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6 Ways to Identify Tracks Without Ever Using Shazam

From secret Facebook group to shadowy music forums, the phrase "Track ID??" is now less daunting than ever.

by David Garber
23 November 2016, 12:04am


You know the feeling. You're in your favorite dark room, nightclub, or cavernous festival hanger, and that one song emerges through the speakers that you simply must know. You reach into your pocket to trigger Shazam in hopes of musical salvation. After a few twirls of the app's spiraling logo, you receive the ill-fated response: "Sorry, we couldn't quite catch that." Sigh. Defeat. You turn to a friend. Maybe, just maybe, they'll hold the keys to this seemingly unlockable nugget of anonymous music you're losing your mind to. They respond with a shrug, and keep dancing. You've been let down once again.

So what's your next move? Do you creep up to the booth in hopes of catching a glimpse of the CDJ display, or scope the spinning label of the record on the turntable? (Pro tip: don't do that). Eventually the song ends, as does your night. But as you make the journey home, you're still left wondering, what the hell was that damn song? While it might take a dash of resourcefulness, the internet-fueled age we live in has birthed a number of ways in which people can discover the names and artists behind the mysterious, rare, or just u-Shazamable tracks that pique our interest on the dancefloor. Below, we'll outline some of the ways people are using technology to discover music in new, fascinating ways

1. MixesDB.com

Streaming platforms like Mixcloud and Soundcloud are goldmines for those who want to clock hours listening to DJ mixes from their favorite artists. However, due to increases in copyright detection, plus a level of mystique DJs often yearn for, a lot of these mixes are uploaded without a tracklist of any kind. Sometimes DJs just want to keep their choicest tracks as anonymous; others regularly drop unreleased tracks in their sets, so they want to build up the buzz to boost eventual record sales.

Enter MixesDB.com, a platform where users individually upload information like track names, file size, and run-time, as well as other helpful information about the artist. In cases where users aren't able to themselves fill in the majority of the tracklist, other users can take to the mix's comment section to help complete the posting. The site itself is a pretty simple and basic affair—don't expect anything too interactive or user-friendly, but instead a platform akin to the early days of music forums. Different from the technology used by companies like Shazam, MixesDB that relies on participant's own ingenuity and music taste to help build out each posting tracklist slowly but surely. Try it on for size.

2. 1001tracklists.com

Similar in scope to MixesDB.com, this user-generated platform leans more towards the broader spectrum of electronic music versus the niche-facing vibe of the former. Here you'll encounter a plethora of mixes performed on EDM radio shows, as well as a healthy chunk of eclectic underground music from house and techno artists. The site also allows users to enter a variety of artist links beyond just tracklist entries, building a deep and diverse database for many dance music experts, as well as curious newcomers.

3. The Identification of Music Group

Unless you receive a personal invite from a current member of this "secret" Facebook group, there's a good chance you'll never get a chance to explore the curious world of the Identification of Music Group. While my own exchanges with some of the group's initial organizers have tipped me to the fact that the current group is actually not the first iteration of the project, its current lifeform is now one of the most frequented places you can discover track IDs on social media. You could even go so far as to describe the group as a full fledged community of track ID-yearning music lovers; currently the group has 29,000 members and is growing by the day.

The process is pretty simple: a user hears a song during a live set, posts a video of said track—or includes a timestamp marking the track in a longer set—and people respond to the thread with the potential son that was asked about. There are also a few rules that people are meant to abide by when using the group. For starters, it's recommended people try Shazam for IDing their track in question. No surprise there. There's also some recommended guidelines, like following a thread versus merely commenting on it, so you can keep updated with the progress of each post.

As the originated in the UK, most of the tracks asked about lean towards those played in house and techno DJ sets around London and neighboring cities in Europe. As of late, the group has continued to expand its user base, so you'll see more posts from members located around the Americas, as well as a larger variety of genres. While some of the tracks asked for are identified rather quickly, in some cases people have flexed their music head chops in captivating ways that go above and beyond the normal exchange of timestamps. In one instance, I saw a guy post the the phonetic elements of a song he was trying to name—essentially random sounds he was humming—and voila, the song was identified a mere hour later. It's peer-to-peer exchanges like this that illustrate how this group is changing the way people use the internet, and each other, to increase their musical rolodex.

4. Soundcloud and Mixcloud; comments section

Most people use these streaming sites as platforms where they can log countless hours listening to sets and mixes from their favorite selectors. While the most obvious element at hand here is the actual music playing, the comments section is where some of the real discovery bubbles up. It's no secret that comment sections are often havens for the aggravated, judgemental, and uninformed, but some people, like Germany's DJ Bigos, use them to educate peers on the hidden gems heard in sets. During a conversation we had on Soundcloud, Bigos explained that identifying tracks in mixes has become part of his daily routine as a music lover. By using Shazam (if it works), email, or in some cases reaching out the DJ on social media, he's become a regular voice in the world of track identifying. Just browse through countless, eclectic mixes on both Soundcloud and Mixcloud, and you'll surely see Bigos saving the day with a full tracklist, or two.

5. Reddit

While you might need to have some background experience with the ins and outs of the popular social networking service, Reddit can be another useful tool in discovering the tracks that make up some of your favorite sets. The website's community of electronic music lovers spans several subreddits—/r/dj, /r/edm, and /r/electronicmusic, to list a few—but a deeper dive into its network brings to light several other notable sections that can help you ID. Try out additional subreddits like /r/mixes, /r/tracklist, and /r/rDIMixes, to encounter not only a vast collection of quality sets, but full tracklists from a variety of genres.

6. Stay curious

Using the aforementioned list of services can be a massive help in your quest to discover the hidden gems that the world's best DJs have at their disposal, but they can only get you so far. In the end, your greatest tool as a curious music lover is just that: your curiosity. As long as you continue to learn more and more about the genres and DJs that make you tick, your ability to identify under-the-radar tunes will only evolve.