The Vast Wasteland Of Online Music

A few weeks ago, I wasted the better part of an afternoon looking for the right piece of music for a video I was putting together.

Online music is vast wasteland of crap served up by cloggy JavaScript sites with clunky user interfaces. Over the last few months since I started looking for music to use in my videos, I’ve listened to countless hours of monotonous pap, improbable mash-ups and remixes that just don’t work.

I’ve tried a number of popular sites for music downloads: SoundCloud, Jamendo, ccMixter, The Free Music Archive. I’ve used a few other specific sites like Ektoplazm and the Internet Archive and a few music exploration and search sites like BeatPick, Stereo Mood, Melody Loops, and TuneGlue. Some of these, especially the latter, let me search for music by mood or genre, but mostly I can only search using keywords on the title or tags. Melody Loops, BeatPick and Stereo Mood are quite clever, but ultimately they either don’t give me much choice or don’t serve up anything really special.

None of them let me easily and quickly do what I need: unambiguously search for a music clip that sets a particular atmosphere and offer a quick and efficient way to preview the results. All the sites I tried, with the possible exception of Ektoplazm, are so slow and resource-hungry that I frequently have to close other applications and restart my browser.

I’m primarily looking for Creative Commons Licensed music, so while there is an enormous amount of quality music available online, in the end I’m only looking for tracks that are licensed for use in videos. Cynics will say that’s my problem right there; if you want good music, you have to pay for it. I do buy music for my personal listening, but for non-commercial use, I disagree. There are fantastic musicians who offer tracks under CC licenses, and there are a number of professional musicians who will let you use a track if you ask. I know, because I’ve asked and received permission.

The problem is that I haven’t seen an easy way to find these tracks and separate the gems from the dross unless I already know the music. The CC website has a nice search tool for finding licensed works, but it only searches by keyword on one site at a time instead of all the sites simultaneously, so it isn’t much better than simply visiting each one individually and slogging through the slow preview interfaces.

I’m not a professional film maker, but I’d pay for good music to use if only there were a quick and easy way to find and preview good quality clips, and of course if they’re not too expensive for my budget. I don’t want to sign up and pay for a service only to discover they don’t have what I need or that they don’t offer an easy way to find it.

Oddly enough, the most efficient tool I’ve discovered to find new tracks is the “listeners also bought” feature on iTunes. The suggested tracks are surprisingly similar in genre, mood and feel, and the preview options are fast and efficient. No cloggy web code there. Of course, the results aren’t necessarily CC Licensed, but it seems to be more efficient going this way than finding similarly efficient search tools for CC libraries.

Starting from music I know, I use the “listeners also bought” feature in iTunes to find new artists and tracks I like. Then I go onto the web and look for some of those that have Creative Commons versions for example using the search engine on the Creative Commons site. I’ve found a few tracks that way already. It’s still hit and miss, but at least it’s a little easier on my patience and a little easier on the ears. If I find something I really like that’s not available, I’ll try to contact the artist. The worst that can happen is they’ll say ‘no.’

I just finished watching the Apple WWDC Keynote, in which Eddy Cue announced iTunes Radio. This sounds like it will make iTunes into exactly what I need. If I could tap into CC music with a similarly responsive interface it’d be perfect.

If anyone has any other suggestions for good resources, music blogs or podcasts I could subscribe to for identifying new music to use in my videos, I’d love to hear about them in the comments. I’m mostly looking for fast driving music with attitude that’s exciting, fun and original.

Until then I’ll be exploring on iTunes.

This entry was posted in Apple, Music, Search Engines, Technology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The Vast Wasteland Of Online Music

  1. Chaoscream says:

    you may want to try ex.fm to find ideas in different genre’s.

    • laura says:

      It doesn’t seem to have a fast preview or mood search option, so I don’t think it will help for my use case, but thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Roy Murray says:

    I spend so much time doing similar searches so am glad to have a few more options listed here that I have not tried yet. Have you tried Incompetech.com?

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