensure that data integrity remains reliably high. Pandora does not use machine-listening or other forms of automated data extraction.

The librarian in me really appreciates all the work that goes on behind the scenes to capture and describe the songs in Pandora’s database. And since the work is done by humans, not machines, this helps explain why the results are so overwhelmingly correct and on target.

Give it a try! Take time to enjoy some beautiful music. Your whole being will thank you for it!


2 responses to “How to find music that will rock your world

  1. The radio stations in NYC are absolutely terrible so Pandora has been a lifesaver when it comes to music. But Shazam? Oh my, that is a game changer. Where has it been all my life?!

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