Last week I told a heart-warming story about my family trip Disney World and the resulting discovery of Bad Religion and interesting radio. I also ask for some advice: where can I find good web radio? What resulted was a great thread about music, but few answers to my question (thanks to those few).
Failed by you, the reader, I set out to discover the truth myself. Where can I find good web radio? A few days later, I am pleased to report that Launch.com’s LAUNCHcast is a pretty good service.
The idea is brilliant. It works much like Amazon’s recommendations. Here is my synopsis of how their system works (in a bullet list to make it easier for your bite size brain to ingest – as digestion is too lofty a goal):
- I tell LAUNCHCast that I like radiohead
- LAUNCHcast knows that others who like radiohead also like Travis
- It plays Travis for me with out ever being told explicitly
- A new artist comes out that fans of music I currently listen to like, and it will play me the new artist
This simple concept is very powerful and overcomes the simple drawback of ‘on-demand’ media delivery – that you only find material you already know about (I’ve complained about this before).
In practical terms, the service has it’s flaws. It requires patience while it learns about your musical preferences. It takes a while for it to figure out that you know that you don’t like Mariah Carrey (btw, she it on my list of beautiful woman that are so skanky that they are not attractive – more on that later).
LAUNCHcast lets you rate song, album, and artist on a scale of 1 to 100. A rating above 50 means it will be more likely to be played. A rating of below 50 means it will be less likely to be played.
There is a nice ‘never play this again’ feature that stops the current songs, skips to the next and remembers never to play that piece again. This feature is particularly important for the first few days you use LAUNCHcast, as it will guess wrong a fair amount until it has more data about your musical preferences. I had to go through the Launch.com Top 100 and tell it that I hated most of the artists. This improved my playlist dramatically.
Another cool feature, LaunchCast asks “How much new music would you like to discover?”. Choose a low rating and it will play only music you have explicitly told it you like. Choose a high number and it will play more new music it thinks you will like, but that you haven’t explicitly asked for.
I did have some trouble with the music skipping occasionally or dropping (very frustrating). The playlist is usually quite good, but it still throws something really odd, like Winger, occasionally. The idea here is good. Remember search engines before Google? The sort-of worked. This sort-of works too. I eagerly await the Google of web radio.
I’ll never understand how, after I told it I like radiohead, it knew I’d like Lisa Loeb and Sweet Child O’Mine by Guns N’ Roses. Perhaps I’m not alone.