One of the more interesting by-products of examining the art of mixtapes is exploring the vast array of sites and services available to music lovers. From YouTube to Pandora and everything in-between, it can be confusing to find the best way to discover and share music. Until very recently, if I wanted to share a playlist of new songs I collected, I would rely on the process of burning an iTunes playlist to a CD and giving it to someone. I still believe that the act of physically giving someone a gift is more meaningful but in truth it’s not always a scalable way to share. Honestly it never occurred to me to investigate more efficient methods that might have a more extensive reach. Searching for ways to improve and reach more listeners, I began tinkering with a few new sites and services designed for just this purpose. Here is what I have found so far:
Pros: I like YouTube because I can find EVERYTHING. It’s quick and easy to find information , create playlists and share using social media integration “share” buttons already built in. In the case of embedding a playlist into a blogpost, there was very little learning curve aside from knowing how to cut and paste. Also if you don’t know how to do something, there’s probably a “how-to” video on YouTube.
Cons: As demonstrated in my first clumsy post, the visual can be a bit unsophisticated almost outdated really. The only way I found to improve upon it is to create a playlist of videos that play sequentially but 1) it’s still video, 2.) all videos are not created equally and 3.) you have to sign in with user account and I am not a big fan of using services with big brother tendencies.
Widely recognized as one if not the most popular internet radio streaming services, Pandora offers users up to 40 hours a month of free listening (with ads) and customized radio stations searchable by artist, song, genre, etc.
Pros: So easy to use my mom can do it. It’s preferable to many if you want to take the guess work out of what to listen to and great for discovering new artists that are similar to ones you already like. I have stumbled across many a new favorite band or song while streaming Pandora.
Cons: No ability to make and share own curated playlists and therefore not functional for my blog. Advertising is distracting while using free service and I don’t think it’s worth paying for when there are other more robust services with more benefits (see next).
Spotify is just one of many music streaming services like Pandora, Lastfm. Rdio, etc., only it’s better. Not only does Spotify offer a catalog of “millions and millions” of songs, it is searchable by artist, albums, titles, genres etc.
Pros: Not only can you listen to almost any song on-demand, but you also have the ability to create and share playlists. Adding to that, this service allows users and their friends to collaborate and co-create a playlists. Spotify also offers the ability to integrate and share through multiple social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and even WordPress integration allowing users to share online what they are listening to with various friends, family and followers if desired.
Cons: Although I loved the look and ease of creating a Spotify playlist and then embedding into my blog posts, I was disappointed to find that Spotify required anyone who wishes to play said playlist off my post to join the service first. While the service is a nice to have for the aforementioned reasons, the barrier to entry for listening to a playlist seems a bit high for my liking. I really wanted a click and play solution. Another point against the site is that the free version doesn’t offer very much time per month (only 10hrs) and while the benefits increase exponentially with next level of subscription ($4.99/mo for unlimited streaming), I think the baseline offering is stingy and lame.
Pros: Easy to sign in and become a member, I found it a great resource for discovering new music and personalizing. I love the ability to create, collaborate and share a playlist, and especially for the ability to embed a player into any website or blog without requiring a reader to register first. The process for embedding into a website was very simple and for the user it’s just a straightforward click and play experience. I also like the ability to make playlists have a “not suitable for work” designation in case there are songs with profanity and the ability to personalize the “cover art” by including an uploaded photo.
Cons: Playlists must have a minimum of 8 tracks and depending on the licensing rights you may have a limit of tracks from an individual artist. I found the uploading process didn’t work as easily for some tracks, and there was no explanation for why (possible user error) but no indication of what I was doing wrong or if there were licensing issues with particular songs I chose.
For now, I think I will continue using 8Tracks for now since the user experience in blog posts is the most optimal and unless I can find a way to combine the visual of a Spotify list with the ease of play of 8Track.com the quest continues….
Below is great mix from a fellow 8Tracks.com user I’d like to highlight, perfect listening for a gloomy, overcast fall Sunday in Seattle.
mix by 8Tracks.com user sammiam1