WEB REVIEW: Searching, for free, for the next great song

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Don’t you love finding a great song?

Readers with good memories will remember one of my all-time favorite sites for this is the now-well-known Pandora (www.pandora.com). Pandora is like a radio station that plays only music you like, even if you’ve never heard it before.

It accomplishes this amazing feat by harnessing the power of something called the Human Genome Project. Without going into detail, the project uses trained musicians to listen to music and catalog it on roughly 400 different criteria. Then, when you tell Pandora you “like” something, it uses what it knows about that song to make a guess for others you might like. The more it knows about your tastes, the better it is at finding music you’ll like. (If you’d like to read more about Pandora, please see my previous article here: http://tinyurl.com/ibj-pandora)

What’s one step better than finding music you love through Pandora? Finding it through a friend. It’s in this spirit that I want to let you know about NoiseTrade (www.noisetrade.com).

NoiseTrade isn’t a band, it’s more like that friend who has all the best music, whose collection never seems to end, and who is willing to let you borrow whatever you like, whenever you want.

NoiseTrade works like this: It collected thousands of songs from thousands of artists and it will help you discover, download and keep all of them in exchange for your e-mail address and ZIP code.

The experiment began five years ago when singer/songwriter Derek Webb gave away one of his albums online for free, asking for the same information. In three months, Derek had given away 80,000 albums and collected nearly as many fans. What followed were sold-out shows, increased merchandise and album sales (including sales of the very album that was given away for free), and a new business called NoiseTrade.

If you visit the site, you can quickly and easily see recently added artists and songs. You can search for someone in particular (the more independent, the better your luck finding), or see the top downloads.

Once you select an artist, you’ll see a playlist of songs available. Click the big “play” button and you can begin listening immediately. If you like what you hear, just enter your e-mail address and ZIP code and you’ll be able to download the song or, in some cases, the complete album, for free. Now, if you really like what you hear, there’s a built-in mechanism to let the artist know and you can leave a tip for the artist, of which 20 percent is kept by NoiseTrade to help cover the cost of running the site. 

Each week, you’ll get a quick e-mail telling you about the new artists that have been added. A recent note highlighted the full-length album from Brooke Waggoner and featured two reviews of the artist from The New York Times and Paste Magazine. You can also leave comments on the site about songs and artists you like, and the site is well-integrated with Twitter and Facebook to help you share your musical leanings with the rest of your social network.

I recently mentioned something I liked on Twitter and received a direct response from a friend who said, “If you like Clarensau, then you might enjoy Jenny & Tyler.”

I did, and I do.•


Cota is creative director of Rare Bird Inc., a full-service advertising agency specializing in the use of new technologies. His column appears monthly. He can be reached at jim@rarebirdinc.com.

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