Column: Fill your iPod with better music

Column: Fill your iPod with better music

Most college students take their music collection seriously – around campus, it’s rare to see anyone without an iPod attached.

I know I’m not alone in this, but my roommate’s music collection is, well, in need of a serious makeover. Sometimes I think it is not appropriate to criticize other people’s taste in music. Well, I don’t know about you, but I can only hear “Margaritaville,” “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and “Proud to be an American” so many times. Not that my 1,462-song collection is anything to brag about; we all have our fair share of embarrassing songs (Disney soundtracks, anyone?), but 200 songs, half of which are “relaxing music” by Enya? The girl needs help.

Though she is a rare breed of “pop-culture deficient,” I know there are others like her, and I want to help. Not that I am a music expert of any sort, but there is always an alternative to “bad” music. You can save your friends (and your sanity) by exposing them to other and better choices. The most obvious solution is the Internet. But where should you look?

My first stop would be Pandora.com. I exposed my roommate to this website and she swears it saved her life. Pandora.com is a music archive created by the Music Genome Project, which helps listeners discover new music by typing in their favorite artists. Then the system searches for similar artists. The same can be done with songs. The catch is Pandora will not play the song for you (due to legal complications) but will find songs that sound like it, based on genre and overall sound. Once the song is introduced, the listener can then choose if they like the song and Pandora will change its course based on the listener’s choices. It’s a self-explanatory and user-friendly site, so even the least savvy Internet users should be able to maneuver it.

At this point your friend-in-need probably has established a better knowledge of new artists and perhaps has already added them to his or her playlists. By now his or her collection is not nearly as embarrassing as it was before the intervention, and maybe can be openly shared with the world. This leads me to the next step: Last.fm.

The social site is the musical equivalent of Facebook. Once you set up an account, the site tracks the songs you play and makes it available for others to view. Your page shows your most recently played songs and also tallies your top songs of the week and top songs overall based on play count. You can add friends who also have accounts, and the site can link you to others with similar musical interests. This which is a great way to find out about new music. The only downfall is its stalker-like updating that makes it almost as addictive as Facebook.

So now that your friend’s music has been deemed socially acceptable enough to have friends on Last.fm, he or she needs something interesting to impress those new friends. This is the final step I have for enhancing your friend’s musical knowledge.

PureVolume.com is a beautifully constructed website that helps users search a database of up-and-coming bands. It reminds me of bands’ pages on MySpace.com, only more visually appealing. It is mostly a rock-oriented site, but for those who aren’t into that genre, it’s still a great site to check out. By searching you can listen to and view the music videos of thousands of bands, and there is also a “charts” tab on the site where you can see PureVolume’s list of top signed and unsigned bands, calculated by the amount of play each artist gets on the site. Even if you are not into rock, it’s still interesting to view and discover some unknown bands. And everyone knows that liking a band before they get big makes you cooler.

With my three-step program of music discovery, you can stop those you love from listening to the same bad songs again and again. Everyone deserves to be exposed to different kinds of music, especially since it plays such a role in identifying yourself and what you like.

With my help, my roommate has already improved. Well, almost. At least playing reggae all day is better than Eminem.

– Julia Gall can be reached

at [email protected]

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