14 January 2008

TOP SECRET! Google Music Search

So, I was mucking about trying to get information about the band Confidence Man without getting a lot of hits on the movie Confidence Man or the Steinman soundtrack album Confidence Man or the Elliott Smith song" Confidence Man" and any of its covers.  This required a considerable string of Google parameters:
"confidence man" album -steinman -soundtrack -"elliott smith"
but I finally got lucky.  In fact, I got double lucky.

If you go to the RESULTS PAGE you will see something a bit different from the usual Google results.  On the top of the screen is a special result marked by a couple of lovely blue notes that gives the band's name with a link, the name of the album that I couldn't remember, some track names, and a link to get more music results from that search string.  "What's this?" I thought, so of course I started clicking.

This transported me into a whole alternate Googleverse of music searches. The page for Confidence Man shows information about their album and the tracks on it and offers to fling me over to some shopping partners to buy it.  The cool part is a little column on the left that offers to fling me over to searches on the artist name in the main Google, Google Images, Google News, and Google Groups--all restricted to their music database. (That feature is broken this week, however.)

Think about the implications for searching on band names like "Queen" or "ACRES".

"Damn!" I thought, "Why didn't I see this search engine before?"  That turns out to be a very simple question with an answer that seems simple on the surface, but which turns out to be complex.  The simple answer is that the Google Music search does not appear in their official list of search engines off their main page.  It was not there to notice and for some reason no previous music-based search of mine had activated the hidden search engine.

This made me wonder what was up with Google Music.  A couple of simple Google searches later, I had learned that Google Music search had been released in December 2005, with a limited number of sales partners and a limited set of identified music acts.  Around 6 months later, Google took the link down, prompting speculation that they were about to launch GoogleTunes or whatever they would call it.  Now 2 years later, we have no GoogleTunes and Google Music search is still not open for business--except when it pops up from one of your regular searches. 

I tried typing in "music" or "musicsearch" in the usual places that kick over to the specialized engines--no joy.  I hack at web site parameters to make them do what I want better all the time.  "Surely," I thought, "I can chop up that results page string to figure out which part of it is turning on the music search."  After some trial and error on that I have learned that

will get you into the top page of the music search engine.  If you are bold, you can plug in a search string after the "q" to go to that results page directly, but I'll leave that to the propeller-hats who already know how to type in Google search parameters directly into a URL.

I have to wonder what the status is of the underlying database at Google.  When I tested this last week, the linked-in restricted image and news searches worked, but today they don't.  It looks like many musical acts have been added since 2006, but far from all.  I noticed that the album cover images are hosted at the Google Products site, so I did parallel searches over there and found a lot of musical acts that haven't found their way into the Music database.  That means that there is no automatic updating from the active Products database into the semi-dormant Music database.

So this is still an unresolved mystery.  While I am waiting for the ultimate answer, I can play with that sekrit Google Music search, though.  It's a cool toy and I love new toys.

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