Googling the term “music discovery service” will probably net you thousands of results for services that claim to be the best at helping you discover new music that you inevitably will love. However, I have yet to find one that is (at least for me) the complete package. The two that come closest for me are Pandora and Grooveshark, and I’ll explain what they’re both lacking.
Pandora works by letting you enter in an artist name, and it plays something by them and then similar artists based on an algorithm. Right away you can see a weakness in that you can’t specify the song, and one artist might have say a metal album, and also a light acoustic album you were thinking of. Pandora is also a bit cyclical, in that you’re going to hear the same artist sometime every 5-10 tracks. So that’s it. You may hear something new, you may not, and there’s not much customizing you can do.
Grooveshark on the other hand elects not to follow the rules of online broadcasting and lets you choose a specific song or songs, and play it as many times as you’d like. Its radio function works by looking at what its users have paired up in music/playlists they upload, or by an artist buying the association through Grooveshark’s payola service. Grooveshark tends to work a bit better for discovery as far as a variety of stuff, but again it’s going by what sometimes seems like some very odd people. And if you happen to base your radio off an artist that’s been linked by an artist/label paying for play, you’re going to annoyingly get hit with music by that artist almost every few songs.
One other thing Grooveshark technically lets you do is upload your own music to the service, so your entire catalog can be made available to you anywhere. However, doing so makes it available to everybody, which is in violation of copyright laws, and Grooveshark does not indemnify the user against prosecution (meaning if a label sues them, Grooveshark can pass the responsibility of that lawsuit on to you). So, it would be ill-advised.
My music service (that I’m tentatively calling either cloudcast or cloudradio) will do a few things quite differently, that to my knowledge don’t even exist in a thought yet. First, it will be based on your own, personal music catalog. Whether this service offers cloud storage for your files that you can access anywhere or uses your own home computer as your cloud, the service will enable you to stream all of your music anywhere, through any medium. For cost it would be easier to leave it computer-based, but for ease of use and setup cloud-based storage would be better. Essentially, like Grooveshark allows you to do, but private only for you, and thus legal.
Secondly, it would allow you to pick anywhere from one to ten (maybe more) tracks to base the cloudcast on. This allows you to control how specific or similar you want your music to be. It will also let you refine within the initial dataset the similarity to each track if you want. For instance, each track could have a slider from 1 to 10 that says how close to that track it must be.
Finally, you would tell it how much of your own music to play (stuff you’ve already heard) versus the amount of “discovered” new music. The main problem I have with Pandora and Grooveshark is that 95% of the time, it’s playing me stuff I already know about or already own. With your cloudcast, it has full access to your music, so it knows what you have and what you don’t. If you tell it you want 3/5 of the music it plays to be stuff you don’t already own, that’s exactly what it will do. This is the beauty of the cloudcast, complete customization and true discovery.
Of course, the system will let you tag anything new that you do want to own or to just buy it outright. Perhaps it will have something where you can keep X amount of tracks in queue that you can stream/play as much as you want. If your queue gets full, you have to buy it or move something out of it. Who knows. There’s lots of potential ways you could go with it.
Advanced filtering would allow you to tell cloudcast never to play the artist again, the song, anything from the album, or whatever you set it to. Or, you can just banish it for the particular session.
At any rate, this is my idea for a true music discovery service that not only turns you onto new music you’ll actually like, but lets you be flexible with your current music. This is an actual idea I’m already running with, and I already own the domain cloudcast.fm. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the service in the comments section.