Researching and finding music online

As of December 2009, imeem has been acquired by MySpace. The playlist and old interface doesn’t exist at the moment. “MySpace is working to migrate your imeem playlist to MySpace Music. We’ll email you about that once we have more details.” Check out new alternatives on my new blog post

Ever get frustrated when trying to find music online? Sometimes a Google search doesn’t quite give you what you need. I’ve discovered several reliable music sites over the years, so hopefully this comes in handy for fellow behind-the-music enthusiasts.*

Sharing music has been one of the most innovative branches of web technology, so it’s a daunting task to try and boil it all down. There are always new music “web apps” appearing, but I try not to invest too much time in them unless they truly offer something unique. Also, like most of the things I review, I try to show you the free options since they’re usually just as good as pay sites. Here’s an imeem playlist of some songs I’ve discovered recently on the sites listed below (log in to imeem for free to hear full length tracks):

My “Rare” playlist

  1. Google Video for quick reminder

    PROs: Free. Huge collection of music videos (searches many other websites, including Yahoo! Video). Owns YouTube where you can also make playlists of videos.

    CONs: Can’t download. Limited or inaccurate info about the song.

    Metallica – Unforgiven III

  2. Last.fm is a good central hub and music tracker

    PROs: Lists most-listened-to songs of artists (ex: http://last.fm/music/Autovaughn). Tracks what you listen to with the Scrobbler; even connects to many websites like hypem and Pandora.FM (both mentioned below). Downloadable player favors music you “Love” by tag or artist (great for discovering new artists, as well). Approx. one free download per artist. Community groups, friends, discussion. List music events. Lots of statistics. My profile: http://last.fm/user/RockOfVictory

    CONs: Can’t make playlists. No pause button. Used to be easier to stream songs on the artist page.

    Last.fm example widget:

  3. Rate Your Music for accurate discographies

    PROs: Easy way to find the best albums by an artist. Track and rate releases that you own, or add to wishlist. Rivals MusicBrainz for accurate metadata. Event listings, discussion, and album lists. My profile: http://rateyourmusic.com/~Zepfanman

    CONs: Unattrractive interface. Very few listings stream music. Smallest user base of all sites mentioned in this blog post.

    RYM example widget:

  4. imeem when you can’t find it elsewhere

    PROs: Often has music and videos that the other sites do not have. Very easy to make “QuickMix” playlists (I embedded one of my playlists at the top of this blog post) and download from iTunes or Amazon. My profile: http://imeem.com/zepfanman

    CONs: Must have account to play most of their content (but it’s free and easy to sign up). Playlists interrupted with short ads every 6 or 7 songs.

  5. Blog aggregators to discover new music

    This is an assortment of sites that vary in genre, presentation, and functionality. A couple of my favs are The Hype Machine (http://hypem.com/rockofvictory) and
    Aurgasm. Music blogs usually present rare tracks, but generally include free direct download and streaming of MP3s. These sites usually lack the Web 2.0 social networking tools, but that’s not their intent anyway.

  6. Honorable mention

    It’s always good to see what the big players have to offer music-wise, as well: Wikipedia, iTunes, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, and particularly MySpace for artist-chosen streaming music. Pandora is very similar to Last.fm radio.

    I was recently introducted to thesixtyone, which is good for discovering new bands by genre. NPR Music keeps their broadcasted music programs on the air for at least a few weeks on their website. I am on Amie Street‘s email list; you can usually download new albums at a fraction of the iTunes cost, although their selection is limited (occasional free MP3s, too, like Last.fm). MP3Sale.ru also has very inexpensive MP3s.

    If you’re willing to figure out the technology, BitTorrent is a great way to download content when you don’t feel like ripping your CDs on your computer. I’ve found Torrent Finder to be the handiest BitTorrent search aggregator.

    Finally, for Firefox & IE users, there is a great FoxyTunes add-on which controls your favorite music player from your browser status bar. There are too many features to list them all here, but the web-embedded MP3 player and FoxyTunes Planet database alone are worth installing the add-on. FT was born in 2004, but Yahoo! acquired it in 2008.

My apologies if any of these sites aren’t available outside of the United States. Some sites have limited access in foreign countries. See also Wikipedia’s Comparison of online music stores and Category:Online music and lyrics databases

I’m sure you’ve got your own tricks for finding music online. What do you recommend? What sites have unique features that I haven’t listed here?

* Remember the fabulous show, Behind the Music? According to Wikipedia, VH1 is trying to keep it alive.