Best of the Web: The Sixty-One
The Sixty-One takes two very common ideas and merges them into one weird one. Like thousands of other sites, The 61 is a music discovery site. Unlike any other site, the music discovery comes packaged in the form of an MMOG (Massively Multiplayer Online Game). Yes, that acronym is one "R" away from the genre that classifies games like World of Warcraft, and while you won't be shooting fireballs or hacking at any dragons during your stay at The 61 (again, that's the "R" part - it stands for roleplaying, which is thankfully absent), you do gain points which allow you to level up on your account.
Sound confusing? I should backtrack and note that, even if you don't give a flying fuck about gaining points and leveling up and all this other videogame-ish nonsense, The 61 proves to be an unbelievably effective place to discover good music. Aptly named for the stretch of highway shared by Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Elvis, B.B. King and others, they've got a knack for uncovering the best music around. Users spend points "bumping" their favorite songs, and those with the most bumps are featured on the home page. It's a democratic approach to discovering new mp3s, and it's keenly Digg-esque. But it's not all a popularity contest: The Rack is a prominent frontpage module where new mp3s can cut their teeth on the site, and there are point-based incentives for listening to and promoting fresh music - so the system is naturally inclined to welcoming new artists. In short, you may not care about the point system, but the fact that other users embrace it is what drives the best music to your ears. It's all about selectivity.
That said, the game aspect is kind of a nifty idea. I signed up for an account and spent a few days on the site, figuring out the mechanics behind it all. Essentially, you get points for listening to new music, which you can then spend to promote your favorite artists. If a song you promote early turns out to be popular, you'll get points returned to you (it's like an investment), so it's wise to recommend only the tracks you actually like. (Imagine that!) In stark contrast to myspace - where trying to find new artists is like looking for diamonds in a carnival grab bag - The 61 puts dozens of quality recommendations within arm's reach. Not a bad way to discover new music and enjoy yourself doing it.
And, in the spirit of things, here's a few artists I've discovered in these past two days on the site: