On the train to work you’re plugged in to your iPhone. The livestreaming radio drops out as you head underground and you switch to your iPod. If you’re of a certain age, you might have downloaded a podcast, if you’re younger, most likely you never have. At work, they’re using Spotify to fill the office with sound, and at your desk, your own personal playlists follows you as you turn on Last.fm. You don’t take CDs to parties anymore, but modern vinyl artwork is hotter than ever and clamouring for attention.
Listening to music in the digital age is more chaotic and disjointed than ever. The options include the ones you know about Last.fm, Spotify, Soundcloud, illegal filesharing sites (bad) and iTunes. Myspace has been superseded by Official.fm, Soundcloud and Bandcamp, three industry sites that are favoured by boffins to dig out new sounds.
Newcomers on the block include Amazon’s cloud player, Google Music’s streaming service (currently in beta in the US only), Official.fm and soon, the bundled music package your broadband provider will add into your tariff. Got a headache yet? Fair enough if you do. With so much emerging technology in the online music space, it’s hard to know what you should be paying attention to and what you should be ignoring.
We’ve looked through the options and assuming you're well-versed in using iTunes, we've found five of the best ways to get your online music in order.
“We’ve been making sense of music chaos since 2002,” says Miles Lewis, Last.fm’s Senior Vice President. “We’re the social music check in, and our users tell us that it’s, scrobble, our proprietary technology that tracks your own personal chart and makes recommendations tailored to your taste which makes the difference.”
More than likely, you have a Last.fm account. Four million people in the UK do as do 36 million others worldwide. It houses 57 billion pieces of music, it pays rights holders (that includes artists) and it follow you from your PC to your iTunes, Xbox, Facebook, Tweetly.fm and Vevo platforms. It’s easy to access, and like so many online services, you can log in using Facebook connect. Plus, when you’re abroad or in another city, if you log in to your Last.fm account it will recommend a local gig according to your taste in music.
2) Spotify playlists
Spotify, another company that pays rights holders and therefore making you an ethical music listener in the process, helps organise your music into playlists. If you’re too busy to build your own, you can tap in to the wealth of playlists built by friends or even brands you like. To work out which playlist to listen to, head to My Playlist's Better Than Yours, or type in any genre you fancy.
YouTube, is the world’s biggest search engine for music, not just the biggest video sharing space. They also pay per play so your favourite artist can buy their kids some shoes.
YouTube gives you access to a whole world of music. Type in your favourite style of music, and there’s bound to be a playlist.
Music blogger Laurent Fintoni says “I tend to use YouTube a lot. Even though the quality is not always the best, its catalogue is incomparable.”
4) Orange and Deezer
Deezer and Orange have just joined forces to give the UK’s Orange customers access to 13 million tracks as part of their tariff. Again, that means the musicians are paid and the music travels with you wherever you go. You can log in to the Deezer site from your PC, so your account is accessible anywhere with no client software to worry about. Download your favourite playlists and they can travel with you underground, in the air and even into deepest darkest Cornwall. The downside is if you’re not one of Orange’s 28 million UK customers, you'll miss out.
If you're sick of everything you own, everything you download and all your scractched CDs, head to start-up Shuffler.fm. This site curates the playlists of bloggers who are potentially much cooler than even you or I. There's no buying music, it's simply a matter of surfing audio blogs for things you like or new sounds. As well as the usual genres, there are categories such as chillwave, dream pop and doom metal. Try not to discover something hip and new.