One-upping Pandora with well-deserved Hype

If you look to the left navigation of this blog, you’ll see a nice little blue widget that highlights the top 10 songs I recently “hearted” on the Hype Machine. For those of you who have glossed over this gem, shame on you…only slightly kidding. My personal taste in music aside, Hype Machine is an incredible music player that lets you discover great new music and in turn, some of the best music blogs. They explain, “Hype Radio turns blogs into mobile radio stations.”

I’ve grown to love this site over the last few years (shout out to @jacobksamuelson for the initial find), and it’s become one of the main ways I find new music. So it is natural that I was overcome with kid-in-a-candy-store delight when I received a long-awaited email announcing the launch of their iPhone app. And it’s seems that I am not alone in my excitement. ReadWriteWeb, TheNextWeb, Gizmodo and even The Guardian are all abuzz.

Through the app, you can stream the latest or most popular music from blogs, browse by genre, and see what your friends are listening to. It’s still an early version that is missing search and an ability to see the songs I’ve “hearted,” but I maintain that it’s one of my better investments of $2.99.  According to Founder Anthony Volodkin, “We create uninterrupted streams of music of several ways and it’s a much more lean back, passive experience. We are excited to offer such a different way of interacting with music blogs – there’s no way to experience them this way on a mobile device otherwise.”

One of the reasons I’m so keen on Hype Machine is the serendipitous discovery factor – I’m bound to listen to music I would have otherwise never been exposed to and can seamlessly go down the rabbit hole with a certain band, genre, or blog using their search features. The listening experience is customized, but I control the filters. Pandora also promises to help you find (not discover) music you love, but I often catch myself listening to the same songs or types of songs on repeat. It’s great for those occasions in which I’m on a classical guitar or top 40 binge (yes, it happens), but for the most part, music ADD kicks in before the first commercial.

My inner discourse on Hype versus Pandora was crystallized after watching Eli Pariser’s fantastic TED Talk: Beware online “filter bubbles” (thanks to my friend Tobi for sharing).

Pariser argues that as web companies use algorithms to personalize their services, as does Pandora with music, we can get caught in “filter bubbles” in which we are exposed to more of the same. The particularly problematic example he uses is the filter bubble of online political discourse within news or search results. Pariser challenges the “new gatekeepers” like Google and Faceboook to ensure that their algorithms are transparent and expansive enough to prevent a “web of one,” and the same challenge can apply to music sites.

Pandora does not seem to be going anywhere but up, nor should it. It’s a smart, powerful service and is probably better equipped to meet the listening needs of many than some of the smaller sites. That said, I sleep better at night knowing that Hype is doing its civic duty to promote music discovery. And with their app, I can now walk and run better.

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