This post will serve as a brief introduction in a much larger topic that I will cover in a series of posts called Curated. The posts will focus on the difference between curated discovery and real discovery in the music industry. Further posts will follow over the next few weeks, but for today, let’s simply set the stage.
Part I: Introduction
This morning I saw a new “music discovery” site that has taken a detour to try to re-imagine visual discovery. I was intrigued by a couple of things on the site, but as a whole, I don’t really think that the term “music discovery” is the right one to use. Let’s get one thing straight before we continue: curation is not and should not be a substitute for choice.
People need to stop using the phrase “new music discovery” when they really mean finding artists similar to the ones they already know and like. That’s not finding “new music;” it’s tracking based on similarities. This is what services like Spotify, Rdio, SoundCloud, and Pandora do. This is curation.
The term “new music” should (and does in many independent circles) denote music that is not generally known in the mainstream. It’s music that is actually new (created within the past year or two), and comes from an artist without mainstream name recognition. This was what “discovering new music” should be. This is what choice allows us to do.
It’s not about finding the other 10 ’80s bands just like Bon Jovi. It’s about finding that esoteric band from Belgium who released their album in 2010 and sounds like they walked out of 1986 (actually, I did find this band. They were called All I Know and damn could they wail). It’s about choosing to live outside the boundaries set. It’s about cutting down all the red-tape. Music is freedom, and freedom is choice.
There’s nothing wrong with liking what you like; but call it how it is—you’re not really “discovering new music” when you’re relying on an algorithm to make suggestions. Curation is a wonderful thing, but only to an extent. Curation is not wonderful when it becomes a substitute for choice. Relying solely on curation is basically how you end up tracking based on similarities. And that is not the same as “discovering new music.” Don’t be fooled into thinking that it is. Demand more.
And what’s better than curation as opposed to choice? Curation in addition to choice. Things just got very interesting.