The Social Web of Music

For those who read this blog for a while now, you've probably noticed that I write a lot about music and technology, sometimes both. A pair of posts I did on the issue may be already somewhat outdated: one about finding music on the web, and other about the web for music artists and lovers.

While there's some discussion around the web on wether Web 2.0 is better or worse than P2P for this kind of stuff, an issue I would love to talk about in a future post, today I'm going to talk about "The Social Web of Music", impelled by the fact that Techcrunch made a Social Music Review that, IMHO, doesn't really reflect the great web apps out there in the field.

They chose eight products: FineTune, Pandora, Last.fm, Mog, Radio.Blog.Club, MyStrands, iLike and iJigg.

My first comment about the chosen applications is that FineTune, Pandora, Last.fm, Mog, and Radio.Blog.Club aim exactly for the same, so they're concurrents themselves.

FineTune lets you create playlists of music you want to hear, which is great if you want to be listening to some music instead of knowing new music.

On the other hand Pandora (here are some posts where I talked about it) has the easiest user interface of all, and has the best algorithm of finding out music that you'll probably like. On the other hand, it has two major problems: it almost only has mainstream music (almost everything comes out from the major labels) and it's only legal to use it in USA (so, no Pandora for us European guys).

My favourite of the bunch is Last.fm (my cover here): while it wasn't until some time ago, the social features it has are preety good. I'm intending to do a full cover of Last.fm and the way I use it, but for now I'll only say that it has an impressive social component that lets you (only if you want, and that's good) tag, rate, talk, know new stuff, get free tracks, and a lot lot more. It has something that beats those others: it lets bands or labels to create their pages there and promote their music. That makes it preety cool for bands and for those wanting to listen music, mainstream or not. The social component there is strong enough to make a band, by publicising themselves there (upload a music free for stream or even download, and it will surely be heard) to get fans or even sell your music in a much success rate than any other webapp I know of.

Mog also lets artists upload their music, but... well, it quite sucks. It's confusing, it has bad design, and the real use for which I can imaging Mog being the app you're looking for is only if you want to blog about music. And, for that, Last.fm would also be fine...

Radio.Blog.Club was a big surprise: I can't imagine it being relevant in a discussion about the "social web of music". I guess that the only reason why it was referred is that the author thinks that "the interface is good". Sorry, but I do not agree. Call me stupid, but while the website says that artists can upload their music, and while, by the file names, users are obviously submitting (copyrighted stuff, BTW), I walked around for 10 minutes or so and didn't find out how to do it. I don't intend to come back there.

MyStrands might be "social music", but isn't web: it's a desktop application you have to download, and there are only versions for Windows or Mac OS. Since I'm a Linux user, this isn't for me.

iLike is even worse: it's an iTunes plugin. No, I don't use iTunes.

Finaly, iJigg: the music digg. I don't really like digg, so I might be biased on this, but iJigg is just... well, if you want to discover music and you want "anything" (forget finding stuff similar of what you already know and like), or if you want copyrighted stuff that others post there (lot's of it, there), then you might find it interesting. But I doubt that it will be "the music web app you'll get used to use".

So, if these are my oppinions about the choices, what would be mine?

For me, only five stand out:

Pandora - I've talked about it up there, so go back and read it :-) If you're resident in USA and what you want is to get at your job in the morning, open a browser tab and make it play music you like until it's time to go home, this is for you. Easy, fast learning, great interface, preety cool. If you like something enough, you can buy the track or album in iTunes (please, don't - those tracks have DRM) or Amazon.

Last.fm - The music experience and interaction. Put your music player to feed Last,fm, use it to listen what other people recommend you, bands similar to the one you're listening now, other bands from the same music label, leave a comment, take a peek on what other Last.fm users that listen to it like to hear, know new bands, get some free, legal, DRM-free music.

SellABand - I promised a full review of it that I never did (shame on me). To give you an example... I have a musical project and I've used the internet to promote it - and even to get the label that released my last album. Of all those music services my music can be heard, SellABand is the one where I probably have less people listening to it - but in the other hand is the one that possibly granted me more fans. Also, Last.fm and SellABand were direct creators of revenue: I sold at least one CD thanks to each of them. What's SellABand? What makes it so different? No better than this page to explain it, but basicly bands, for free, create their profiles there, with (at their choice) free-to-listen music. "Believers" (the name for listeners) may "believe" in an artist by buying one "part" of the band ($10 per part). Then, "Together Believers have to raise $50,000 to get their Artist of choice in the studio. At any point before your Artist has reached the Goal of $50,000, you can withdraw your Parts and pick a different Artist. You can even get your money back. It's your music. It's your choice." If one band reaches $50,000 (in four months two already did), a CD is released, you get a copy, 50% of the profits go to the band, and the other 50% are distributed to their believers.

Amie.st - I talked about this before, and Mike from Techcrunch is a big fan of this, so my surprise was huge when I noticed that this wasn't on their list. Basicly they consider that every track has a value, but music lovers are the ones who should decide whats its value. So, When a band uploads one music there, it starts costing "0 credits", and if people say that the song should cost more than that, it starts costing something, and more, and more. It's the free market aplied to music - a way better way of knowing and buying digital music - you're basicly paying it's "real value".

MySpace Music - This had to be here. I don't like MySpace (nobody does, right?) but it's the biggest website on the Internet, and that means something. If you ignore all the kiddy social crap and take a look to in only taking into consideration the music aspects, you'll see that this is the most used "music webapp". You have from really big and well-known bands like Björk there, and you have that until the "I don't have or want a band, but I once did this track" stuff. You have music for every kind of tastes, some you can only stream and some you can download. You can see, specialy from the "top friends", what other somewhat simmilar bands you'll possible like, and discover lots of music.

And you? What music web applications do you use?


  1. Anonymous5:45 PM

    maybe an alternative to Pandora outside USA:

  2. Well, yes, yet I don't see any advantages of it over Last.fm, that lets you do the same. However, I think that Last.fm embeeded players have much to evolve, and should take a critic look over Pandora to enhance their own product.

  3. I actually also use Lastfm, check my profile http://www.lastfm.pt/user/SkySkull/