Sunday, September 21, 2008

YouTube and New Music: Not a Solution

I did not blog too much after the first day at ISMIR because Paul Lamere was doing a very good job, so you can check out his details here.  However, there was one article I saw on CNN during the conference on YouTube being the next showcase for new music.  Personally, I hope not.  True, millions of people use the site daily and it is a great resource in trying to find music if you know exactly what you are looking for.  However, try using YouTube to discover new music, especially if you are also discovering new bands.  Currently, you'll have to enter in the artist name or song title to find anything.  But what if I want to find something that's like something else, but that I've never heard before?

The difference between the two concepts is ultimately the difference between retrieval, recommendation, and discovery.  The old "Google search bar" paradigm is great for retrieving something if I have a general idea of what I'd like.  However, it's still very object based.  By this, I mean that I need to know the thing I am looking for.  In recommendation, the focus is on the idea of what I might like.  For example, collaborative filtering notices that I've bought Carl Sagin's A Demon-Haunted World and will recommend James Randi's Flim-Flam! since people that buy Sagin's book also buy Randi's.  Currently, YouTube does have both, but their discovery technology is a lacking.  A great quick look at the difference between discovery and recommendation can be gained here, but ultimately discovery is learning why I like something, which is actually much harder to do.  What is it that I like Sagan's book?  Is it because he's a great science writer?  Is it his research?  Is it his involvement in the skeptical movement?  The three have dramatically different answers.  If it's writing,  then I'll probably want Dawkin's book on scientific writing.  If it's his research, then I'll probably want another book by Sagan about astronomy.  If it's the skeptical movement, then Randi's just one of many great selections.

Currently, YouTube does not really support discovery and would probably need to be redesigned to get it right.  I've literally listened to hundreds of artists on YouTube since I use it to play guitar.  However, there is no recommendations for new music based on what I've listened to in the past.  If I want something, I've got to first find an artist I know, and then continue to click "related" videos until I finally find something cool.  The process is long and there is a good chance that I'll get stuck in a cycle or worse, get way off target.  For the artist, this means that generating new listeners will be difficult and still have to come by word-of-mouth rather than automatic recommendation.

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