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  • Writer's pictureSheldon Kessel

Databases and Stores

I have more sites to offer that tackle the issue of musical categories. I completely forgot about them when writing the last entry here. Although their organizational schemes aren't as obvious and transparent as the All Music Guide , the sites are fun and interesting to explore. First is Gracenote (formerly CDDB) - a service many people have used repeatedly but maybe not realized it. This is the (often) default database service that CD identifying software will contact to give you the album, artist, and track names to display while playing or ripping. The company seems to exist primarily for that purpose - other software contacts it to get the required info. However, as a consumer you can manually type in artists or albums to get biographical information as well as album information and even lyrics. Great fun! A service very similar to Gracenote is the Open-Source MusicBrainz. This does for MP3s what Gracenote does for CDs, plus lots more! Being an Open-Source project, MusicBrainz has a number of client software applications and databases that make use of its technology. Some of the fairly unique features include the ability to identify a piece of music by sound, as well as having a listing of remixes and alternate versions of pieces of music created by other artists. And, relevant to my topic of genre - the database lists all the user-generated musical categories that an artist or piece of music fits into. Discogs, another user-generated database, is similar to the All Music Guide, as it is a more traditional type of database with informational listings for artists and albums. It is not created as a software type database for music identification like MusicBrainz or Gracenote. Discogs major difference from the others is that it seems directed toward a collector type of audience. Catalog numbers are given for commercial releases on a number of formats. Users are also able to buy, sell, and create want-lists for other users to browse. As a bonus, Discogs lists production information such as musicians, producers, engineers, songwriters, etc. These databases create ways of thinking about relationships of musical creators to listeners. Two principles tend to govern musical categorization - listener common-practice, and the music industry's common-practice for marketing purposes. Discogs and MusicBrainz are user generated while Gracenote is industry-driven. Previously mentioned Pandora Radio is a hybrid of the two, as is Last FM. What about some other industry-driven genre schemes? I'll be writing more about them later, but I encourage everyone to check out some online stores you've maybe never explored. Everyone knows itunes - it remains the online sales leader, so I'll ignore that one for now. In second place, but catching up, is - another one everybody knows. For something different check out: Rhapsody - this link lets you skip the membership stuff - been around forever, changed formats a number of times, not sure of their future, currently a place to get free stuff PureTracks - no frills HDGiants - For those who hate the sound of downloaded music - only sells lossless format WMA files LegalSounds - cheap and legal Beatport - My favorite for dance music These require membership, but can be good deals if you regularly buy music: Emusic - mostly independant music - great for discovering new stuff Napster - my personal favorite - get a napster lite membership to just buy mp3s without the extras I know there are others out there. Do you have a non-itunes, non-amazon, favorite?

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