Rate Your Music is a metadata database where musical albums, EPs, singles, videos, and bootlegs are rated and reviewed by users. This data is then used to generate music recommendations for users and to create rated lists of music albums. Weighted averages are used to calculate the ordering for these lists; regular members who write reviews and rate more albums have a greater weight applied to their ratings. It is a wiki in the sense that users can add, edit and remove content; however, the majority of new, edited content must be approved by a moderator.
Members can also create personal lists of albums and artists to their specifications, keep track of their personal collection of music, help to maintain the music database of artists and albums, converse on the message boards, contribute to the site's production and expansion, and recommend music to other members.
In 2004, Rate Your Music responded to a general demand for newer music by hosting MP3 files of recordings by several users, who agreed to be classified as unsigned artists while allowing their original music to be downloaded free of charge from the main server. These artists are able to promote their recordings alongside more famous, established artists, and users can rate their recordings as they would any other artist.
In 2006, the website ceased relying solely on donations to fund its expenses and began receiving revenue from other sources. Namely, the two changes were commission-based links to online music retailers, and Google AdSense links (which registered users can elect not to view). The user response to these changes was overwhelmingly positive, because of the democratic nature of the decision (which was openly proposed and discussed on the website before implementation), and the relatively unobtrusive nature of the links.