The artist pages in the Zune software haven't changed dramatically from the previous version. Small things to notice within the Marketplace view: there are now two new pages under the Marketplace tab for Picks and Channels. The Picks page offers personalized artist recommendations based on your listening habits, and the Channels page offers users a way to automatically receive new music every week from a selection of sources (radio DJs, Zune music professionals, Top 40).
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Zune Channels are a great way hear new music without lifting a finger. You subscribe to Channels as you would a podcast, receiving new content every week from whatever sources you select. If you're a Zune Pass subscriber, your Channels will deliver a selection of full songs which you can choose to keep on your device or let rotate out with the next weekly refresh. If you don't have a Zune Pass, the Channels will offer a selection of 30-second clips which you can choose to purchase or ignore.
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The new Picks page offers you new music recommendations based on your current listening habits. If you're new to Zune, it will take a little while for the Picks recommendation engine to warm up (it needs at least 100 plays within a single genre to get started). The feature shares a lot in common with the music recommendation engines behind the iTunes Genius sidebar and social music networks such as iLike and Last.fm.
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One of the easiest ways to get started with the new Zune Channels is to try a subscription to a genre of music you like. You can also sign-up to receive a selection of the top weekly songs in the Zune Marketplace.
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A new Mixview screen let's you seen artists and listeners related to your currently playing song. Within the Mixview you can stream music from related artists and explore connections within your own music collection.
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Instead of living strictly online, your Zune card, Zune social friends, and listening activity are now all rolled into the Zune software. You can also edit your profile directly in the software and keep tabs on your friend's listening habits without jumping back and forth from the client to your browser.
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The Zune Marketplace storefront hasn't altered much, and still includes a clean layout of new music and top songs. A sidebar allows you to dig down further to specific genres, playlists, and now Channels are included as well. Beyond music, you can use Marketplace to shop for TV shows, music videos, and subscribe to audio and video podcasts.
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During music playback, the Zune software is capable of a full screen view that displays a selection of artist photos superimposed with a selection of song titles. It makes for a fun screensaver to play in the background.
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