Streaming music apps and discovery services are a dime a dozen, but even the best ones have a hard time competing with the names everyone already knows. Even so, getting out of your comfort zone a little bit and trying a new service will only reward you with lots of great new music. Here are a few services we love that we think you'll love too.
Picture: Jonathan Kriz/Flickr
Why Shouldn't I Just Use [Insert Service I Already Use]?
Pandora, Spotify, <a Rdio, Grooveshark and all the rest are great. We're not trying to convince you otherwise. However, trying something new doesn't cost you anything and doesn't have to replace the app you already love. Seriously, the streaming music app you use doesn't have to define you, and it shouldn't turn into some kind of music lover's version of the OS wars. Trying more than one will only reward you with new and interesting music you may not have heard.
Case in point, I love Pandora and happily pay for Pandora One. I keep a pretty big Grooveshark library too. I have the mobile apps for both and stream Pandora in my car when I want to listen to music almost exclusively. That hasn't stopped me from falling in love with some of the services we're about to discuss.
This Is My Jam
We've mentioned This Is My Jam before in glowing terms, and it's still a great service. Here's how it works: Pick a song you love (or love right now) and make it your "jam". Other users will find it, listen to it and "like" it. You can do the same — TIMJ makes it easy to explore jams by other users and will suggest users to you who have similar jams to yours. It will even lead you to other songs by similar artists to the ones you've already shared. Your tracks expire after seven days (but you can renew them if it's still your jam), or you can change them whenever you like. Best of all, since people are adding new tracks all the time, there's always something new to listen to.
From there, you can follow people who post music you enjoy, play all the jams from people you follow in one playlist, export all of your jams (or all of the jams from people you're following) as a Spotify playlist, or just use the This Is My Jam Spotify app to explore even more music. TIMJ is great if you're wary of trying a new service or would prefer to just explore a few new tracks from some interesting people every now and again. It's totally free, and there are some great people sharing great music there.
At the start of every week, I get an email in my inbox with a brand new playlist full of music. I've likely never heard any of it before, but know I'll love all of it. That's Noon Pacific, and I can't say enough good things about it. It's probably the best, least-effort music discovery service ever, mostly because you sign up and wait for the music to come to you every week.
We've discussed Noon Pacific before, but there's something great about knowing at the same time every week you're going to get a good hour of great new music hand picked, curated and delivered right to you. The playlists are hosted at 8Tracks, and if you want to try some of the mixes before you sign up for the weekly newsletter, they're all posted on their site — which helps if you had a favourite mix from a few weeks ago and want to hear it again and again. (022, anyone?)
Whyd is another service we love because it fills two roles: it helps you organise all of the music you stumble on from around the web and keep it organised, and then it lets you build playlists and listen to that music anytime you want. It helps that Whyd is a social service, and there are plenty of other people there to listen to who have music just as good as the music you've added yourself.
If you wanted to use Whyd as just a way to organise YouTube videos, Vimeo videos and SoundCloud tracks, that would be enough, but once you start exploring the music others are adding, it's a whole new world. Whyd is invite only, but this Lifehacker link, courtesy of the team behind Whyd, will get you behind the curtain. If you like what you see but want an alternative, SongDrop is a similar service we've mentioned.
The venerable Ex.fm may not totally be under the radar, but it's surprising how many people aren't familiar with it. Ex.fm is a web app that's packed with music in all genres and styles. The service also hooks into a number of music blogs, music stores and streaming services to offer heaps of free, streaming tunes to any web browser, completely free.
If you're not into searching for what you want to hear before you hear it, you can always follow other users and music blogs that post to Ex.fm regularly, look for your Twitter, Facebook or Tumblr friends who already use the service and follow them, or just fire off a pre-made playlist of trending or new music in a genre you love. You'll hear a lot of new tunes, and when you do, you can add them to your profile so you can come back and hear them anytime you want. If you love exploring music blogs, just click the "Sites" tab on the left to see all of the participating ones, the music they're sharing and to follow them directly.
We've seen some good music discovery services and some really bad ones in the past. The worst services force you to listen to songs just because someone else has added them without actually making sure you'd like the music before connecting you with that other person. I can think of a half-dozen that promised "music based on what your friends like" that completely ignore the fact that I may not always enjoy my friends' tastes in music. Sign up and you're treated to a bunch of songs you can't wait to skip through. On the other hand, the best services connect you with people based on common tastes first and relationship second.
They make sure you and the other person would enjoy hearing the music that you both have listed, and then they start the tunes. The beauty of the great ones is that they can play the music you already like while simultaneously guiding you to new songs and new artists that you'd enjoy, all without playing the same tracks over and over, or depending on other people to pick great music before you can hear it. Like we said, give something new a try: the worst thing that could happen is that you discover something new you'll fall in love with.