Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New (to me) music apps - part two

Following on from last year's posts on next generation music discovery and new (to me) music apps below is a round-up of some other web-enabled music services which have caught my attention in recent months, which broadly divide into six categories: Playback & Promotion, Playlists & Personalised Radio, Plug-ins, Portability, Performance and Search (damn, I was going for all Ps there...)

Playback & Promotion

radio.blog.club
http://www.radioblogclub.com



radio.blog.club aims to make it easy for Joe/Josephine Public to add commercial music to his/her site/blog/MySpace page either via an embeddable Flash player (which can stream individual tracks - see below example) or by linking to a playlist (known as a juke.blog). It works by playing out mp3 files (cunningly renamed .rbs to flummox the would-be pirates) made available by other users, which inevitably results in a fairly haphazard catalogue with some very messy metadata. On the plus side, no registration is required to embed single tracks and the playback experience is pretty smooth (check out the crossfade!) It's owned by French company Mubility which explains not only why it hasn't been taken down for breach of copyright yet but also why you are invited to update "your informations". The radio.blog.club backend has been given an iPod front-end at blogmusik.net.



Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: Sonific, SeeqPod

iJigg
http://www.ijigg.com



iJigg allows users to upload their own MP3s (music or spoken word) which subsequently appear on the site in an Odeo-style embeddable player. They are then rated (jigged) by the community (à la digg) with the idea that the best bubble up to the Most Popular page. Launched on the 15th January it's still early days for the site which, whilst refreshingly easy to use, is struggling to find content which isn't either copyright or crap. Still, it's a potential boon to unsigned artists looking for a straightforward way to upload and promote their music and it gets bonus marks for not requiring a desktop download.

Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: CC Hits, Project Opus, Jamendo

Streampad
http://www.streampad.com



Streampad is an awesome browser-based music player which combines remote access to your entire digital music library (via a downloadable Java app) with some great tools to find music on the web, including an archive of live concert performances and a web search which provides one-click access to MP3s scraped from blogs. It also offers integration with MP3tunes.com (who host online 'lockers' to store your music remotely) and last.fm (so your listening stats are safely scrobbled). Factor in 'Now Playing' info which not only pulls in album reviews, Flickr photos and related blog posts but also shows you who else is listening to the same track and you've got one kick-ass music player.

Rating: 5 stars

Alternatives: Songbird

Playlists & Personalised Radio

finetune
http://www.finetune.com



finetune's core offering is a playlist creator and artist-themed radio stations. Unfortunately, a really rather slick interface (including an embedded player with CoverFlow-style visuals) is let down by the limitations imposed by finetune's rights agreements - namely that each playlist has to comprise exactly 45 songs with no more than 3 tracks from any one artist. Whilst there's an option to auto-complete your playlist using recommendations provided by finetune (the audaciously titled "I'm lazy!" button), the suggestions seem very linear (mostly other tracks from the same artists) and it doesn't offset the sense of frustration at having to create a playlist of a set number of tracks. It just all feels a bit laborious for those used to last.fm logging their listening and creating lists automatically. The artist-themed radio station element also suffer in comparison to a major competitor; Pandora enables you to give the thumbs up or thumbs down to specific tracks to educate it about your tastes which feels like a significant omission from finetune. It's a shame because it's a nice site nobbled more by rights than technology or design. Close, but no cigar.

Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: FIQL, SonicSwap

Plug-ins

Twones
http://www.twones.com



Twones is an iTunes plug-in (Mac or PC) which uploads your Top 100 Most Played tracks and then matches your musical proclivities with other users in the Twones database. Whilst it feels a little basic in comparison with the likes of MyStrands, iLike and last.fm it has the advantage of giving you useful recommendations from the off (the others take a while to build a useful knowledge of your listening habits). Incidentally, Twones was developed in the Netherlands so don't be alarmed if you get the error message 'Gebruikersnaam en/of Wachtwoord is onjuist' - a quick Dutch to English translation on Babel Fish revealed I'd simply entered an incorrect username or password...

Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: uPlayMe, Muiso, Musicmobs

Portability

phling!
http://www.phling.com



phling! aims to give users access to their digital music collection (and that of their friends) on their mobile phones. There's a decent selection of supported handsets, including my now rather aged K750i, although the desktop client is only available for PC and only supports Windows Media Player friendly file formats (so no access to tracks purchased from the iTunes Music Store). The mobile phone client is a 289Kb Java app which downloaded in a jiffy and worked straight off the bat. The interface is nicely implemented with navigation through your music collection proving fast and intuitive. The sound quality is excellent with surprisingly little buffering and the ability to rate tracks is a nice feature. phling! also enables you to access photos stored on your computer and (handset permitting) save photos taken on your mobile direct to your home PC. My only reservation is data charges which I'm guessing could easily rack up if you used phling! as your main portable music player.

