The Search Lounge

10/14/2004

Musicplasma

Type of Engine: Visual music search.
Overall: Average quality, yet still very enjoyable to play around with.
If this engine were a drink it would be...a mint julep. It's not your everyday drink, but you'll find it a sweet break from the norm.

Intro
Musicplasma is a music search tool that lets you discover music artists similar to ones you already like. Oh, and it’s visual, like Kartoo.

I’m not really sure how they determine similarities. If I had to guess I’d say they base it on an ontology of genres (rock, rap, etc.), and on mining something like Amazon’s “Customers who bought that, also bought these…” type of functionality.

UI and Features
You can zoom in or out on clusters, thereby focusing or expanding your view of similar artists.

Clicking on the links – those ethereal lines – scrolls the page in that direction. Nice feature!
Clicking on other clusters will refocus the clusters around that artist.
The Design panel allows for changing colors and other appearances if you're into that kind of thing.

Query Examples
Sometimes the clusters make total sense. Try a search for Guided by Voices and the closest cluster will be Robert Pollard, the lead singer who’s done solo albums. Sometimes the clusters are a bit off. Try searching for David Byrne and for some reason Paul Westerberg – lead singer of the Replacements – comes between Byrne and the Talking Heads. I’m not saying that’s incorrect, but my first reaction was surprise. It could be accurate that people who like David Byrne’s solo stuff, which doesn’t sound much like the Talking Heads, might like Paul Westerberg, Warren Zevon and Roxy Music (all closer than the Talking Heads).
I noticed that powerhouses like the Rolling Stones and Neil Young shows up in lots of places. I searched for Prince Buster, the 60s ska pioneer, and there’s Neil’s cluster. A search for Bad Brains similarly showed the Stones lurking one link away. Now obviously Neil Young and the Stones have influenced tons of groups, but I'm not sure that Bad Brains should be one link away. Anyone know why that would be?

Conclusion
I’d like to know more about the links. Is one artist linked to another because they collaborated? Or are they linked because they play similar music? Or are on the same label?
OK, so it’s fun to play with, but give me some song samples.
How about letting me type in more than one group so I can really focus in?
Focus by time period. I really like early Stones, when they sounded like, say the Small Faces, but I hate recent Stones, when they sound like, say crap.

Musicplasma is fun to play with, but it needs to be more practical. Take the visual music search engine and turn it into an audio search engine. If that’s too far-flung, then at least show more context on how artists are linked. But like I said, it sure is fun...

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