Since Jessica from MusicIP already made a nice comment on yesterday's blog entry, why not start with the MusicIP Mixer as the first in my arsenal of music discovery tools. A piece of software that creates mixes from music in your mp3 collection might not seem that useful for 'music discovery' at first. In all honesty though, I simply love MusicIP - it is really the central nervous system of my music collection (and obsession). And in many ways it is vital for the discovery of new music.
I really don't know where to begin with the MusicIP Mixer, it's so very flexible. At its core, it does an audio analysis of the songs in your collection and 'fingerprints' them based on unique audio properties. Once your collection is indexed, you can simply click on a track and create a playlist from your collection of other stuff that sounds similar. This departure point is really what sets MusicIP apart from social networking tools that create indexes of your similarities with other peoples' music collections (of course these have considerably different uses). Its not picking tracks because Joe Blow, who also really likes Joy Division, has a lot of Smiths in his collection. Its picking tracks because they actually share common acoustic properties.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. You have a truly awesome amount of control over tweaking various properties of your mix, such the influence the artist's overall style versus just the properties of the 'seed' song. Mixes can also take into account the era of the song (or artist), make connections not just by acoustic similarity but by connections between artists, and my new favourite, popularity.
In recent beta releases, MusicIP has made more and more use of data that is not just collected from your computer, but that has been anonymously aggregated on their servers from MusicIP users across the globe. This sharing of data allows MusicIP to create an index value of how 'popular' a particular track is based on how many users have it in their collection. So I can create mixes of anything from 'hits' to 'fringe' selections from the catalogue. These matches are very accurate since their based on the song's fingerprint, not mp3 tag data. So tag discrepancies don't matter in correctly identifying the track. This same data aggregation allows the MusicIP server to also create index values for things like 'Song Begin', which is the first year when the track was available. Since most compilation alblums are indexed with the year of their release, this lets me get a much more accurate collection of 'seventies' music for example, even if they are from greatest hits albums released in the 2000s.
You may wonder what this all has to do with music discovery. First of all, with a collection as large as mine (going on 35,000 tracks), sometimes the best discoveries you make are from within your own collection. Nowadays, we're no longer sitting in record store listening booths for hours before carefully making our selections. I have streams of music coming into my collection pretty much daily, between music blogs and eMusic downloads, etc. Even though I try to give all the new stuff a decent listen, stuff just gets by me. I can't tell you the number of times that I have 'discovered' a track that has been in my collection for weeks or months down, after it pops into a MusicIP mix of other stuff I like. Brilliant.
MusicIP also facilitates importing xspf playlists from FIQL, and tag-based lists from Last.fm (which I will get into more when I cover those sites). Importing them wil pull all the songs from your collection that are in the playlist into the mix, and can either 'replace' the missing ones with similar sounding songs or just ignore them. Grabbing other peoples playlists and then discovering that your collection has 80% of the contents has been a great incentive for me to go and check out the other 20%.
The MusicIP Mixer also has a discovery window, which has links to free mp3 files recommended based on the contents of your current mix. To be honest, I haven't found a lot of great new music through this function, but it has some good potential.
There's still a lot more that MusicIP can do, but I can't possibly describe it all. You simply need to head over to their site and download the free version. When you discover how wonderful it is, upgrade to the full version like I did. It's well worth it.