The Sixty One: Admirable, But Misses the Point

We live in a “you heard it here first” kind of world, where artists are hyped for all the wrong reasons. Internet music mags and blogs fawn over the Next Big Thing every other week, with little to no regard of the actual music in some cases. Bloated press-kits, inaccurate descriptions and fanboy enthusiasm over a new artist – you can smell the deafening hype/impending backlash a mile away – is what makes the music world go ’round in these fickle settings.

The Sixty One, a new music site where you vote your music all the way to the top, seems to be banking on the same scene.

The Sixty One is a Digg-inspired website that allows users to upload their favorite songs and wait for the cavalry to march in and rate your music of choice. If your pick is taken with positive feedback, it appears on the site’s front page; if not, then buried it will be.

While not bad idea on paper, The Sixty One solidifies the problem with the way we listen to music today. Personal favorites may be thrown by the wayside if determined poor by the community – expect the usual Rolling Stone/MTV/VH1-approved picks to linger on the front page for weeks. And the site, whether on purpose or by accident, prizes general consensus over the unique.

I guess that’s the whole point of The Sixty One’s existence – find the pulse, quick and dirty – but when did going to the local record store to blindly purchase an album become such a daunting task?

I may be talking out my ass here, but the site feels like an extension of the received music canon, a place where buzz comes first and the merits of the music come second.

It’s all objective, I know.

If you’re going to search for music online, I would recommend and as more effective ways to hear undiscovered music. Rate Your Music does feature “best of the year” lists (dating all the way back to 1951), but it doesn’t distract from the site’s main purpose: to archive all albums into one database where the only opinion that truly matters is yours.

Finding new music is easier as well on both RYM and Lastfm, where the range and depth of user’s catalogs are nearly impossible to digest. If I sound like a salesman, it’s for a good reason: I personally found some of my favorite records, from C.A. Quintet’s acid-laced fantasia Trip Thru Hell to Blue Cheer’s heavy-psych monster Vincebus Eruptum and beyond (and Captain Beyond!) using both sites. I found those albums and many more by digging around, trial and error style – not by checking the front page of some user-based edition of Billboard’s Top 40. Underground doesn’t mean better by any means; but at the very least you’ll separate your particular taste from the herd.

Seeking out music is not about finding it first; it’s about finding it regardless.

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