With services like MOG and Last.FM, its fairly easy to track and announce the music you are listening to. On the positive side, its a really handy way to get turned on to new music that is likely to interest you. Using aggregate data and matching you with similar users, these services can quickly show you music you’ll like that you aren’t listening to. Case in point, for me, bands such as Booka Shade, Tokyo Police Club, and Black Kids were all bands that I first actually listened to because of the recommendation.
But the benefits come along with a dose of reality: you have to face your actual music tastes. Regardless of the number of Slayer or Winger shirts you have, if these services start recommending Anne Murray, you may have to do some soul searching.
This past weekend, some friends and I were talking about favorite bands. Of course (of course), for me, any discussion along those lines has to include New Order/Joy Division, The KLF, and Daft Punk. According, however, to Last.FMs Top Artists Overall chart, those bands come in at: #5, #28, and #3. Other favorites such as The Clash (#49), Prince (#43), and The Streets (#30) are lower as well. Apparently, I have been listening to a lot of The Beatles and The Teddybears (#1 and #2) lately.
Which got me thinking. How often do our listening habits correlate with our listening preferences? Take The KLF for example. These acid house/techno pioneers came along at a pivotal time in the music scene. I had been running industrial and goth club nights and my friends and I were transitioning in to these new musical genres. Belgian New Beat, Detroit Techno, and Mancunian Acid House were the music we were listening to and The KLF (or The JAMMs or The Timelords or or or…) were instrumental in not only providing the soundtrack but their antics and artistic endeavors set the tone. Because of this contribution, they will always hold a certain piece of mind share when I think about important music. Do I listen to them a lot these days? Probably not so much, but in my mind it doesn’t detract from their place in my “top 10″.
Additionally, as a software developer, I often choose music that isn’t “challenging”. I think thats why The Beatles are so high up. Having the White Album or Abbey Road in my headphones is basically musical filler. I don’t actively listen to it, I’m not necessarily inclined to think about the lyrics, its just a nice background.
Given that, how can we manipulate these services to not only recommend “more of the same” of what I’m listening to, but to really know our tastes in music for different situations, and recommend accordingly?