With the launch of Spotify in America, everyone is clamoring for an invite. But Spotify isn’t the only game in town for people looking to discover new tunes and listen to old favorites. A raft of music-sharing websites offer different features, and you aren’t going to find everything you want in one place. Here’s what’s hot and not about eight of the most popular ones. At the very least, checking them out gives you something to do till your Spotify invite email shows up. (Oh and, don’t worry, we threw in some pics of hot DJ chicks to help you stay, um, focused.)
Hot: Other than generating big buzz on the Internet, Spotify points the way forward to a world beyond MP3s. The site allows you to stream just about any song you can think of, and boasts the backing of most of the record industry.
Not: Spotify lacks a social networking component that many users of music websites love. Further, the site hosts relatively obscure music (for example, big indie bands) but lacks what might well be some of your favorite hidden gems.
Bottom line: Sign up, but don’t get rid of your MP3s just yet. We rate it an 8 out of 10.
Hot: Rdio pioneered the subscription-based model for streaming music. The site boasts not just the backing of major record labels but also digital media aggregates that specialize in all things indie. And it comes from the geniuses behind Kazaa, the site that caused you to get your first threatening letter from the RIAA in college.
Not: You’ll have trouble streaming if you’re behind a firewall, and that’s not the only technical problem. Entire queues have been known to disappear. Don’t be on the Rdio website and running the dedicated player at the same time; the player won’t advance to the next track.
Bottom line: Rdio will be a formidable competitor to Spotify, but has a whiff of Betamax about it. 7/10.
Hot: Last.fm, formerly known as Audioscrobbler, allows you to share your impeccable taste with others. The site tracks everything you listen to. Once you get into Last.fm, you’ll wonder what the point of listening to music is if no one knows you listened to it. Last.fm will surprise you with who your favorite bands actually are based on hard numbers.
Not: Last.fm’s suggestions always make sense, but are generally pretty obvious. The streaming radio service is now subscription based, the comments or “shouts” are pretty inane and the message boards are, not to put too fine a point on it, dead.
Bottom line: Last.fm is, for better or for worse, the Facebook of online music. 7/10
Hot: Pandora revolutionized online music. The site guesses, with surprising accuracy, what music you will like based on past choices. You can curate multiple “stations,” depending whether you’re in the mood for Slayer or Coltrane. You can even use Pandora on your smart phone and other mobile devices, such as the iPod Touch. And the subscription fee for unlimited listening is less than a buck a month.
Not: Pandora Radio is only available in the USA. Users can only skip past 12 songs they don’t like in a single 24-hour period. The Pandora One service, which runs $36 per year, increases the quality of sound to a paltry 192 kbps. This is also the cost of having a dedicated music player and ad-free service.
Bottom line: It’s hard to imagine the modern workplace without Pandora, where the site’s algorithms settle arguments over music by catering to all tastes. 6/10
Hot: Grooveshark is a customizable Internet radio station with the one thing Pandora lacks: on-demand listening. You can tell Grooveshark what songs you like and don’t like, helping the site become increasingly sophisticated at suggesting new music. It seamlessly integrates into popular social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as allowing you to easily connect with others of impeccable taste in house.
Not: Grooveshark isn’t terribly legal. The license agreement requires indemnification, whereby you accept all legal and financial responsibility for sharing copyrighted music. Get two Digital Millenium Copyright Act removal requests and your account is history. The mobile app has been pulled from both the Android and Apple stores thanks to these intellectual property issues.
Bottom line: Grooveshark was probably pretty awesome until the nanosecond that Spotify appeared, but the latter isn’t quite there yet with social networking integration. 5/10
Hot: Jango’s signature feature, “make or break,” lets you aid or destroy a new artist. You can tell Jango how much you want to hear a particular artist, creating distinctions between your love of Queens of the Stone Age and your love of Huey Lewis and the News.
Not: Jango offers very little in the way of anything even remotely obscure. The play-on-demand feature doesn’t work on every song. If you’re a person who is driven insane by pop-up ads, Jango is definitely not for you. Want to cancel? Too bad. Jango membership is for life.
Bottom line: Jango is a workable option for those who want Pandora but don’t live in the States. It’s not terribly attractive for other users. 3/10
Hot: Turntable.fm emphasizes the social aspect in a far greater way than other music sites. It harkens back to late nights spent sharing music over drinks with good friends. You can search the database or add your own tunes. Points are accumulated for playing music that pleases friends, while unpopular songs are skipped once enough people vote them down.
Not: Only five people can DJ per room, making getting a turntable spot at times dicey. Flip side is that if not many of your friends are using this site, a bit of cajoling might be required to fill a room. When your song is voted off the island you have to wait for your next turn, which can frustrating.
Bottom line: Start bugging your friends to get on here. It’s a great way to party with your pals from Melbourne to LA. 10/10
Hot: Rather than suggesting based on past habits, Musicovery matches your biorhythms using a proprietary “mood pad.” You enter in your mood and energy level, Musicovery spits out a song. The “Dance” menu lets you select what genre, decade and speed dance music you want keep the party bumping until dawn. You can also specifically request music that sounds like a particular artist.
Not: Musicovery’s sound quality is very poor, with 32 kbps for the freeloader and 128 kbps for the subscriber. You can’t access information about the artist and song from the site without paying for the premium service, nor can free users skip songs they don’t like.
The Bottom line: Musicovery is great for when you want some sounds but aren’t sure exactly what to cue up. 5/10