Here’s an introduction to each of the legal ways you can listen to the playlists I will be constantly updating. Some you may have heard of, some you may not have, some will suit your needs, and some will not. Experiment, try something new, tell me what you think of them, and let me know if I’ve forgotten one.
Since it’s launch in late 2008, Spotify has grown at a phenomenal rate, and now claims to have 10 million subscribers. Currently only available in 7 European countries, most of you will have heard of it, and those that can will have used it. Link to your Facebook to share music, play with the radio options, and set up an account with 7Digital so that you can buy anything you like with just a few clicks. Most importantly, if you have the cash and a smartphone, please experiment with the app for just one month, then try and live without it. If you don’t question whether or not you NEED to own every piece of music you listen to, then you’re a stronger soul than I.
The easiest site to simply start listening on, We7 requires no desktop download or sign-in. Currently only available in the UK and with 2.5 million users, with a bit more cash pumped into it this could grow slowly to be a great site. Not only is it a streaming site, you can also buy mp3’s very easily, which makes me wonder why anyone would bother with the sterile a-la-carte models of iTunes or 7 Digital. The iPhone app needs a radical overhaul and some aspects of the site could be more intuitive, but if you want a simple, easy way to listen to AND buy music, this is for you.
mflow had a high profile UK launch at the start of the summer, and is an a-la-carte (like iTunes) site, but with a ‘Twitter’ like twist. This is a more innovative site than others here, requires more effort to get to grips with, but is definitely one of the most rewarding.
Download the desktop app, sign in, and click here to add me as a friend. I ‘flow’ tracks to all who follow me, adding a note to go with it. You can play this song in full for free with no adverts, reflow to your followers (if you agree with me that’s it’s good), or buy the song as a download. You can also browse the site’s 3 million tracks, playing 3o second clips and buying any you like. However, mflow inherently has the same problems as Twitter; How do you know who to follow, and how do you get followers?? Start by following some of the people I do, or stick to the default profiles. Simply by flowing tracks (to nobody at first) you will pick followers up gradually, and of course every time you start following someone they may well follow you back, assuming they like the songs you’ve been flowing.
Finally, if a track you flow gets purchased by one of your followers, you get credits with which to buy yourself songs for free! It’s a great way of encouraging users to spread music, and so a standard a-la-carte store is given a unique twist. It’s probably still one for the hardcore music fans, though if you’re ever left unsure of what to buy or listen to, this is the answer.
MOG aggregates blog posts from around the web, and links them to it’s web based on demand streaming service. The blog posts can be accessed from anywhere, though the streaming part of the site is still only available in the US, with a UK launch said to be imminent. Blog aggregators such as Hype Machine and Elbo.ws have acted as essential filters over the last 5 years, but linking to mp3’s will soon be replaced by linking blog posts to streams, assuming the song is released and available to be streamed. This is the space where MOG can grow into, which I’m sure it will. This is definitely one for those of you who like to read LOTS about music and, for now, Americans.
Perhaps an odd choice, but sadly YouTube is STILL one of the best ways of listening to music around the world as it is the only site accessible from most major countries (sorry Germany). YouTube has a huge catalogue thanks to users uploading audio with single shot videos, and playlists are easily made and shared. The main reason I have included it here, is that YouTube is the ONLY music streaming site available in Australia. PLEASE, can someone sort this out so that I am not forced to have a video site included on a list of music streaming sites.
iTunes is notable by it’s exception. Despite Apple’s acquisition of streaming site LaLa at the start of 2010, we are still to see a streaming element added to iTunes. mFlow is all that Ping could have been, but instead Apple’s attempt at ‘Twitter + iTunes’ is a dreadful service with almost no purpose. The iTunes store is cluttered and difficult to navigate, but with the credit card details of 180 million people, you can never write them off.
Also missing are any all-you-can-eat service (has anyone with a Nokia phone tried the OVI store?), or the ISP deals that we were first promised in October 2008. Watch this space (I hope).