Pandora launched in 2005 and was the very first service that, in combination with iTunes, kickstarted the digital music trend. Pandora offers suggestions of songs based on artist, genre and the song itself, giving you a personalised radio station. While now we can select songs and playlists, Pandora still has a place as a recommendation engine, and a way to listen to music while you do work.
But why wasn’t this on our list beforehand? Well, in 2007, Pandora shut itself to international users and became US-only. This was due to legal problems and to stay protected by the DMCA – and the US, surprisingly, was the only country at that time that had such provisions to allow Pandora to still be around. But now, five years later, it has now started to open up – with Australia and New Zealand the first countries.
Like I said, Pandora is more a radio-like service online, personalised to your music tastes. You won’t be able to download, or repeat songs, but it’s a great service just to find new music. Pandora is free, but also advertising-supported. There is a paid subscription, which also lets you access the desktop application and higher-quality audio.
Grooveshark is pretty controversial – it’s a streaming service, a search engine and a recommendation engine with its library based on what its users upload to the service. And it’s also being sued for copyright violations and not paying royalties – and pretty much the Big Four record labels are in the process of suing them.
However, while its legality is up in the air, it’s a pretty good service to stream music. It does have advertising – which you can turn off – and desktop apps. It does have mobile apps, but the iOS one requires you to jailbreak your phone and the Android app might not run on your phone because it’s not on Google Play and you have to download it directly from the site.
Where Grooveshark is helpful is for international musicians because somewhere, out in the big world, someone has managed to acquire the album and has posted it on Grooveshark. And if you are into K-Pop or J-Pop, then this might help.
The Hype Machine
The Hype Machine is essentially a collection of music blogs in one easy location. As such, the library is pretty much reliant on what these blogs it tracks has – this has meant that the library is a lot of remixes of songs, and a lot of DJs because the files are available online to stream anyway. However, you do get a filter to turn off remixes. It serves predominantly to both the indie and those looking for dubstep and electronic music – especially those lesser known.
It also has several mobile apps – especially on iOS, Android and Windows Phone. The last two, however, are unofficial. The iOS and Windows Phone app do require you to pay for it – the iOS app charging $2.99 and the Windows Phone unofficial app 99c. But these apps regardless is pretty much the same as what you get on the web.
There is a radio show – released every month – that plays a selection of songs that were popular on the site, in addition with interviews with indie bands. It is available on the apps, and as a podcast for free.
If you never heard of the site, the name should give it away. It basically allows users to select 8 or more tracks and add them to a playlist. Like Pandora, it tries to match each playlist to a mood, genre and artist – but because these are selected by users, rather than a computer, it has a more personalised touch.
However, while it is advertising-supported, the ads do not insert themselves into the playlist like Spotify. And I’m very surprised at the breadth of songs available – many of which aren’t that big name, or international.
Of course, there is a “premium version” of the site – with no ads, but with other features (it’s more like Reddit, in which its features are being rolled out as it happens). It also has apps on iPhone and Android, with an unofficial Windows Phone and WebOS app.