Viral widgets allow members to place music players on websites to expand the fan base – Lots of tools to promote your music, build a buzz and track promo efforts – Customized email newsletters for fans – Seamless integration with Facebook, Bebo – Free streaming music
RECOMMENDATION: For musicians, this is an amazing tool. For fans, it's a great, interactive way to find new music and support independent artists.
ILIKE – ilike.com – 5
Major artists from Tori Amos to Missy Elliott, as well as independent musicians, post their music, videos, photos, shows, etc.
PROS: Free – Seamless integration with Facebook, Bebo, Hi5, MySpace, Orkut, iTunes – iCast feature lets the artist post text, audio or video directly from a cell phone – Sidebar feature lets you play music and videos by your favorite artists free
RECOMMENDATION: Definitely yes – an excellent, inexpensive way to keep in touch with your favorite artists
FACEBOOK – 4
Users who are musicians can create a page to profile their bands. That's nice, but even better, Facebook integers seamlessly with iLike (see review above). My only criticism is that Facebook can be confusing to navigate.
GARAGE BAND – 3
Operated by iLike, but focuses on independent artists seeking greater exposure.
PROS: Free – Write your own music reviews – Partnerships with podcast and webcast radio stations
CONS: Less professional than similar sites
RECOMMENDATION: The review feature is fun, but you'll get more out of ReverbNation and iLike.
MYSPACE – 0
Musicians can post music, videos and the usual, but this pioneering social network site has been gradually sliding downhill. Now that it's been eclipsed by Facebook, why would you bother?
CONS: Interminable time waiting for pages to load – Terrible customer service
RECOMMENDATION: Skip it.
ITUNES – apple.com/itunes/ – 5
Who does not know about iTunes? Apple dominates the market with this well-designed program, but you're out of luck if you have an mp3 player other than an iPod.
PROS: Largest selection of titles (8 million) – Video, movies, podcasts and more
CONS: Songs only play on the iTunes software (PC or Mac) or an iPod
RECOMMENDATION: The gold standard (ranked # 1 by Top Ten Reviews).
NAPSTER – 4
Napster recently lifted its business model from a subscription-based service to selling mp3s. Earlier problems with certain browsers and platforms have apparently been resolved.
PROS: Compatible with all mp3 players – Vast selection of 6 million titles (but not as many as iTunes)
CONS: Annoying woman pops up saying "Click on me to get started" – Monthly $ 12.95 subscription fee if you select that option
RECOMMENDATION: Highly recommended by reviewers (ranked # 2 by Top Ten Reviews).
RHAPSODY – 3
One of the most popular music download sites, Rhapsody offers subscription and pay-per song options, but it's not cool that they thumb their noses at Mac users.
PROS: Unlimited streaming of songs – Play and share your own music mixes – Easy drag-and-drop interface
CONS: Monthly $ 12.99 subscription fee if you select that option – Windows only – Not all of their 4.5 million titles are available for purchase – Non-purchased songs are encrypted and will no longer work if the subscription is cancelled
RECOMMENDATION: Rhapsody gets good ratings from many reviewers, but there are better options for streaming music without a fee.
AMAZON MP3 – 2
Amazon is in the process of converting its music catalog to digital downloads. With their ubiquity, they may well surpass iTunes and Napster. They are not very artist-friendly, though, charging musicians high distributor fees and an annual fee.
PROS: Large selection of 5 million titles (but less than iTunes and Napster) – Compatible with all mp3 players – no Digital Rights Management encoding like iTunes – Some tracks priced at only 89 ¢
RECOMMENDATION: Convenient for customers, but if you want to support independent musicians, take your business to iTunes or Napster.
PANDORA – pandora.com – 4
Pandora describes itself as the "music genome project." As you listened to each song, you tell Pandora if you like it or not. Pandora learns from your responses and finds songs that match the qualities of the songs you like.
PROS: Free – Available on iPhone and other cell phones – Create your own customized music stations and share them with friends – Vast selection of artists
CONS: As a work in progress, the "matching" can be a bit hit or miss – You're only allowed a limited number of skip options within but a given time frame, but hey, it's free
RECOMMENDATION: Great for streaming free music by artists and genres you select.
LIVE365 – live365.com – 4
Search for genres or for stations playing an artist you like, check out the details, and click "play" to start listening. It's that easy.
PROS: Informative listings about each station including listener ratings – Easy to use – No plug-in required – Extensive listings at your fingertips
CONS: Advertisements unless you pay a $ 5.95 monthly subscription fee
RECOMMENDATION: Sure you can invest more time and find listings in other ways (after stumbling through dead links, pay for play stations, etc.), but Live365 is quick and easy. Spring for the cost of two lattes if you really detest the ads.
MOG – mog.com – 4
Designed for bloggers who like to write about music, but its appeal is much clearer than that. Beside allowing you to listen to millions of songs for free, you can share opinions, keep current with music news you might otherwise miss, and discover recommendations by users who share your musical tastes.
PROS: Free – Lots of interesting tidbits of information – Find people what expressions you trust
CONS: Weak search function – Anyone can claim to be an expert
RECOMMENDATION: Worthwhile even if you do not intend to post your own articles.
SIX SONGS OF SEPARATION – 3
Load up your own music library playlist (the site imports the list from your music player, eg, iTunes or Real Player). Once you have your own account up and running you can see music from members with similar musical tastes. Or you can search for songs, artists or albums that you enjoy and find related music based on what other people are listening to.
PROS: Free – A creative way to be exposed to new music that you're likely to enjoy
CONS: You must click on a link to iTunes or Amazon to listen to a song sample
RECOMMENDATION: I did not find the matches especially relevant to my interests, but it's an intriguing concept that may improve with time.
By Jon O'Bergh
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