MSVU Social Media Course Blog

Just another weblog

“Help! My iPod Thinks I’m Emo.”… a Recent Podcast on SXSW

Being an avid iPod user myself, this Podcast title really jumped out at me when I was taking a look at the most recent posts on SXSW (South by Southwest) ‘s website.

This Podcast talks about how music recommendation is broken, and that “automatic music recommeders make mistakes that no human would ever make.”

How many of you have ever tried using the “music recommendation” option on your iPod or on iTunes? I have, and to tell you the truth…I wasn’t too impressed. To me, it seemed completely random. If I’m listening to Radiohead, what on earth would make iTunes think that I would also like to hear Britney Spears? (Nothing against my girl Britney here..)

What the speakers at this talk say, is that music recommendation is generated by what is called “wisdom of the crowd”. Music generators will monitor what people listening to Britney Spears are also listening to, and take from that a general idea of the other music they would like. The problem here is that just because people like a little Britney in their life, doesn’t necessarily mean they need Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus and Hilary Duff too. It also doesn’t mean that Britney is the only kind of music they listen to. (I’m not THAT innocent)

The speakers then talk about WHY music recommendation is broken. We are now in a generation where CD’s are becoming a thing of the past, people are buying their own songs from iTunes or using music downloading sites such as Limewire to get their songs. No more walking into Wal-mart where the CD’s are sorted by different genre and artist names…it’s all on US to search the web for songs we like.

And this is where music recommendation is broken: the podcast states that 48% of all songs recommended from us listening to popular well-known artsists lead us right back to those artists. 52% of all songs recommended lead us to the middle range of popular artists, which means that there is absolutely no coverage for the millions of other artists out there who are trying to get started.

Some of my favorite artists are ones that not a lot of people know about, and I’d like them to be able to keep on making the music I love! But if CD’s are a thing of the past, and they are relying solely on the internet for people to hear of them, then music recommenders need to re-think the way they are recommending music. They need to broaden their scope of artists that they are recommending, before all that’s left is Britney and Lil’ Wayne! (Again, shout out to my girl Britney, and Lil’ Weezy holds a place near and dear to my heart)

Any suggestions for new artists trying to make a name for themselves in our iPod generation?

Bye for now!



May 19, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. Hmmm, wouldn’t it be cool if artists had some way (via iTunes maybe) to choose recommendations for their listeners? They could do it through some kind of profile-tagging tool, where they could tag their own iTunes profile with other artists that inspired or influenced their work. I think the artists themselves would have the best idea of what their listeners may like. John Mayer, for example, could tag Stevie Ray Vaughn, Eric Clapton, and Passion Pit. That way, John Mayer fans could link to artists that are more aligned with his style–rather than Britney Spears.

    PS: My music-savvy boyfriend just informed me that such a thing exists, at I still think it would be cool if iTunes employed the same type of tool so that iPod users could find accurate recommendations as they are browsing and purchasing music on iTunes.

    PPS: iLike and iTunes, despite the similar names, are not affiliated in any way.

    PPPS: They should team up. Just Saying.

    Comment by mostlyheather | May 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Hilary,

    I have a suggestion! I offer this site:
    This site was mentioned in the handout from the beginning of class but I’d like to talk about it a little bit more here. is pretty much a music recommendation service. The site says that it is a “music service that learns what you love.” When you play the music you like it “scrobbles” ( to the site so it can connect you to other people who like the same music and recommends songs from their music collections. Also, artists have pages on the site so if you check out their page you also get a list of similar artists.

    It’s a great site if you’re into music and also helpful if you’re still an undiscovered talent. Add yourself to the site and get connected to a whole array of other musicians and music lovers.

    Comment by traceyboland | May 24, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: