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