The very last panel I attended at SXSW Interactive was a panel called “Music 2.0 = Music Discovery Chaos?” This was a roundtable discussion as opposed to a more traditional panel where ‘experts’ do most of the talking. Elliot and Sandy Hurst of Supernova.com guided a conversation about the state of music discovery.
To tell the truth, I had low expectations for this panel. These things often devolve into (a) discussion about business models, (b) people pimping their new site, (c) some self-proclaimed expert dominating the discussion. But instead of a trainwreck, this panel turned into one my highlights of SXSW.
There was a wide range of people with a wide range of views that participated in the discussion. There were music fans (of course) that touted their favorite discovery mechanisms (friends, last.fm, hype machine). There were music critics who reminded us of the role of the expert in filtering music, but who also admitted that there’s just too much music for them to deal with, so they need their own filters. There were music programmers who talked about the different levels of listening adventurousness based on demographics (us old people apparently are less adventurous). And there was the gadfly in the back of the room, who wondered why we cared so much about this – he had no problems finding music – and if people want to listen to American Idol, so what?
Early on in the discussion Elliot took a poll of the room that seemed to indicate that for many the primary way people found music was through friends. After this poll he ask me “why, since it seemed that most people found new music through their friends do we need machines to help us find music?”. I got to paraphrase the line from Mike McGuire: “music recommendation is for people that don’t have friends”. That got a bit of a laugh.
Of course, for a discussion like this, there’s never an ultimate agreement on anything. But it was fantastic to listen to the debate – especially by so many really smart people who are very passionate about music. Awesome panel! Good job Elliot and Sandy.