Miles Davis, Music Discovery and ColorHits

In my daily, inspired pursuit of music discovery – both new and old -, I am most grateful for the many online platforms built to help me discover and share music. New to my arsenal of music discovery tools is ColorHits, a rather unique way to discover and connect to music.

Shifting his web and graphic design talents to the music discovery space, ColorHits founder Matt Barrett has built a powerful discovery tool that provides the user a color search of album art for more than 2 million albums – with new titles added every week. Still in Beta, ColorHits is designed so users can preview tracks, download from iTunes and share on Facebook and Twitter.

I recently spoke with Barrett about his music discovery endeavor. He was also happy to use Miles Davis as an example of how ColorHits was designed to help explore new music by connecting color similarities in album art.

I mentioned that ColorHits is still in Beta, but early access is currently available. Definitely drop by ColorHits to sign up and request your invite to take a closer look at the music discovery tool.

Click HERE to sign-up!

Miles Davis Online: What is the story behind how – and why – you developed ColorHits?
Matt Barrett: ColorHits was actually not my first attempt at creating a new way to discover music. It started when the Beatles were first introduced on iTunes and all the fan-fare that came with it. It had its own press conference, it took over the apple website… it all seemed a bit much to me. I was first thinking of a way to mock such an extravagant music launch, creating oddly-named, fake bands that would be a ‘daily deal’ approach to new bands. Humor was the main purpose but another use was to connect people to real bands in iTunes based off the fake band name. It sounds ridiculous describing it now and, at the time, I realized it would require a lot of creative power on my part.

During this exploration period, I came across one piece of album art that ultimately lead me to continue with ColorHits as it exists today. The album was Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak. I noticed the color bar on the left side and thought, what if those colors were a summary of the colors in the album art. Of course for this example, that isn’t the case, but I thought to myself, ‘what other albums use those same colors?’ Rewind 2 years and I was actually working on code for a separate project that did just that. I mashed both of them together and ColorHits was born.

Why? ColorHits happened out of coincidence yet it mixes perfectly with my personal and professional life. I’m a developer by trade but have always looked at the world from a design point of view and appreciate all kinds of music, playing some myself. In the early stages of development, I was curious and when I saw the results and potential of color searching music albums, it turned into an obsession and I had to make it available to others.

Miles Davis Online: Do you think people will let the colors guide their music discovery, or stick to search by artist or genre? I imagine once they see the interesting connections via album art, they might want to allow the colors to be their guide.
Matt Barrett: Searching for music with color is an odd thing to do, it’s even harder to describe… I’ve tried many times! You’re not quite sure what to expect and that’s the beauty of ColorHits as it relates to music discovery.

I included both ways to search because I see two primary ways to begin. You might want to start with your favorite album, then branch out from there and see what other albums look like your favorites in the same genre or jump into other genres.

Someone might also be in complete discovery mode and want to check out pink and black alternative albums. You might love them, you might hate them. I leave that for the listeners to decide. Curiosity and discovering music on your own is a big driver for ColorHits. I see it as being ‘active discovery’ where other options like internet radio are more passive. With this site, it’s really effective when you’re on a search for something completely new, that none of your friends have probably heard or seen before.

We have over 2.5 million albums on the site so there is so much to discover. Music is meant to be shared and we try to make that easy too by allowing users to share on Facebook and Twitter with one click.

Miles Davis Online: Let’s use Miles Davis as an example how someone can use ColorHits for music discovery.
Matt Barrett: Miles Davis is a great example. Since we know who we like, start with the keyword search and click on any album. Miles Davis Sketches of Spain comes right up with a complete color profile, track list and similar jazz albums that use similar colors. If you click on ‘more jazz albums with these colors’, you’ll see that there are over 200 jazz albums with similar colors. Some you may have heard of, but hopefully some new albums to discover.

You can also do a general search by choosing the jazz genre, then choosing any color or combination of colors. Click on the results to preview, explore and share.

Miles Davis Online: When are you thinking about an official launch?
Matt Barrett: ColorHits is currently in beta and invites are being sent out in batches. Anyone interested in early access can sign up for an account at We will email you when we’re ready. A full launch will be soon after we finish up some lingering bugs and any feedback from the initial users.

Miles Davis Online: Once you are out of beta and humming along, where would you like to take ColorHits, how would you like to see it evolve? Is it a matter of adding music, along with users?
Matt Barrett: Music is added every week so there will always be new music to discover. I have plans to get a mobile presence out soon that will include notifications of discovery so the site will discover specific albums based on a users’ musical and color. In the short-term, its more focused around what a useful to our members and how we can modify the core functionality to help them find things they love.


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