Discover New Artists with the Power of Randomness

According to my last.fm profile, I’ve listened to over 360,000 songs and 18,000 artists since February 2006. However, I’ve listened to 15,000 of those artists fewer than 20 times each. That’s 20 times each over the course of nearly ten years, yet these artists make up many of my tracks listened to. These artists could have come from anywhere: Pandora, Spotify, online radio based on a niche, Stereomood, Last.fm’s Discover radio,… just about anywhere.

Yet I still find myself complaining about how hard it is to discover new music. This isn’t entirely true–there’s a world of music out there, after all. But sometimes I want a specific sound, so I put on a radio station and discover that I already know 90% of what’s playing. (This happened a few days ago, in fact. I played Spotify’s Grizzly Bear station and recognized almost everything that played.)

There’s no way my brain can hold on to 18,000 artists, much less get to know the discographies of 18,000 artists. Heck, I’ve listened to most of these artists in the range of two or three tracks a year. Somewhere buried in those many artists are musical gems that I haven’t truly discovered yet, and I’ve figured out a way to discover more of these artists, along with artists like them.

Step 1: Use random.org to choose a number between 1 and the total number of artists in my last.fm library (18,191 as of this writing).

Step 2: If the number generated is less than the number of pages in my last.fm artist library (364 as of now), go to that page number. Then choose a number between 1 and 50 and start a radio station for the nth artist on that page.

Step 2.5: Otherwise, if the first number generated is greater than the number of pages in my last.fm library, start a radio station for that numbered artist. To find out which artist is attached to that number, divide that number by 50. Ignore any decimal, and add 1 to the number. Then go to http://www.last.fm/user/YOURLASTFMNAME/library/artists?page=x, where x is equal to the random number, divided by 50, plus one, rounded down to the next lowest whole number. Find the artist and start discovering!

These steps ensure that I’ll rarely run into an artist I’m already very familiar with but instead am forced to discover the new things. Case in point: the second time I took these steps to discover someone new, random.org chose 21. I’m already familiar with artist number 21 in my library (of Montreal as of this writing), and I’m pretty familiar with my top 400 or so artists.

Off to discover more things I go!

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