I remembered when I first came to USA, one of my best memories during freshman year was all the new music that's thrown at me by my roommate Luke and next-door music-fanatic Henry. That was a great year of music education for me as I expanded my music horizon, and provided inspiration as I started writing songs at a higher frequency again. Sadly, once I move out of dorm (or even when I became a RA for my final year), somehow this music discovery sort of came to a dead end.
Well, internet to the rescue! I've been testing two web-based radio services (Last.fm and Pandora) for a while now...and the experience is really fun (and free too)! Both uses some kind of recommendation mechanisms to feed you song after song. For instance, if you create a station called "Bob Marley Station", you'd be treated to all sorts of Bob Marley or Bob Marley-like raggae songs.
Pandora actually hires professional musicians to listen to individual tracks and rate them according a matrix of 400+ qualities (such as rhythm, tone, pitch etc) and based on that feed you the songs. Last.fm takes a much more social approach (rather evident from their another-social-networking-site look) and uses collective wisdom to give you the songs. I'd say that the experience on Pandora so far seems more coherent, in that when I setup a Bob Marley stations I really get songs that are really close to Bob Marley style, whereas on Last.fm I started listening to some Jack Johnson number after setting up a "Norah Jones" station. In any case, both are still excellent way to discover new music and I'm loving it! Have a feeling I'm gonna start writing songs again~
PS: We actually had the founder of Pandora come to talk to us during my "Telecom" class last night. A great insight into how an enterpreneur really rough out thro the thick and thin (almost 7 years, been thro the bubble burst and many nights sleepin on friends' couch, 300+ pitches to VCs, many delayed paychecks to employees before finally getting to 4 million registered users...) Inspiring!