16 November 2009

Music Discovery Services

Alright, I'll admit it: I listen to Trance, Dance & Electronica a whole heck of a lot, but my music tastes do exceed just that. Though Trance, Dance & Electronica are my favorite genres, I have always enjoyed other types of music - to a point. I'm particularly picky about what I listen to, and more music doesn't make the cut than you'd imagine. In the last few months I've been listening to Trance/Dance/Electronica almost exclusively but have begun to grow tired of the same sets of songs and have begun trying different methods to seek out new ear-candy. Enter Last.fm and Pandora.
Although the two services are not new and have been around for a few years now, I've just entered the realm and so far, I want more. When Pandora first appeared long ago I tried it but its music selection was quite limited, so I was immediately turned off. Last.fm, on the other hand, was a service that I'd heard about for quite some time, but never really jumped in since it, like Pandora, was plagued by a limited selection of music. Time had past, and I revisited the sites to see if they could satisfy my auditory hunger.
Pandora had pretty much stayed the same in the way it was designed when I first visited it, but of course with a much more expanded library of music. Its "fine tuning" methods to find music based on music you like was very cool, but since I was not a member of the site, I was only limited to listening to 3 songs before it cut me off. Also, its integration into other applications, such as Boxee/XBMC, WinAMP or even the offering of desktop widgets/applications so that I could listen during work was abysmal, and so I moved on to Last.fm.
Unlike my previous experience with Pandora, Last.fm was completely new to me. I decided that I would try Last.fm after a seemingly endless radio that I was allowed to listen to despite not having signed up with the site. It did a good job at selecting new music based on my preferences, but lacked the ability to pause music (which is important when I'm working since I frequently must walk away from my computer to talk to co-workers for extended periods of time). However, it provided a good number of integrations into Boxee and XBMC, and despite the fact that there was a lack of working widgets and applications for the desktop to stream the radio, the website was enough for me to listen (since I have Firefox open all day anyway). But again, it lacked that special something that would lead me from the free user that I am to a paying customer.
And so I appeal to you, Internetz, for some help. I want the best possible listening experience - full music tracks - with the ability to tailor my music preferences on-the-fly (as Pandora and Last.fm already do), timeshift music, and be able to access it from a variety of places. I would love a huge library of music that will occasionally throw in music from artists in very different genres, in an effort to change my current playlist path, as well as the ability to manually change the playlist to include certain artists on-the-fly.
So far, with the ability to integrate itself in so many places, Last.fm is so far the front-runner, but I want something better. Maybe these suggestions will make it to the product teams at Pandora and Last.fm and my dreams of better music discovery services will come true, but until then, I guess I'll have to settle with what I have - or maybe I could roll my own? I am a computer programmer after all... ;)

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