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Bandcamp’s Discoverinator Is Not Music Discovery

image from discovery is hard. It's hard to make the experience enjoyable, but more importantly, it's hard getting the general public interested in spending the time to flip through music. Bandcamp announced and debuted the "Discoverinator" which not only fails at worthwhile discovery, it fails at branding. Its a terrible name thats jokey and forgettable. The discoverinator may be the most recent misstep, but it's just the tip of what's wrong with music discovery as a whole.

If you read Bandcamp's post, whose service I adore, about the new discovery tool they say all the right things, but testing it out only results in the thought, "This is it?" They mention that there's no good way to browse, they bring up the old feeling of wandering record stores, but what they give you is lackluster at best and a waste of time at worst. Not to try and pick on Bandcamp, because again, I do love what they're doing, but I would like to offer up some suggestions for music discovery and solicit you to leave your recommendations in the comments as well.

Music discovery starts off with the listener either wanting a lot of control over song selection or basically none.

Pandora sky rocketed to fame for a few reasons, one of which was because they played what the listener wanted to hear with very little effort. Songza is another service gaining steam and following in Pandora's footsteps, trying to reimagine the radio and make the experience magical in its ability to "guess" what you want to hear based on your mood. This is how the vast majority of people want to discover music. They're used to the radio telling them some things that are popular right now and then repeating it until you begin to like it.

The other side of the coin is those who want to dig in and have a say in the discovery process, this is usually for time's sake. We, including myself here, want to find our next favorite band so we can then move on to the next favorite after that. It's what we do. 

The Discoverinator falls short in its simplicity. Being too simple, though seemingly good for the causals, results in poor discovery. When enough criterial isn't met, you have a much harder time actually finding something that fits your style. That's why having several different discovery aspects and an accurate related artist search helps tremendously. Spotify's "related artists" tool that shows up once you select an artist is one of the best and most actuate that I've found. I'm not sure how they come up with the results they do, but using it has resulted in more than a few bands I'd call my favorite. Once you have a band in mind finding similar artists is magical.

If you don't have an artist in mind, having trusted recommended suggestions is another tool that has proven effective. Reputable and popular music sources like NPR, Pitchfork, and other music sites picking their "must hear" on a regular basis is a perfect way to solve this. Curated music, though costly in time, is one of the few ways I've found to please the majority of people.

Thoughtfully hand picked music gets back to what it was ever all about, taking something that moved you and sharing it with someone else in hopes of moving them. Both improving related artists using Bandcamp's service and hand picked, curated recommendations would greatly add value to the site's lacking discovery option. 

How do you discover music and how do you try to pass it along to others?

MORE: BandCamp Launches New Music Discovery Engine: The Discoverinator

Tyler Hayes is a regular contributor to and founder of, an independent music discovery site.

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  1. RSS feeds and podcasts are still my main resources for discovering new stuff. Finding all the music blogs that cover my favorite genres and staying on them has proven to keep my hard drive quite fortified. I must find, on average, about 300 songs a week I’ve never heard before.
    I actually created a YouTube video on how I find new music. If anyone’s interested in watching it, reach out to me.

  2. Man, if horrible names that are jokey and forgettable constitute a branding failure, you’re indicting the entire f’ing tech industry since 2001, man. This is the era of Twitter being discussed by professors at Harvard Business School. We leapt off that cliff before Hypebot started.
    I definitely agree on the technical shortcomings of their service, though. It’s clearly a beta and I dig the fact they’re experimenting with it. They could have provided a whole lot more functionality by porting in someone else’s algorithms, but innovating in-house has been the Bandcamp MO for awhile.
    Overall: wait and see.

  3. No company is going to be good at music discovery who does not do it in a way that meaningfully impacts their bottom line. Not only is it hard to do right, but as you noted, it’s time-intensive. You can’t do it well as a side to your real business.

  4. “Discoverinator”….I dont know…..not too far away from “Hypebot” namewise. I think you are wrong to criticize that. I think it’s funny and descriptive.
    And why don’t people just put their energy into making better alternatives rather than just criticizing?
    Curated music….the problem with that is subjectivity…the very thing that makes music so great in the first place…so i’m not saying it’s an easy problem to solve….
    Related bands/artists is the way to go as long as those are defined by 100+ “curators” all agreeing and not by bands/promoters themselves. Related songs also…not every band makes every song sound the same.
    We really just need elegant systems in place so that when the real talent comes along it gets to the fans rather than being lost in the mist of mediocre music.

  5. I think it’s worth noting that what Bandcamp is trying to do is emulate the experience of walking into a music store to browse. In that, they are at least partially successful. I do think they need to broaden their search parameters (add geographical locations, and maybe an A-Z list) but their interface is quick and easy to use. When I go into a record store, I’m not looking for recommendations, I either already know what I’m looking for or I’m aiming to discover something on my own.
    You make good points but I think the Bandcamp app is a bit more successful than you do. I trust only a small number of peers when it comes to recommendations, and I tend to talk with them about music face-to-face so recommendation engines are less up my alley. The Discovernator may serve a different market than the one you perceive as being essential to music discovery.

  6. I scour the dusty roads,off the internet highway.Looking for music I’ve never heard before.
    Then I share it with others on a radio show I get to program.
    I am my own Discoverinator!

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