The 6th Beatle

When I test-drive a new music recommender I usually start by getting recommendations based upon ‘The Beatles’  (If you like the Beatles, you make like XX).    Most recommenders give results that include artists like  John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, The Who, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Wings, The Kinks and Beach Boys.  These recommendations are reasonable, but they probably won’t help you find any new music.  The problem is that these recommenders rely on the wisdom of the crowds and so an extremely popular artist like The Beatles tends to get paired up with other  popular artists – the results being that the recommender doesn’t tell you anything that you don’t already know.   If you are trying to use a recommender to discover music that sounds like The Beatles, these recommenders won’t really help you – Queen may be an OK recommendation, but chances are good that you already know about them (and The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, etc.) so  you are not finding any new music.

At The Echo Nest we don’t  base our artist recommendations solely on the wisdom of crowds, instead  we  draw upon a number of different sources (including a broad and deep crawl of the music web). This helps us avoid the popularity biases that lead to ineffectual recommendations.  For example, looking at some of the Echo Nest recommendations based upon the Beatles we find some artists that you may not see with a wisdom of the crowds recommender – artists that actually sound like the Beatles – not just artists that happened to be popular at the same time as the Beatles. Echo Nest recommendations include artists  such as The Beau Brummels The Dukes of Stratosphear, Flamin’ Groovies and an artist named Emitt Rhodes.  I had never ever seen Emitt Rhodes occur in any recommendation based on the Beatles, so I was a bit skeptical, but I took a listen and this is what I found:

Update: Don Tillman points to this Beatle-esque track:

Emitt could be the sixth Beatles.  I think it’s a pretty cool recommendation

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  1. #1 by jonathan on February 12, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    excellent, ive now added emitt rhodes to the list of albums i need to buy =)
    ill also be subscribing to your blog =) its interesting!
    check out mine if you like I included it with the comment.

    cheers
    Jonathan

  2. #2 by Oscar Celma on February 12, 2010 - 9:56 pm

    Nice finding, and a very interesting Long Tail artist!
    Well done @echonest.

    Here’s an interesting example of what happens when using only (or mainly) collaborative filtering (aka wisdom of the crowds) plus music scarcity:

    The Beatles Spotify (new tab) “related artists” includes, among other gems:

    – Beethoven
    – Eddie Murphy
    – Fatboy
    – St. Martin’s Symphony of Los Angeles

    I guess that’s because “The (digital) Beatles” does not yet exist, so Spotify audio is mainly members’ interviews.
    Given this scarcity of audio data for the band is not easy to derive nice/interesting/correct(?) related artists.

    That’s why content based, social tagging, etc. approaches are also very valuable when providing artists’ (or in general, ‘items’) relationships.

    Cheers!

  3. #3 by brian on February 13, 2010 - 12:15 am

    let’s be completely clear of course, the dukes of stratosphear recommendation is kind of a cheat because without the beatles (and the kinks, syd-era pink floyd, donovan etc) there would be no dukes — this is less of a recommendation and more of a influence prediction. good that we got it right though, if EN does nothing else but expose more than 12 people to the wonder that is “vanishing girl” i will be happy.

  4. #4 by zazi on February 13, 2010 - 5:35 am

    I think you described two different uses (as you also mentioned):

    1. Recommend me tracks, artists, albums that let remind me to the time of that seed track(s), artist(s), album(s)
    -> similarity aspects: tracks, artists, albums that occurs at the same time; artists that are somehow related to the seed entity (band member, cooperations, producers, …)
    -> this will satisfy the searcher in most cases, because they often know also the recommended entities and can associated something with them (memories)
    -> this is more a RE-discovery of already known things and a reminding of memories

    2. Recommend me tracks, artists, albums that are somehow releated to the seed entity, maybe especially of the content analysis (acoustic metadata), but also in the similarity aspect of influences etc.
    -> this is a TRUE discovery, because the searcher get to know something new
    -> in that case I think it is very important to show the user the relation of the recommendations to the seed entity (like Alexandre Passant demonstrate it with dbrec; http://apassant.net/blog/2010/02/01/dbrec-intelligent-music-recommendations-and-web-data)

    Hence, the searcher must have the possibility to choose which kind of recommendation he likes to recieve and also the option to get to know why the machine recommends this or that. (Of course, there are even more kinds of recommendations + you have to disenchant some magic of your recommendation engine ;) )

    Cheers

  5. #5 by Don Tillman on February 13, 2010 - 11:59 am

    Emitt Rhodes received some airplay on WNEW-FM in New York during their golden era in the early 70’s. For an especially Beatlesque song, please enjoy Emitt’s “Somebody Made For Me”:

    I’m liking the Beatle test. Other Beatle-like bands would include They Might Be Giants, Klatuu, Rundgren, The Monkees, 10CC, XTC, Electric Light Orchestra, Oasis, etc.

  6. #6 by MSM on February 13, 2010 - 11:18 pm

    Emitt Rhodes was never popular because in 1971, something which nobody seems to recognize today was then dreadfully clear to even the most casual listener: copying Paul McCartney’s songwriting style c. the white album to the letter does not a good songwriter make.

    Rhodes’ hacklike work is like McCartney without any of the content or craft. avoid at all costs.

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