I’ve been itching to write this post for weeks now. When I discovered these musical services I was dumbstruck with their awesomeness. Now granted, none of them are perfect, but check them out, and then think back to the mid to late 90’s. Remember Napster? We’ve come a long way.
For the music-streaming beginner, Grooveshark will feel the most familiar assuming you are familiar with Windows Media Player or iTunes. Grooveshark is essentially a database of music from tons of different artists, and interface is very familiar to the desktop music player crowd. You go to the site, look up an artist, song or album, and you can stream it from wherever you are. You can build a library, pick favourites, and make playlists. I remember first encountering Grooveshark a few years ago and not being very impressed with its music selection, but now it seems you can find nearly anything you could want. But say there are some choice albums in your digital collection that you can’t find on Grooveshark, what to do? Give back to the Grooveshark community! You can cross-check your computer’s music library with Groovesharks, and any songs it doesn’t already have, you can allow it to upload from you. Now keep in mind, you cannot download any songs from Grooveshark (which might have something to do with why it seems to be less copyright infringe-tastic than our old friend, Napster). Grooveshark is all about live streaming. No matter where you are, or who’s computer you’re using, as long as you’re connected to the net, you can click over to it and listen to your favourite tunes.
One downside I’ve encountered though has to do with album completeness. If you’re a stickler for wanting whole albums, you might be a bit disappointed. Probably due to the different ways people will label their music files, there is plenty of duplication and even some missing songs from some albums. And in some cases, completely mislabeled albums so that you think you’re playing one, and you get another. It ain’t perfect, but still, it’s pretty shiny.
Then there’s Blip.fm, the way cooler, funky, social-butterfly cousin of online music. With Blip.fm you are an online DJ (in the very loosest sense of the word you can think of). Basically you search a song, choose one of the many options that Blip.fm pulls from around the net (some come with video, courtesy of youtube) and then you blip it. Blipping a song is like tweeting, except that the string of continuous blips that’s created by all of these ‘DJs’ make a constantly updating playlist. So you blip your song, it plays, and then when its done, Blip.fm takes you to the next blip. Now instead of listening to just anybody, you can find people that blip artists and songs you like, add them to your favourites, and just listen to the DJs you like. Or you could make a filter with the tuner so that Blip.fm will only play songs that meet certain criteria. You can also show your appreciation for your fellow DJs by giving them props, the blip equivalent of liking a post on Facebook.
Now you might be thinking that this is kinda neat, but why would you want your music selection to be left up to a bunch of people you don’t know? Well, if you know exactly what you want, you might not prefer the blipping option. Fair enough. But I’ve found blip.fm to be a really great way to rediscover awesome songs I’d forgotten about, and to discover new artists and songs for the first time. Once you find some DJs that blip songs you know and love, check out what else they blip, and they might introduce you to some new music you would never haver heard otherwise. Another neat feature in Blip.fm lets you publish your blips (which can also include a short twitter-style message, by the way) to other social networks, like Facebook and Twitter. So even your non-blipping friends can benefit from your musical promiscuity.
Lastly is the aptly named Last.fm. Last.fm can connect to your iTunes and Blip.fm for free (and your Grooveshark account too if you’re a Grooveshark subscriber) and track what you’re listening to. It uses this information to create customized ‘radio stations’ where you can listen to your favourite music. However this feature is only free for the first few songs, and after the trial period you need to subscribe. But don’t worry, even if you don’t subscribe there’s another (free) reason to keep using Last.fm anyway. Last.fm is really good at making recommendations on new artists to check out. And on top of that, it can keep you on top of the gigs being put on by your favourite artists – a very worthwhile feature I think.
Anyway, check all this out and enjoy some easy online listening. And if you try out Blip.fm, my username is nibudd. Props are always welcome.
Oh, and I almost forgot. A way-too-smal shoutout to JB, and his suggestion of Spotify. It’s like the European version of Grooveshark, but apparently way better. Unfortunately for us North Americans though, it hasn’t hopped the pond yet. Apparently it still has some copyright issues to work out or something. But if you ever spend some time in the Old World, be sure to check it out. It’s pretty bangin’.