Where to find new music, movie, and TV recommendations

When you know where to look, finding something to watch or listen to is so much easier.
A TV in a dark room, backlit by purple light, with a lot of streaming TV and music apps visible on the screen.
There's so much out there that it can be hard to know where to start. Nicolas J Leclercq / Unsplash

This story has been updated. It was originally published on July 10, 2017.

With so many unlimited streaming services available, like Spotify and Netflix, you can access more music, movies, and TV shows than you could ever hope to hear or watch in one lifetime. Savvy watchers and listeners know that the key to navigating this oversaturated environment is figuring out how to sort the best choices from the time-wasters.

Of course, taste is personal, but we’ve found personalized ways to get recommendations about what to listen to or binge-watch next. Some of these recommendations come with the services you’re already using, but you can also tap into independent sites and apps.

Look inside the apps you already use

We won’t go through every music and movie streaming service in detail here. But whatever streaming apps you’re subscribed to will provide a recommendation or discovery section somewhere within its menus. If you haven’t found it already, simply click or tap around inside its interface to turn up this option.

These tools base their recommendations on content you’ve already listened to or watched. To improve the suggestions, you can give the app a helping hand. On Netflix, for example, look for the thumbs up icon under the description of each show or movie, and click it to choose whether you want to express your approval with a thumbs up or dislike with a thumbs down.

The Netflix app showing thumbs up and thumbs down options on the main screen for "The Thick of It."
Give your Netflix titles a thumbs up to see more shows or movies like them. David Nield

Apple Music uses a similar system, but with hearts instead of thumbs. You can also tap your avatar in the top right, followed by Choose Artists For You. Here, you can tell the service about the singers and bands you love.

As for Spotify, check out the Discover Weekly and My Daily Mix playlists it automatically generates for you. If you hear any music that particularly grabs you, save it to your personal library to improve the app’s recommendations even further.

Similar options will be available whatever you’re using. Just make sure you’re ranking and rating what you’ve previously watched to tune up your recommendations list. If the 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, head to your viewing activity page online in order to remove anything you don’t want to influence your recommendations (click the circle icon with a line through it to hide something from your history).

Find new music with Last.fm

Last.fm produces a host of interesting data from your music listening history. David Nield/Popular Science

If you don’t limit your listening to a single service, consider getting recommendations from Last.fm. It can track everything you listen to across multiple apps and services, including Spotify and Apple Music. Not only does Last.fm crunch that listening history into interesting stats and charts, it also powers a scarily good recommendation engine. Just click the Play your recommendations link on the front page of the site and enjoy.

This free service can also surface individual artists, albums, and tracks that you might dig based on what you’ve listening to in the past. It even connects you to like-minded music fans from around the world. Whether you want to track your listening across multiple services, need spot-on recommendations, or both, Last.fm can help.

Use Gnoosic to build your music library

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

Gnoosic is a stripped-down, experimental music recommendation engine built around a smart set of algorithms called Gnod (aka the Global Network of Discovery). What we like about Gnoosic is its ease of use—just type in the names of three bands you already like, and Gnoosic will do the rest.

[Related: The best apps for listening to music on your phone]

Rather than overwhelming you with a long list of tracks, Gnoosic simply suggests another musician or group you might be interested in. You can also fine-tune the Gnod engine further by saying whether or not you’re already a fan of the recommended artist. Based on our testing, Gnoosic’s educated guesses are pretty accurate.

Find new movies and TV shows with Metacritic

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

Metacritic hosts one of the biggest collections of reviews on the web. Although it deals with games and music in addition to movies and TV shows, we’ll focus on the latter two here. Click the Movies or TV links at the top to see aggregated scores from professional reviewers, as well as scores left by users. You can submit your own opinions to the database, and pick out the good titles from the also-rans.

In terms of personalized recommendations, Metacritic isn’t as comprehensive as some of the other options on here. You’ll have to do more digging if your tastes don’t align with the majority’s. But it’s still worth checking out if you need help deciding what to watch next. As a bonus, regular features highlight the shows and films that should be on your radar.

Use TasteDive to decide what to watch

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

If you don’t want to spend ages building up a viewing history and entering movie and TV show ratings one by one, give TasteDive a try. Simply type in something you’ve liked in the past, and the site will work its algorithm magic to provide a list of similar content you might be into. We put the site through its paces (it also includes trailers and reviews), and the recommendations seem very good.

You can even get recommendations for TV shows to watch based on a movie you like, or vice versa, and the site extends to music, games, and books as well. The general algorithm draws 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.