If you categorize your albums by geographic location, original release date or instrumental make-up, you're a music geek. If the Beck playlist on your iPod is named after a lyric fragment like "Drive-by Body-pierce," you're a total music geek.
But if either of the above describes you, it's possible you are a Mogger and you just don't know it. Mog is the name of a new Web site (www.mog.com) that mixes the social networking of MySpace with the hard-drive-peeking ability of the original Napster, along with a bagful of clever "widgets" that allow users to share their musical obsessions with like-minded fanatics around the world on custom-crafted, blog-like pages.
The idea behind the site was deceptively simple: Why let machines tell you what kind of music you might like when humans can do it for you?
"I've been studying music recommendation for a long time," said founder and CEO David Hyman, 38, a former CEO of Gracenote, the media-management company that, among other things, identifies which album you've just put into your computer and downloads the song list to your iTunes.
"I've seen a bombardment of media entities trying to influence my taste — like Clear Channel, MTV and [online suggestion-based radio service] Pandora — but I realized that most of my recommendations are still coming from my friends, and nobody was catering to that," he said (see "What Do Gwen And Fischerspooner Have In Common? Open Pandora's Box To Find Out"). "When I look at records I've been turned on to, more than half of them are from friends."
So, after leaving Gracenote more than a year ago, Hyman set out to find a way to use the company's ability to instantly recognize music on your computer with a social aspect that would allow music freaks to turn each other on to new artists and songs. "Wouldn't it be great if there was a way for people to discover music and discover people at the same time?" he asked.
The answer was actually an old one. Taking a page from the original Napster, which scanned users' hard drives and allowed the world to see what music they had, Hyman began building a site that would dump the information from your hard drive onto a highly customizable Web page (minus the illegal file-swapping, of course). Once you sign up for the free site and download the Mog-O-Matic software, Mog scans your hard drive to create your song list and a tally of what you've listened to and added to your MP3 player or computer lately.
Mogger Kevin Luss has been surfing around the beta version of the site since April, even though he was sure he wouldn't like it.
"I found myself really enjoying it," said Luss, 38, a financial analyst from Southampton, New York. "It's like I can be a DJ at a huge party and people can hear the music that I like. It's part ego, but at the same time I've been turned on to some really awesome music I would never have checked out." Among the albums dedicated jam-band fan Luss has bought through a Mog recommendation is the reissue of the experimental David Byrne and Brian Eno collaboration, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, as well as some old-school hip-hop tunes from A Tribe Called Quest and Run-DMC that he had forgotten about.
"I don't know of any other way I would have found the Byrne thing, because it's not like I would go into a store and listen to it on a listening station," Luss said. "The strong draw for me is that it's in the privacy of my own home that I can surf around and get exposed to all sorts of music." And despite his dislike for blathering blogs and e-mail exchanges with strangers, Luss said he has connected with people he doesn't know to talk about music and clue them in to his favorites.
The site's vast number of so-called widgets allow you to list everything from your first-ever concert to your top 10 songs of the week, or any other category of your choosing. While you can't download music from Mog, you can embed 30-second clips in your page and link it to your blog or MySpace page, create RSS feeds of your widgets and search for other Moggers with similar tastes and browse their song lists. Hyman said Mog works on Macs and PCs, as well as every media player on the market. The site also links to Amazon.com and iTunes so users can purchase songs or albums.
The latter is one of the big reasons major labels have given the site their blessing, according to Hyman.
Tom Ryan, senior vice president of digital and mobile strategy development for EMI Music, said the site appealed to him on a business level because it taps into things that are essential about music obsessives. "If you are a music geek, one of the things you love to do is show off your taste," he said. "It's the perfect publishing platform to show off how much you know about music. Music recommendation sites have been hit-or-miss in the past, but everyone has a 'cool music guy' whose friends come to him for recommendations."
In terms of the industry, Ryan said there are a large number of people who need guidance from tastemakers to learn about music, and Mog might be a good place to get that, especially with the iTunes/ Amazon click-through ability. "Being able to see what people have listened to and played, even just a few minutes ago, is almost like reading someone's mind through music," he said.
After all the research and mapping and algorithms that Hyman has hired a team of researchers and developers to do for him, what he's most proud of is creating a site that he would have loved to have had 20 years ago.
"When I was 16, I was a hard-core Deadhead and all I cared about was finding other Deadheads," he said. "And I would have killed to find other Deadheads within 25 miles of my house.
"I built this because I'm a music freak and that's what I care about."
For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.