Expand your musical horizons for free

computermusicI guess I’m getting older…I’m still a big American Idol fan, but I no longer listen to the radio. It seems like the hits I recognize are often a year old before I recognize them. But I’m not ready to settle for a steady diet of  “oldies” from the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Here are my two favorite ways to keep up with the latest and broaden my horizons…

Pandora is a product of the Music Genome Project. This group of geeky music aficionados have broken down thousands of songs to their essential elements, or “genes.” Pick a favorite song, create a station, and Pandora will pick new songs with similar elements. Give a thumbs up to the ones you like, a thumbs down to the others, and you’ll find Pandora starts to get really smart about your tastes. I’ve set up about a dozen channels to reflect different moods, and the more I rate songs, the better it gets.

The iTunes Genius is somewhat similar although it bases recommendations on what people have put into playlists. It tends to provide fairly mainstream recommendations. What I prefer is to browse the iMixes that contain favorite songs – I find that if I listen to clips from a few different iMixes, I usually find one that seems to suit me well. I download the entire list and voila, I suddenly have a bunch of new favorite songs!

Creative blogging for business

Chocolate brownieBusiness blogging is all the rage. Everybody’s talking about it as a way to build trust and gain publicity for their company.

They’re onto something… writing informally, blog-style, starts to build up a relationship with your readers, a relationship that can ultimately lead to new customers and referrals. But unless you love writing, it can be a huge challenge to come up with fresh topics every few days.

These companies have come up with creative concepts that keep the content flowing while showing off their personality and promoting their businesses. They may get visitors who will never need their services, but their blogs have such broad appeal that at least a few of the many readers probably will hire them at some point.

This first one is an architectural firm that writes the LUNCH Blog. Their concept is that you work better if you are refreshed, and thus they take time for lunch each day. They also take photos and comment on restaurants all over New York City. Definitely worth a look but be warned: it will make you hungry!

Next we have a collaborative collagist blog, Scrapiteria. Each week they post a theme, and then a number of different collagists post their interpretations. The weekly theme means there’s always something new, and with many artist bloggers instead of just one, there’s broader appeal to the general public. That of course leads to more traffic – and far more publicity – than they’d get if they each had solo blogs.

The last one, MASTERCLASSLADY.COM, rides the American Idol wave. Rosanne, the Masterclass Lady, is a singing coach and has had a lifetime of musical experience. It’s a natural fit to comment on American Idol singers, especially how they grow their skills from week to week. And because the show is so popular, she pulls in huge volumes of traffic. Best of all, a lot of those fans are Idol-wannabes themselves, and those are exactly the kind of students she wants.