Rating: 5 stars

Alternatives: Mercora M, Orb, Avvenu

partyStrands
http://www.partystrands.com



partyStrands is an intriguing offshoot of MyStrands (ne. MusicStrands) which aims to get partygoers using their mobiles to influence the music at participating bars /clubs. The idea is that the partyStrands interface is displayed on the venue's TVs and punters can vote on what music they want to hear and send pictures and text messages to the screens. The messages and details of the tracks played are then aggregated and uploaded to the partyStrands site so you can log on the following morning and relive the night. It's only rolled out in France, Spain and the States at the moment and there are just three events listed on the Upcoming Parties page. Definitely one to watch though.

Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: Er, can't think of any.

Performance

eJamming
http://www.ejamming.com



eJamming is another service aiming to facilitate live music, this time by enabling musicians with MIDI-enabled instruments to jam online in real-time. I haven't had the opportunity to try it out yet but the demo video looks pretty damn impressive.

Rating: 4 stars

Alternatives: NINJAM

SingShot
http://www.singshot.com



SingShot gives karaoke the Web 2.0 treatment, enabling the great unwashed to upload their warblings to be tagged, shared, rated and commented on. It's strangely compelling in a car-crash kind of a way and seems likely to succeed in these X Factor times of ours.

Rating: 4 stars

Alternatives: kSolo, Internet Karaoke, bix, MyVideoKaraoke

Search

midomi
http://www.midomi.com



midomi's USP is enabling users to search for music using their voice (singing, humming or whistling) so the service pretty much stands or falls on how successfully it does that. Fortunately for parent company, Melodis, the answer is really quite well, especially when you consider that the service has only been up and running for a couple of weeks and its database of user-submitted tunes can't yet be that large. I sang it a quick ABC of karaoke staples and it successfully identified Angels, American Pie, Bohemian Rhapsody and Crazy (both the Patsy Cline classic and the Gnarls Barkley chart-topper). Assuming midomi's proprietary Multimodal Adaptive Recognition System (MARS) scales successfully, it's an interesting (and free) alternative to Shazam.

Rating: 4 stars

Alternatives: Nayio, SongTapper, Musipedia

TuneFind
http://www.tunefind.com



TuneFind is all about exorcising the earworm and finding the name of the track from that TV show/movie you saw last week. The homepage features recent additions, hot songs and all-time popular artists (Snow Patrol are currently the most soundtrack-friendly band, with a whopping 38 entries). Song listings are submitted by users and then verified by the rest of the TuneFind community who can flag submissions as correct or incorrect. It's not exactly cutting edge but it's a useful resource and may stem the flow of 'what was that song...?' submissions to Yahoo! Answers.

Rating: 3 stars

Alternatives: Commercial Breaks and Beats, Sounds Familiar, TV Ad music.co.uk

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,

Thanks for reviewing iJigg. Indeed, what you see is not even half of our original feature list.

Getting the awesome feedback we've recieved since launch only three weeks ago, we're working our butts off working towards releasing the next kickass version of iJigg by end of Feb.

Cheers,

Zaid

Anonymous said...

Have you seen boomp3.com? It's a place where everybody can upload and share his own music, or record voice directly from microphone and share that.

Kelly Cat said...

Just dropped by to say 2000 Bloggers is back up under new management... your photo and link are in the 4th row from the bottom for now, and I'm the shadow below you and to the right. Enjoyed reading and learning more about new web music/video apps on your blog.

Marc said...

Look for sonific.com. They provide free music widgets, called SongSpots, to over 50 sites; blogs, social networks etc. Its a nice way to send musical greetings, pimping up your profile or just show, that you love music

For more check www.sonific.com

See ya
Marc

Wisdomizer said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the great review of Oxy Systems' phling! mobile music and social networking service (www.phling.com). If you're planning on attending CTIA Wireless in Orlando at the end of the month and are interested in meeting up with Oxy's execs, drop me a line: pgorman@topazpartners.com.

Best,
Peter

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preor said...

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Jane said...

This is a great post, you should do an update! Singstar's site has recently updated and there's loads of cool online karaoke sites out there now such as Lucky Voice.