Thinking outside Pandora’s box

Lesser-known music streaming sites offer more variety, user input


“The Internet presents an innovative outlet for musicians to showcase their music, and users have at their fingertips a vast variety of websites to listen to and discover music.”

Spotify’s meteoric rise to prominence after its release in 2008 parallels that of Pandora after its launch in 2004. Both marked new and innovative ways to stream music online. Pandora was the pioneer of its kind — a method of listening to specific genres of music without having to pay for the service or for a subscription to a radio show. However, it lacks the ability to listen to an entire album or a particular song — two services in turn offered by Spotify.

Although massively popularized, these two music streaming sites aren’t the only of their kind — nor are they without their faults.

Pandora’s initial popularity stemmed largely from listeners’ ability to discover new music and not have to buy songs outright before hearing them. Listeners can create a personalized radio experience based on a single song, artist or greater genre.

“I like it because I know the music on my iPod really well, so it’s nice to have something of the same genre that I haven’t necessarily heard before,” first-year College student Margaret Mester said. “It just changes things up a bit.”

Mester admits Pandora has some flaws, though.

“It plays a lot of the same music,” she said. “It’s like there’s a certain amount of songs that it just rotates, and it also has a lot of ads.”

Other sites, meanwhile, offer alternate means of music discovering — but without all the advertisements and with less repetition. 8tracks allows users to upload playlists tagged with words describing the playlist by artist, genre, mood or listening environment, like “gym” or “party.”

“There’s no commercial breaks, which is very nice, and their mixes are usually more true to character than Pandora,” first-year College student Francesca Trombetta said. “My problem with Pandora is I’ll go to the Mozart station, and it’ll skip around to different genres. 8tracks playlists are better for studying, and do not have commercials. … Also, I like that you can search multiple tags — it’s easier to be more specific.”

Fourth-year College student John Shelton expressed similar concerns with Pandora.

“Just because I like [one] song doesn’t mean I want to listen to a song that sounds the same,” Shelton said. “I want something new.”

While 8Tracks fills this niche well, other sites are better facilitate finding new music. Media Studies faculty member Nicholas Rubin, also a WTJU disc jockey, said he uses either music blogs or sites like Soundcloud and Bandcamp to discover new songs and artists.

Though both Soundcloud and Bandcamp offer streaming options, they focus more on buying and downloading music. Artists can upload their music to either of these sites, where users can both preview and download it. Differing from iTunes in their focus on indie genres and unsigned musicians, well-known radio hits are not typically available.

In addition to these sites, there are several other very specific and less popular sites available for music streaming. YouTube Disco allows visitors to type in an artist or a song and will make a playlist of YouTube videos based on your interest, similar to Pandora. FratMusic offers playlists catered toward college students, featuring categories from “Throwbacks” to “Day drinking.”

The Internet presents an innovative outlet for musicians to showcase their music, and users have at their fingertips a vast variety of websites to listen to and discover music. Picking a music-streaming site depends on your intentions, but regardless, Spotify and Pandora are far from the only options available.

Published March 19, 2014 in Arts and Entertainment, tableau

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