Music on Demand

The best ways to get your music fix online

Published: Sep 14, 2009

From the hundreds of music streaming sites and recommendation engines out there, we’ve selected 13 of the best, a mix that includes sites that will let you follow artists, discover new stuff, some packed with extras like videos and interviews, others that are social, and a few that get to know your tastes better than your best friend does. Plus a few specialist in desi music.

Music Streaming- Recommender Hybrids
Jango.com
The simplest streaming Web site for beginners, with great customisable music stations. Type in, say, Madonna; you’ll get a station filled with her songs plus artists her fans also like. We also dig “Like Minds” (what fans with similar tastes to yours are listening to). Emerging artists, check out Jango Airplay, which gives you a chance to broadcast your stuff.
Caveat: No obscure bands. And the Digital Millennium Copyright Act restricts the number of songs that will play.

Image: Vidyanand Kamat
Grooveshark.com
Slick interface = big cool factor. Its Autoplay recommendation engine won us over for getting to know us really well, and saving our playlist and queueing it up the next time.
Caveat: No true legitimacy with record labels (EMI is currently suing them.)

Last.fm
30 million active users in 200 countries, and we can see why. A great library that includes indie artists. Also the smartest Web site of the bunch: Its ‘scrobbler’ looks at the music you recommend, write about, tag, listen to, and then creates and updates a bespoke page of music. Bonus: Negligible buffering delay.
Caveat: The scrobbler is a download, and doesn’t work on a slow connection. Bummer: Outside the USA, UK, and Germany, you must pay after a 30-track free trial.

Imeem.com
Its core founders came from the notorious / beloved (depending on whether you’re a listener or a music company exec) Napster. Users connect through blogs, photos, audio, and video, both privately and publicly. We like it because it plays related songs without you having to even push a button. Its Android app is glitch-free. Don’t bother with the VIP subscription service ($10-100 a year) — it only provides you convenience, not extra content.
Caveat: Works well on Windows, not Linux.

MySpace.com & iLike.com
MySpace recently acquired iLike, so we’re grouping them together. iLike is a rapidly rising site that helps listeners and musicians find one another. Its new parent, MySpace, is a dying animal with an old concept, and its user pages tend to be hideous. It’s been around so long, musicians tend to see a MySpace presence as necessary, so it’s got a gigantic amount of content (yes, Hindi pop too). So what will the hybrid be like?
Caveat: The result of the acquisition is not yet known.

 

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Music Discovery Sites
Pitchfork.com
An indie music lover’s dream, with genres spanning rap to electrofunk. While music Web sites don’t get much hipper than this, don’t let that scare you away from its excellent album and track reviews, in-the-know stuff like tours and listings of what’s on the charts, exclusive interviews, photos, podcasts, and more. Catch new artists here before they hit anyone else’s radar.
Caveat: Want pop stars? Look elsewhere.

Gnoosic.com
A subset of gnod.net (which offers recommendations based on your preferences). Tell it your three favourite bands, and it will tell you another band you might like, often something you’d never heard of but will be listening to obsessively by tomorrow. If you don’t like the band they choose for you, it will work harder to find another. Also check out gnoosic’s Music Map (music-map.com), which will study a band you like and then present a map of bands you might be into.
Caveat: It can get confused and give bad results if you enter three artists from totally different genres.

Hypem.com
The Hype Machine aggregates blogs on music (and usually good ones) from around the world so that you can see what other people are talking about. Their Zeitgeist music blog publishes fantastic lists, and make sure to check out the ‘Spy Machine,’ where you can snoop on what other users are listening to.
Caveat: The Hype Machine is for the listener who has time to spend reading blogs for a good part of their day.

Image: www.sixtyone.com
TheSixtyOne.com
Like Digg, but for music. Artists submit their work, and the listeners decide what’s cool by giving a boost up to the tracks they like. We like clicking on different moods to get a song playing.
Caveat: Like Pitchfork, The Sixty One is also for Indie junkies.

Musicovery.com
Start by choosing a music era from the 50s to the present, one or more of 18 genres of music, and a mood (such as dark, energetic, calm, or positive). Musicovery will then provide you with a bunch of songs that fit all categories, and are usually just what you were looking to hear. (Rough day at work? We typed in “Rock”, “70’s” and “Dark” and Jimi Hendrix’s Straight Ahead was a perfect fit). You can then play the song, ban it, or save it as a favourite. Once you’ve built up a stock of songs and artists, Musicovery can better recommend more material
for you. Tip: Make sure to register an account, otherwise you’re likely to get error messages.
Caveat: It seems like more than half its songs are restricted to premium members. A premium membership is $4 a month.

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Indian Music

Dhingana.com
The name means cacophony, and reflects its look. Littered with photographs and links, the site is an acquired taste. But the database is impressive, with a collection that comprises Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi music and records by obscure artists who usually miss out on MTV primetime. Searches reveal other languages, even Indian classical music. The music player is Raagaa.com’s device. You can listen for free but must pay to download.
Caveat: No Auto-Play function; you must create your own play list from their database. But it does have a shuffle and repeat function.

Mp3HunGama.com
Very niche. An exhaustive catalogue of older film music and Pakistani rock bands is their forte. Lets you download for free.
Caveat: Shoddily designed, and many "page not found" notices. Use the tabs on the banner for (slightly) better results.

Raaga.com
Surfing made easy, a music listener’s delight. It has the makings of the latest Facebook Fad, and has constant twitter updates on the new music added. It can be embedded on blogs and humble Web sites. The colour is easy on the eyes and play lists created by users are listed on the homepage. There are videos to the music you are listening to. Watch synchronised dancing on high resolution video. The database includes fusion, mainstream music and even this strange new genre called Alternative Fusion Rock. The Web site even updates regional movies. Music can be heard for free but pay for the download.
Caveat: A widget with updates from the latest in the film industry is an annoying distraction if all you're there for is music.

 

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(This story appears in the 25 September, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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