As we keep getting told, the music-industry is in chaos. The illegal file-sharing of leaked albums is hitting the record labels and artists’ bottom line hard – forcing them to come up with more and more creative ways to take control of their output. Some, like Prince, have taken to giving their albums away for free via alternative channels in an attempt to at least oversee the distribution of their work. The most popular tactic to combat the internet’s effects, though, is to fight fire with fire and try to take control of the online ‘buzz’ of a new release. Music streaming sites have become the favourite place to legitimately hear your favourite artist’s latest album for free and, in many cases, before it is released.
Here we look at some of the best music-streaming sites around:
The daddy of music streaming sites, Spotify was launched in 2008 and now has just about every song you can think of listed in its huge database. Designed with the same features as traditional desktop media players (playlists, favourite tracks/artists etc…), Spotify’s recent ‘social-media upgrade’ now allows users to share their music preferences with their friends. Extensive artist biographies and suggested further listening functions give Spotify the feel of a complete online music community.
Spotify used to be free to everyone (the only shortcoming was that the free option came with adverts), but now a free subscriptions can only come via an invitation from a paying, ‘Premium’, subscriber.
Although not as popular or extensive as Spotify, We7 is gradually making a name for itself in the music-streaming landscape. Its rising popularity is mostly due to it being the music-steaming widget of choice for most of the big music websites. Recently, the Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’ and Richard Ashcroft’s ‘United Nation’s of Sound’ have been beamed around the internet using the We7 widget.
What it lacks in functionality, We7 makes up for in accessibility. Unlike the subscription only Spotify, anyone can visit We7 and start listening to the latest music for free.
An oldie, but a goody! Last.fm allows you to pick an artist or musical style and start listening to selected tracks immediately. Although it may feel a little limited to some, Last.fm is the perfect place to discover new artists and musical genres.
Yes, we know it’s obvious – but you can’t discuss playing music online without mentioning YouTube. Although it’s not predominantly focussed on music videos, just about every band has a presence on YouTube – with many having their own dedicated channels. The ‘social media’ aspect of YouTube also makes it a great place to find rare footage of your favourite artists and even fans’ versions of songs and videos.
Grooveshark is pretty much the web based version of Spotify, with similar features, functions and design. Where it differs though, is that Grooveshark simply streams music that other users have uploaded. Their mission is to save the music industry through building a community of music lovers sharing their favourite tunes. Some artists, though, view Grooveshark as one big copyright infringement, so don’t be surprised if your favourite songs suddenly get taken down!
Instead of destroying the music industry, Soundcloud is propping it up. New bands and artists can use the platform to upload their music and build up a following. For the music fan, the strong social element enables you to discover recommended music from like-minded people.