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Thesixtyone : A massively multiplayer music discovery service

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Music discovery systems (or social music sites) are great at recommending me songs based on what I already listen to. However, last.fm, which I’ve been using for years now, only really suggests artists that are well-known. This is the case for most of them, in fact. This makes listening easier, but also makes the process somewhat less exciting. The status quo might change, now, with the arrival of thesixtyone, a newish social music system which makes it easier for obscure artists to get that crucial-but-elusive initial exposure.

How does it do this? The site rewards users with reputation and influence for finding new, attention-deserving music before other people do. You get points for listening to under-the-radar music, and can spend those points on “bumping” whichever track you like. More obscure songs are expensive to bump into the limelight, but if other people digg bump the sound later on, then you’ll get rewarded for it. If you’re bumping a track that’s already been around the block and on the front page, you’re not going to get many points for just jumping on the bandwagon.

This way, the system actively encourages people to find the obscure and unheard of and promote it as well as they can. Users who have a high “level”, with lots of points, have considerable power in making the reputation of certain bands. Sounds more than a little bit enticing, doesn’t it?

If you’re like me, it’s an effort to sit down and listen to unfamiliar material – I generally don’t start enjoying music until I’ve heard it a few times. I’m too lazy, especially as of late, to make myself listen to new stuff. The MMOG-player that still hides in me somewhere is enjoying “levelling up” by listening to tracks like this. There’s a lot of shit there (especially the large amount of awful home-made techno), but the good stuff does rise to the top.

Luckily, the website already has a large, established userbase (of artists and listeners) now, having been around for over 6 months, and there are always plenty of freshly uploaded song awaiting opinion. The music coming from the more popular artists is great, and some of the leading bumpers consistently pick music worth listening to. Radiohead (known for their passion for alternative distribution methods) even have uncut, unpublished songs posted.

I never realised until I started using thesixtyone how annoying it is to have to keep a tab on the same page to keep the music playing, a la last.fm. I’m not sure how thesixtyone does it, but the tracks keep playing no matter how much you navigate around the site. Impressive. The site is slick, with little unobtrusive popups of information appearing when relevant. It’s great for a couple of guys with little financial backing.

Anyway, congratulations to them on how well they’ve done so far, good luck to them. Check out their site now. My username is atroche.

Written by atroche

July 9, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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