Where It Ain’t in Music Discovery

I have to disagree with Fred Wilson about finding new music.

Pandora and Last.fm are absolutely, positively and without a doubt the holy grail of music discovery. I have discovered more good, new music on those sites in the past month than I have in all of my years of blog reading.

It’s not about spoonfeeding- it’s about algorithms (be they mathematical or social) that help you find music you like, but have never heard. Whether that’s music on a 20 year old record or music freshly uploaded by the artist is immaterial.

I have traditionally favored Pandora slightly over Last.fm, but with the new design and added features, Last.fm has pulled even in the two horse race for dominance in music discovery. Here’s my Last.fm page for anyone interested, and here’s Fred’s.

If you, like me, are an alternative country fan, you can add Twangville to the mix for a trifecta. If you like live classic rock, add one more site to the list: Vault Radio.

And I have to agree with Bob Lefsetz, particularly when he writes:

I’ve got XM. I’ve got Sirius. I’m not living in the world of terrestrial. I never want to hear another commercial AGAIN! I just want music. All the time.


“Remember how you used to rush home to play your favorite records? How you needed nobody else in the room to feel joy? How you played the same track for an hour straight?”

I remember the first time I heard Paul Kennerly’s ensemble record The Legend of Jesse James. I listened to Charlie Daniels sing Northfield: The Disaster over 100 times in a row over a week or so. Not one other song entered my ears that week. It was spiritual. And it’s still one of the best songs I have ever heard.

Now back to Fred.

He says that the place to mine for new music is the mp3 blogs. He gives no link to them, because they are distributed. It’s like those cats in that commercial. They’re out there somewhere, but getting them to one place is a chore.

Yes, there’s The Hype Machine, which I think is a pretty neat web site. But unless it wants to change its name to The Next RIAA Defendant, it is going to be limited in the scope of music it can include. Don’t get me wrong, I like The Hype Machine, but Pandora it is not.

Blogs are great, and some of them feature good new music. But, in general, blogs are where it ain’t as far as discovering new music without a lot of unnecessary effort. Heck, even podcasts are far better suited for that purpose. One of the reasons we do the RanchoCasts is to help people discover new music.

New music doesn’t mean music that was just made. It means music that is new to the listener. When I became a huge blues fan a decade or so ago, a new universe of new music suddenly became available to me- little of it made after 1980.

I’m all about unsigned bands and new music that hasn’t been manufactured by the star maker machinery behind the popular song, but let’s not get carried away.

There is an almost unlimited universe of new music waiting at Pandora and Last.fm. And it doesn’t take herding cats to find it.