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Music Discovery & The Power of Personality

Like every other piece of content on the vast landscape of the interwebs, the way in which we discover and interact with music has changed much in recent years. More and more, our first impressions are the result of an elaborately designed equation. Services like Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, Soundcloud, HypeMachine, iTunes… in short, everyone relies on algorithms that quickly assimilate a variety of factors to determine what you might like to see, hear or read next. Alongside the math part of the equation, exists a predominately human curated element: blogs, social media, zines, and the age-old word of mouth in all of its various forms. However, algorithms are growing increasingly adept at plugging the human element, e.g. data from your various online friends/connections, into the inputs that refine their recommendations.

At indiENGAGE we’re interested in the places where technology and the power of the personal recommendation are beginning to intersect. This subject was part of a panel discussion featuring a trio of music tech founders at October’s Scion Music(less) Music Conference. The panelists included Matthew Ogle (This Is My Jam), David Porter (8tracks) and Philip Kaplan (Distrokid). In the video found below, Ogle argues, “Nothing beats a personal recommendation – a friend that knows you well or someone whose taste you really respect – them saying, ‘Hey, you need to check this out and here’s why.’ You know, that’s impossible to top.” We’re believers in the power of the personal connection. As such, the conversation piqued our interest:

If you look at the success and failure of recent online music services, the ones that are thriving have found a way to maximize both ends of the recommendation spectrum. Spotify, for instance, couples its “Similar Artists” recommendations with the ability to follow and eavesdrop on the site’s ever-growing body of users. On other hand, services like the recently defunct Turntable.fm, which relied entirely upon user-fueled recommendations have fallen by the wayside. This begs the question, is Ogle correct in his assessment that personal recommendations are the ultimate source of discovery? Given Turntable’s struggles, the answer would appear to be less black-and-white.

What channels are essential to your music discovery process? Do you rely on music publications and critical reviews? Is there a friend whose tastes you trust? Or, are you content with the (somewhat) arbitrary recommendations that funnel in via Pandora, Spotify,  radio, etc.?