Headphones-and-Laptop

Music may soothe the savage beast, but in these more comfortable times, it also eases the hours of coding or graphic design. Be it at the office, working from home, or in your earbuds as you commute from client to client, music is one of the few entertainments that you can enjoy on the clock without impairing your productivity.

The problem is finding new tracks. Even in this era of electronic enlightenment, you still have to listen to track after track in real-time just to find something you kinda like (1 kinda like for every 9 listens, if I had to guesstimate — not very efficient). Online ordering makes it much easier to deliver albums, but that just means you can fill your iPod with noise pollution that much faster. Here we look at some online services which can make your MP3′s most melodious without consuming a lot free-time cycles:

1. Liveplasma

Liveplasma is part of the new generation of Internet applications — ones that don’t drown you in data, but realize that you need context for content. It builds an incredible musical map around any band you specify, showing you an entire cosmos of related music.

Liveplasma

Liveplasma

The information is intuitive: the size of the band shows popularity, while similar colors indicate similar styles of music. You can easily navigate, and for every new name you click, the entire world rapidly reorganizes itself to present the new relationships. If you like even one band, Liveplasma will show you 70 more.

2. eMusic

While Liveplasma is entirely informational, eMusic is a one-stop shop for choosing and downloading tracks. Operating on a subscription plan, where you pay for a certain number of songs per month, it ensures that you’ll always have fresh audio — because you might often feel you don’t have the time to look, but when you have a bunch of credits about to expire at the end of a month, you’ll be amazed at how easy it is to make time. (Batching your music downloads at the end of each month is far more productive than hunting and pecking at random times for individual songs.) And at $0.30 per song — it’s a good deal.

eMusic

eMusic

As well as browsing by category, editors’ picks, and user ratings, your eMusic homepage will offer recommendations every time you sign in. Be warned that it’s not the most intelligent audiophile — it groups music by genre, not feel — but with free samples handily built into the HTML of each page, a single click and a few seconds of listening (no five-step procedure to launch an external application here!) will let you know what’s good.

3. Music Forums

This one’s a balancing act: a productivity blog recommending forums is like a doctor prescribing plutonium pills. But for every band you like, there are thousands of like-minded fans, and you can bet they share their thoughts online somewhere. A quick Google will find their forum: the key is to get in, use the search function to find a topic titled “What other bands do you like” (any combination of “other” and “like” will usually do it). Get in, get the information, get out — and try not to think too badly of yourself based on how dumb some other fans of your favorites are.

4. iTunes Genius

The jewel in the music-selection crown has to be iTunes Genius, with a music-recommendation service built right into your player. Genius itself is the most awesome audio application we’ve ever seen, an automatic playlist producer which will assemble smoothly synchronized sounds from your existing library. And this isn’t just “all have the same BPM” — this is a nicely varied selection. It doesn’t work for everything, so you Trancecore Folk-Jazz Classicists may be out of luck, but it’s surprisingly smart overall.

itunes-genius

iTunes Genius

Genius also offers a music-recommendation sidebar for tracks you can buy immediately from the iTunes Store. That might sound like awful advertising, the bane of the Internet, but here’s the thing: it actually works. Based on the music you’re listening to, it actually makes intelligent suggestions about what you might like. You can listen to samples to make sure, and (unlike the bad kind of ad) you can switch the sidebar off whenever you want.

Image credit: WillSelarep / iStockphoto

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