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Streaming your existing music collection is a neat trick, but music discovery, by comparison, is a much more impressive feat. Never before has it been easier for the average person to find and listen to such a diverse and wide-reaching body of music. This week we're taking a look at the top five music discovery services used by Lifehacker readers to find new artists, albums, and genres to keep their playlists fresh. Check out the Hive Five Call for Contenders to see the original comments that make up the raw list of nominations below.
Pandora (Web-based; Basic: Free/Premium: $36 per year)
Pandora stands out of the crowd for its drop-dead simplicity. Visit Pandora, create a new "Station" based on an artist or song, and Pandora starts streaming music your way. As you listen, you tell Pandora when you like/dislike songs and it factors those preferences into future songs it plays on your custom station. Pandora doesn't rock the advanced features some of the other music discovery services do, but the simple interface and the power of the Music Genome Project behind it make it a powerful tool for finding new music.
The Hype Machine (Web-based, Free)
The Hype Machine differs from the other services in today's Hive Five in a major way. Instead of taking music that you like from an existing playlist or your previous liked/disliked votes and trying to predict new music you might enjoy, The Hype Machine is a running record of the most discussed artists, albums, and individual tracks across the web. You're not seeing what you specifically would like; you're seeing what the entire internet is buzzing about. It's a great way to try music outside your usual tastes and see what's new and fresh.
Grooveshark (Web-based, Free)
Grooveshark is a popular music streaming service—so popular, in fact, that it placed first in our Hive Five call for best music streaming services—that rocks a powerful music discovery engine, too. Although Grooveshark rose to prominence by offering easy music streaming, the music discovery side of things is worth a look. Grooveshark Radio takes your playlists and your liked/disliked songs and uses them to generate a new continuous playlist—which you can refine by flagging the selections it kicks out.
Last.fm (Web-based/iPhone, Basic: Free/Premium: $3 per month)
Last.fm is another streaming service that takes your existing music collection and uses it as the basis for future suggestions. Unlike the other services, you don't have to use Last.fm directly to share what music you're listening to with the service. Last.fm has a process called "scrobbling" that allows you to share what you're listening to from virtually anywhere, including iTunes, your iPod, XBMC, some other online services, and more. You can use Last.fm without scrobbling by listening a lot on Last.fm and flagging music as good or bad. Even if you're not looking to invest that kind of time, you can listen to the "radio" stations of groups you do like and the Last.fm suggestion engine will serve up related music.
Zune Marketplace/Pass (Windows, Basic: Free/Premium: $14.99 per month)
Even though most people prefer a free-as-in-beer model, the Zune marketplace stands out in this week's Hive Five as a subscription model with a fairly high price tag that is surprisingly well received by its users. A free Zune Social account—Microsoft's music-based social network—gets you access to the Zune Social music discovery tools, which recommend new music based on tunes you already like. Unfortunately the free version limits you to finding music and listening to 30 second previews. Upgrading with a Zune Pass, however, gives you unlimited streaming and unlimited song transfers to your Zune device if you have one. It also gives you 10 credits per month to purchase songs independent of the fill-as-you-go Zune player-based model.
Now that you've had a chance to check out the contenders for best music discovery service, it's time to cast your vote for your favorite:Which Music Discovery Service Is Best? (Poll Closed)Total Votes: 12681
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Best Music Discovery Services
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