Last Saturday, I had dinner with friends at their house, and I spent some time with their 14-year old kid, who had just gotten his first electrical guitar. He was teaching himself how to play it by checking out song scores and mimicing other people’s performances found on the web. I started challenging him to dig up some classics from artists like Jimi Hendrix and Dire Straits to learn how to play them (he didn’t know any of them, which made me feel old, and I’m only 27). There’s a point to the story, don’t give up.
Every time I asked him to look up a song, he followed the same routine: he fired up YouTube and looked for the original track with a simple keyword search, just to listen a bit. Then, he looked up the scores for the song elsewhere, and then he went to back to YouTube to see if he could find someone who recorded himself playing the chords so he could mimic them. It was really interesting to see, and when I asked him if he knew of any sites who actually focus solely on learning how to play the guitar, he declined. If you’re wondering, there’s thousands of sites like that.
Driving back home, I realized that I often use YouTube to look up music too. Many times, I’m not actually looking for the video clip, just the tune, or maybe a live performance of the artist in question. There’s even software available to convert music from YouTube music videos to MP3, AVI, WMV, etc. And then there are websites who aggregate music videos from YouTube on their properties, like YouTubeMusic.ws and Clipmachine.
Evidently, the material is copyrighted more often than not (sites like Muzu TV, PluggedIn and Gotuit are trying to crack that nut), but that hasn’t stopped YouTube from becoming the default repository for music videos as far as I’m concerned. They realize this, which is why they’re working on securing licensing deals with the major record labels too. They’d be foolish not to.
Of course, while it’s easy to find popular music (say, Madonna) on YouTube, it’s a lot harder to find stuff from more obscure artists. Also, the social networking element of YouTube isn’t optimized for discovering new music and sharing it with your friends like Last.fm, iLike or MOG are. Another reason not to use YouTube for searching music videos would be the fact that there’s not a lot of HD content on there.
So calling YouTube the best music search engine is going out on a limb a bit, but I would very much like to see how many search queries on the video sharing site are actually music-related, and how the many music search engines out there are planning to compete with the sheer size of the Google-owned platform. I like checking out new websites like Mix Turtle as much as the next guy, but I’m pretty sure I’ll forget about it by next week.
Tell me, where do you go to find music?