Yesterday I wrote a piece on how to find info about music on the web, and ended with Pandora Backstage. But that leads me to talk about Pandora: a great way of knowing new music. I'm a heavy Pandora user: at work I arrive, open a tab for Pandora, and start listening to it until my work day is over, when I close the tab. Yes, Pandora is an online music player, but with a twitch: you tell it what do you like, and Pandora aplies some genetic algorithms to find out what other stuff you like to listen. I'm impressed on how good their algorithms are: it almost never fails on me, and it's a really great way of knowing about more music and more artists, and, in the same time, is a great way of listening to the music you like, without having to care about moving your mp3's or CD's to the places you want to listen to them, and stuff like that... It's a great service, and in those people tend to emphatise the flaws, so who am I to mark a difference? Pandora has two main issues: first of all it is a Flash player, which really sucks. Besides having to restart the browser sometimes to get sound from Pandora, don't even try to let Pandora running over a weekend, it will suck each free byte of memory you have.
When Pandora appeared, lot's of people tried to compare it with last.fm, but I really don't understand why, since they do quite different things. With last.fm you can download a player or use the last.fm plugin to your music player of choice (iTunes, amarok, you name it) and start rating the songs you have and like. Then, you can see charts and recommendations (based on camparisons between user tastes) and stuff like that... Well, a mix between Pandora and a social network. It has it's value and I'm glad it exists, but if you want to find new music Pandora is better than last.fm for you, specially if you're no computer geek.
It was no surprise for me, but quite interesting since I was thinking on writting this post when yesterday at lunch I heard a friend telling to another "hey, every band needs a MySpace page!". While not necessarily truth (if you pick the last post's example "Marilyn Manson", you'll see that he isn't on MySpace), this is truth for every and each band that is less known and needs to be more. While Marilyn Manson or any other billboard bands don't need the exposure MySpace can give bands, other known bands do: if you look to my contacts on my MySpace's corner, you'll see I'm linking there to well-established bands like Novembers Doom (7 full-length released), Antimatter (4 full-length released) or ThanatoSchizO (3 full-length released), so if bands like those are investing their time in MySpace there must be a reason, right? Well, the advantage of MySpace is it's userbase: half-world has an account there and the other half already heard about it. In MySpace (music-related) you have an easy way to browse between artists, kisten to their music while reading their MySpace pages, and still maybe download those tracks. The concept is good, but poorly implemented, as I ranted about before.
While there's no ultimate sollution to solve artists and lovers problems while using the web to reach their purposes, there are several services that try to do it better than MySpace. From all the alternatives, and please don't make me name them all, the best, IMHO, is PureVolume. you just need to go there and view a band's profile to easilly notice three things: it has all the band features MySpace has, it's an only-music social network, and it's way more usable and clean. Who wants the mess of those MySpace pages when there are pages so nice as this? Then, the player: it's also a flash player, but this one works perfectly, even if I would prefer a different behaviour in some cases. The pages are quite Ajax'd which is perfect if you want to browse and don't loose track of the music you were listening to... If you're an artist, take in consideration that there's a limit of 4 songs published in the free accounts, and then you have to pay something (I don't know and I don't care) to be able to post more songs.
Being an artist myself, when Crash (the last released album from Merankorii) was released I faced a problem: I wanted to have the entire album available for download somewhere, and had no web service where to put it on. OK, I could use PureVolume for that, but since I want to offer the music as free mp3's available for download, I don't have to add to that an expense just to host a couple of mp3 files. So I decided to create an account on SoundClick. This service is worse than PureVolume's: you have a worse player, navigation is bad, but you have no limit in the number of songs hosted. People can listen to them with no trouble, but if you want to download them you have to be registred (is free). Having to be registred sucks: most people won't bother doing that to download some music, and artists want having people downloading their music the easiest way possible.
In the beggining of this week a new service appeared, still on it's Alpha version: Amie St.. This is a service that, like SoundClick, lets you host the number of songs you want, freely, and that people have to be registred to download them. But this service has a completely different business model: people don't "download" music, they "buy" it, even if it is "buying a free music" (when the cost is 0 you don't have to pay for it, obviously). More, the price one track isn't fixed by the artist (as you see in several other services) but, instead, Amie's ecosystem creates a market where your tracks have a value of worthiness. "Better" music is more expensive and "worse" music is free. I think this is an awsome application, but it is still too young to have no fear, and I really have some concerns about it. Besides, there are lot's of features lacking there: what if I have a band and I want all my tracks to be for free, even if they could be sold? On those cases Amie St. isn't for me.
Unfortunately, there's no "killer app" for Music Artists and Lovers. And yes, the "killer app" have to be the same for both: in a web full of social features, you just have to put bands and listeners together, giving to both of them the possibility of doing everything they might want. We're not there, yet, but some inside info in the Web 2.0 market tells me that the future might be brighter... Let's hope and see.