Thanks to our EFF buddy Fred von Lohmann for a pointer to SonicLiving, a Web site that offers a service similar to the iConcertCal iTunes plug-in we covered recently (see "iConcertCal: Your Gig-Going Pal," 2007-03-05).
Like iConcertCal, SonicLiving can generate a calendar of concerts based on artists in your iTunes library, though it does this via a Java applet that reads your artist list and then lets you select which artists to watch for. That's actually a good thing, since options let you select all artists, artists with more than one song, and artists with five or more songs, easily letting you eliminate the one-hit wonders. SonicLiving can also pick up your favorite artists from music services such as Pandora (see "Pandora Beats iTunes for Holiday Music," 2005-12-05) and the similar last.fm. Unlike iConcertCal, SonicLiving shows concerts only in 11 metropolitan areas, so it's most useful for those near certain major cities.
But what sets SonicLiving apart, and makes it worth a look for anyone interested in music, is the amount of information it integrates about any given artist. Once you've added all your favorites to your wishlist, clicking an artist's name displays an overview page containing the next few upcoming events, an area where video clips from YouTube are listed and can be played, and a summary of other people who like the artist. You can expand any of these sections to list all events, to show all the people who have this artist on their wishlists, to see news items about the artist, or to see what albums the artist has on the iTunes Store.
Although others may find the social networking aspects of SonicLiving compelling (you can easily see what shows others are interested in and set up friend connections), I was more struck by the way SonicLiving provides an easy interface for watching music videos on YouTube (many of which are undoubtedly copyright infringements, but which can provide low-quality, full-length song previews) and for playing all 30-second preview clips from the iTunes Store, one after another. I've always found the need to play each preview in iTunes separately annoying; I often want to hear all the clips on an album without fussing with something like the iTunes Music Store Player script. It is of course easy to jump to the iTunes Store to purchase a song or album.
I was disappointed that SonicLiving lacked links to artist Web sites, and I was also surprised that it doesn't do the "people who liked X also liked Y" kind of recommendations. You can see the wishlists of people whose lists overlap with yours, which is sort of the same thing, but that seems a bit roundabout. Nonetheless, SonicLiving is the kind of site you can easily lose yourself in, so be sure to dive in when you have some time to burn.