MSN Music Uses ‘Sounds Like’ Technology to Give Listeners the Music They Like

REDMOND, Wash., April 3, 2001 — Lets say youre shopping for a new car — something similar to the cherry-red 1965 Mustang your dad drove — but every car lot you visit sends you packing, because they no longer have any cherry-red 1965 Mustangs. Or what if you go to buy a book about skiing and the clerk suggests you also buy one about mountain climbing. Why? Because the last three customers who bought skiing books also bought hiking books — never mind that you’re scared to death of heights.

Both examples are analogous to how most online music services and stores work. If theres not an exact match, the customer is either out of luck or finds their tastes lumped with those of others who have ordered roughly similar products in the past.

MSN, the most-visited site on the Internet, has a better way. The beta for MSN Music debuts today at . The service combines new
“sounds like”
technology and the expertise of a staff of music analysts, or
with the largest library of analyzed music on the Web to provide an experience that MSN predicts will change how people listen to music, find new artists and, eventually, acquire music online.

“Most people love music and would like to listen to more music — not just the same old CDs theyve been listening to, over and over again for months,”
said Jeremy Hinman, director of business development for MSN Music.
“But they dont have the time or the knowledge to find other bands or singers that fit their taste. Weve eliminated the work for the listener and dramatically increased the chances they will like the music they listen to online.”

MSN Music integrates technology developed by Hinman and the other founders of Mongo Music. Microsoft acquired the company last year and put Hinman and others from Mongo to work on expanding the technologys potential. What they developed is an online music service that provides amazing breadth and depth of content and music. The music is grouped into more than 20 different music styles, based on such music styles as rock, classical, and soundtracks, and more than 200 sub-styles.

Sounds Like Technology Eliminates Guesswork

These preprogrammed stations are just a launching pad. Users can mold music styles based on their mood or favorite tempo. They also can listen to over 1 million stations representing music they like — or even based on a single song. By offering the title of a favorite tune, users can listen to a radio station with 100 or more similar songs.

How? With
“sounds like”

The technology picks other songs based on the musical attributes of the listeners favorite songs — not the taste of other listeners, the style of clothes the band wears or the decade the music was recorded.
“Its all about the sound of the music,”
said Geoff Stanfield, who, as chief musicologist of MSN Music, is responsible for all the groovers.

The benefit of
“sounds like”
technology is obvious when applied to an artist such as Miles Davis, Stanfield said.
“What if you only like Miles early 70s electric period and not his straight ahead or bop periods? Sounds like technology delivers the songs in the selected period and overlooks songs that dont fit — Miles Davis isnt simply just jazz.”

Songs are grouped and classified based on human, as well as electronic analysis, of the music. The human factor comes from a staff of MSN groovers with exceptional musical resumes. Stanfield is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston and was a member of the rock band Black Lab.
“Before I was doing this, I was recording music and touring,”
he said.

The groover assigned by MSN Music to electronic and dance music runs his own record label and has worked with various artists. The musicologist who oversees international pop and rock plays keyboards for the African pop singer Femi Kuti.

Besides analyzing songs, the musicologists maintain and select music for MSNs music style pages. Each page offers a list of subcategory pages, along with exclusive stories, interviews with artists and editors picks of lesser-known artists within the style.

“I would have loved to have a service like this when I was in college and high school,”
Stanfield said.
“The knowledge of MSN Musics groovers allows music fans to discover the newest and hippest artists. Its like having your own music guru.”

MSN Music Links Listeners with Music, New Artists

After finding new bands and artists they like, MSN Music users can link to online music stores such as Best Buy, and to purchase albums. MSN is working with the major and independent music labels to find more ways to acquire music online, Hinman said.

Fans wont be confined to listening to MSN Music on their desktop PCs. MSN expects in coming years to offer a full range of listening options — any time, any place and on any device, Hinman said.

MSN Musics services and expanded listening opportunities will benefit the entire music industry as well as individual fans, Hinman added. Since MSN Music doesnt use the same collaborative filtering model as other services, it will expand the amount and diversity of music that fans can hear, allowing large and small record labels and artists to get their music out to listeners, he said.

“MSN Music will make it much easier for consumers to dictate what kind of music they want,”
Hinman said.

If MSN Music staffers hear a song by a new artist, like it and deem it similar to another very popular song, they link it to that popular song so listeners can hear it, Hinman explained.
“We dont just keep recycling all of the same songs that are played on every station,”
he said.
“That gives listeners few choices and makes it hard for new artists to get heard.”