There are countless (or at least a whole lot) of social technologies that focus on music. Whether users are sharing their favorite artists and albums, broadcasting what they are listening to at any given time, looking at what music their friends like, or disseminating original content, there are a plethora of apps for any given situation. Music in and of itself is a very social experience – people like to listen to music, talk to friends about it, share what they like, and search for more. Emerging social technologies have enhanced this process by making the experience even more social and interactive.
It was hard to narrow down such a broad field, but I decided to examine a few different services that allow users to share what they are listening to. I chose five different services that I’m interested in (or wanted to learn more about), with each having their very distinct differences. What all have in common is that each allows the user to share what they are listening to and to learn more.
Pandora Radio comes to the forefront as the leading music recommendation service. Part of the Music Genome Project, Pandora prompts users to enter a song, artist, or genre, and a radio station is created that includes the entered parameter and music similar to it, based on a great deal of characteristics (similar artists, styles, genre, song styles, etc.). Stations become “smarter” as users can provide feedback on each song.
Users are able to create their own profile, through which they can save stations and bookmark songs and artists. You can also look up your friends’ profiles, which includes their stations and bookmarked songs and artists – this is made especially easy by allowing you to log in through Facebook. Users can furthermore share what they’re currently listening to on Facebook, Twitter, or email.
The free version of Pandora includes ads and up to 40 hours/month of music streaming. Pandora One, the $36/year paid version, includes a desktop app, unlimited listening, no ads, more skips, and higher quality audio. Pandora also offers extensive mobile capabilities, including iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Palm Pre, and Windows Mobile platforms.
My Take: Pandora is a great tool for discovering new music, sharing your musical interests, and seeing what your friends like – especially because of its widespread use in the U.S. For me, I can only take so much at a time because of the ads, repetition, and lack of control, and I personally don’t see the paid version to be worth it.
Rdio is a paid online music service with an extensive catalog of artists and albums. Available for $4.99/month for web access or $9.99/month for both web and mobile, Rdio is a cost effective tool for providing a huge library of music to you wherever you go. Users can follow their friends, and Rdio will display the top artists and albums in your network on your home page. Rdio also connects with Facebook, Twitter, and last.fm, so you can always share what you are listening to with your friends and followers outside of the service.
Some of the other features of Rdio are that it allows for direct purchase of songs and albums, and it matches with your iTunes or Windows Media Player library (so you can add songs on Rdio to expand on your already existing library). One of its best features is its mobile app (available on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7), which even allows for syncing for offline playing.
My Take: If you’re willing to shell out what you would for your monthly Netflix subscription, Rdio is a great value. Its extensive library and control makes it much for attractive than even Pandora One. Rdio’s social side also provides a great way to see what your friends’ aggregate interests are. If you’re curious, the service offers a free seven-day trial (with no credit card) so you can check it out.
Ping is Apple’s own music-based social network, which launched with iTunes 10 in September 2010. Ping allows iTunes users to follow artists and friends to find out what other artists they like and what albums they buy. It also provides recommended artists to follow and upcoming concerts happening near where you are, as well as the ability to write reviews and develop a profile.
Ping has the ability to connect with Twitter to find friends and share activity, but it lacks Facebook integration, even though this was something that was initially planned. Ping has received mixed reviews, but many regard it to be a tech fail.
My Take: As it’s only accessible in iTunes/iOS and lacks integration with other social services, I personally don’t see any value in this standalone social network. (Plus, no one I know uses it.) I’ve even gone as far as disabling Ping in iTunes’ parental settings.
Shazam is a music identification service that traces its company roots all the way back to 1999. As the forerunner of music ID services, it allowed users in the UK as early as 2002 to dial a shortcode, allow their phone microphone to capture music, and receive a text message response containing song information.
Today, Shazam is a mobile app for iOS, Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7. Once a song is identified, or “tagged,” you will be provided with information about purchasing, similar tracks, and information about the artist. You can also see reviews, bios, discographies, tour dates, and song lyrics, as well as your friends’ tagged music.
SoundHound is another music identification service that contains many of the same features of Shazam. Though only for iOS and Android, it features faster music identification, iPod integration, bookmarking, social sharing (Facebook/Twitter), links to purchase, embedded YouTube videos, and lyrics. It also prominently features geotagging, Pandora station creation, and the ability to identify from signing or humming into your mobile device (which works adequately, at least based on my less-than-stellar attempts).
Finally, the huge draw is the price point. The free version contains unlimited tags, and the $5 version contains unlimited tags and no ads.
My Take: At face value, I definitely think that SoundHound is a better deal than Shazam, especially for the free unlimited tagging and added features. Shazam does have first-mover advantage (more of your friends probably use it), and in reviewing blogs and reviews, it appears that there are varying reactions as to which one is more accurate with song identification. Especially if you’re using either service more for novelty’s sake, I’d say that it’s definitely up to user preference, so it’s definitely worth playing around with both.
Nice comparison of the pros & cons of each: