How to find the best music, movies, and TV recommendations

With the advent of unlimited streaming services like Spotify and Netflix, you can access more music, movies, and TV shows than you could ever hope to hear or watch in a lifetime. So how do you go about sorting out the best content from the time-wasting ones?

The taste is personal, and we’ve found personalized ways to get recommendations on what to listen to or binge watch next. Some of these recommendations come with the services you already use, but you can also access independent third-party sites and apps.

In the apps you already use

We won’t go through all music and movie streaming services in detail here. But regardless of your subscriptions, the streaming app will provide a recommend or find section somewhere. If you haven’t found them yet, just click or tap in the interface to activate this option.

These engines base their recommendations on content you’ve already listened to or watched. To improve their suggestions, you can give them a hand. On Netflix, for example, find the thumbs up and thumbs down icons next to each show or movie, and use them to express particular likes and dislikes.

Give your Netflix titles a boost to see more videos like them. David Nield / Popular Science

Apple Music uses a similar system, but with hearts instead of thumbs up. You can also go to Account, then Choose artists for you: here you talk about serving the singers and bands you love.

As for Spotify, check out the Discover Weekly and My Daily Mix playlists that it automatically generates for you. If you hear music that particularly appeals to you, save it to your personal library to further enhance recommendations.

Similar options will be available regardless of which app or service you choose. Just be sure to rank and rate what you’ve already watched to narrow down your list of recommendations. If kids take over your account or your own tastes change, you can usually reset your recommendation or viewing history to adjust. On Netflix, for example, go to your online viewing activity page to remove anything you don’t want to influence your recommendations.

For music: produces a wealth of interesting data from your music listening history. David Nield / Popular Science

If you’re not limiting your listening to one service, consider getting recommendations from the third-party app. It can track whatever you listen to on multiple apps and services including Spotify and iTunes. Not only does it turn that listening story into interesting stats and graphics, powers a spooky recommendation engine as well. Just click the Play your recommendations link on the site’s home page and enjoy.

The free service can also bring up individual artists, albums, and tracks that you could dig out based on what you’ve listened to in the past. It even connects you to like-minded music fans around the world. Whether you want to track your listening on multiple services, need specific recommendations, or both, can help.

For music: Gnoosic

Enter three artists, and Gnoosic suggests more. David Nield / Popular Science

Gnoosic is an experimental and simplified music recommendation engine, built around an intelligent set of algorithms called Gnod (aka Global Network of Discovery). What we love about Gnoosic is how easy it is to use – just type in the names of the three bands you already love, and Gnoosic takes care of the rest.

Rather than overwhelming you with a long list of tracks, Gnoosic simply suggests another artist that you might be interested in. You can further refine the Gnod engine by saying if you’re already a fan (if you’ve actually heard of it at all). Based on the testing we’ve done, Gnoosic’s educated guesses are pretty accurate.

For Movies and TV Shows: Metacritic

Metacritic shows you which TV shows and movies are available on which services. David Nield / Popular Science

Metacritic hosts one of the largest collections of reviews on the web. Although it deals with games and music as well as movies and TV shows, here we will focus on the latter two. Click on the Movies or TV links at the top to see aggregate professional review scores as well as user scores. You can submit your own opinions to the database and choose the right titles from those as well.

In terms of personalized recommendations, Metacritic isn’t as comprehensive as some of the other options we’ve mentioned. You will have to dig deeper if your tastes don’t match those of the majority. But it’s always worth checking out if you need help deciding what to watch next. As an added bonus, regular features highlight shows and movies that should be on your radar.

For movies and TV shows: TasteDive

TasteDive works well for quick recommendations based on any movie or TV show. David Nield / Popular Science

If you don’t want to spend centuries creating a viewing history and grabbing movie and TV show ratings one by one, try TasteDive. You just type in something you’ve liked in the past, and the site uses its magic algorithm to deliver a list of similar content you might be in. We’ve put the site to the test (it also includes trailers and reviews), and the recommendations look pretty good.

You can even get recommendations of TV shows to watch based on a movie you like, or vice versa. In addition, the site also extends to music, games and books. The general algorithm builds on the tastes and preferences of existing TasteDive users – and if you sign up for a (free) account, you’ll get even more personalized recommendations.

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