Do you discover music using social networks, recommendations and streaming playlists? Have you seen the plethora of free options when taking on this arduous task? Jango, Finetune, Meemix, Slacker, Imeem, Deezer, MOG, Last.fm, Pandora, Haystack etc. These are all avenues to finding new music or just kicking back to enjoy non-terrestrial or satellite (Sirius, XM) radio. But gosh darn it, which one is the best?
Naturally that’s difficult to answer as each one tries to update it’s sticky features almost on a weekly basis. Pandora and Last.fm are considered the dinosaurs of this social realm. The more recent entries such as Jango, Meemix (Israel based), and Deezer (French based) are vying for distinct market share in what’s now becoming a crowded internet category. Above all else, the controversy of traditional royalty payments to recording artists by these social startups has come head to head – the goliaths (Last.fm etc) are feeling the most heat from aggressive copyright owners and performing rights organizations.
To oversimplify it when discussing each company’s offerings, there are the ones who allow for social networks and an abundance of interactive features, and the ones who serve more as introverted tastemakers.
Pandora.com is easy enough in that is just streams music and you click “yes I like”, “no I don’t like” – from this is formulates a channel to your satisfaction. This would appeal to older users as they have little time to IM, add, trade, and network with their “friends” group. No social network.
Last.fm is the Viacom owned behemoth based in London. It has a large fanbase sharing similar interests in destinations like Myspace and Facebook. This site is all about the social networking! Since they held the spotlight for the past couple of years, the record labels/publishers want them to pay..and pay BIG!
Jango.com is brand new to the scene and I can tell you I met with the founders recently in their Soho, NY offices. They have a polished 2.0 presentation, high quality streaming, and a good work ethic. Again it’s for the youth as you can click on other members’ similar songs/playlists in real time. Each time you select or search music/artists, alternative song choices/soundalikes/same taste friends appear on your screen which makes it a never ending maze into the bowels of internet radio hell. Eventually you’ll tailor a station or stations to your exact liking with only the same old songs you’ve always loved. In effect, a roundabout way to the same old, same old.
Imeem.com just harnessed the rights to broadcast Sony-BMG artists in return for a cut of the ad money in the broadcaster’s players. Again, they put emphasis on sharing, social networking.
Meemix.com is another brand new entrant and has yet to really get beyond Alpha phase. They’re behind in the pack at this point.
Finetune.com features major label artist bookmarks (Coldplay) on it homepage if that’s any consolation? Like some of the others, this company made it a point to create embed players for Myspace and Facebook. In small part, they also insist on administering some playlists themselves from data compiled by….whatever method they choose I guess.
MOG.com has instituted not only radio streaming but now MOG TV. Now you can watch 400,000 more music videos online with playlists dissected by users galore. Is that good or bad? They have that Rhapsody editorial thing going too headed by chief Michael Goldberg. This Bay Area 2.0 is a bit useless and cluttered but who can blame them for trying.
Haystack.com prides itself on having an indie like mentality. At least this is what the casual visitor will take away from it. In that respect, it comes off as being exclusive which is definitely not a positive aspect. They also have a “Tastemakers” section which doesn’t amount to much. The user may become confused as to why they should return to Haystack despite the typical social networking setup.
Slacker.com fits better with the Pandoras of the world as it lacks the social feature. But you don’t have much say in the channels so it’s a more passive experience like Yahoo Music radio. For that matter just choose your local KEXP, KCRW or WDST for streaming.
Deezer.com, the French company, used to be called Blogmusik. They ran into licensing trouble, got reprimanded and now operate legally under the Deezer moniker. I notice that the buffering delays test the user’s patience. The other sites do not have this issue. Once again, users can share music lists and the like. There’s no sign-up necessary to browse through stations/songs and get a basic overview of the free content.