Can You Classify What Makes Music Good?
from the objectively-define- dept
About the time I was starting Techdirt, a friend of mine started a company called Mongo Music. I remember getting lunch and hanging out in his living room, which was doubling as his office (surrounded by stacks and stacks of CDs) as he explained the concept. He was going to build up a huge database of music, and use people to define all the various characteristics of the song to identify “that thang” that made music catchy. The idea was that this information was objectively identifiable, and if you liked one song, Mongo’s database would point out other songs that matched it on all the characteristics that were measured. It was an interesting idea – but I wasn’t convinced “that thang” was objectively identifiable. Microsoft disagreed and eventually bought the company – but never really introduced the service Jeremy described to me in his living room that day. Now, it appears that another startup is trying to do the exact same thing. Soundflavor is trying to recommend music based on breaking down each song into more than 700 component parts and having human listeners define each and every one to figure out what makes the song sound the way it does. I’m still not convinced what makes music good can be defined in such a calculated way, but it seems that everyone is trying to figure out the best way to recommend new music to people. Of course, I still stick by what I’ve said in the past. This isn’t a problem that is solved by technology and analysis, but by people. Some of the music I enjoy most was recommended to me by friends who know my tastes and can suggest what they know I’ll like. For example, I’m now completely hooked on a CD from a band I’d never heard of two weeks ago. But, over Thanksgiving I saw an old friend, who knows my musical tastes, and as we were driving somewhere said “Hey, check out this CD I got. I know you’ll like it.” He was right, and the next day I went out and bought the CD myself – and now can’t stop listening to it. It’s the human connection that made this possible. I should also note, by the way, that the CD cost me about $5 and came with not only the CD but a DVD that includes concert footage, interviews and random extras about the band. Whether done on purpose or not, this band gets it. They’re offering you something extra of value for buying the CD.