The Online Radio Battle: Pandora vs. Blip.fm...
Don't look now, but the world of online music has been transformed before our very eyes.
Not too long ago, the recording industry was stomping their feet insisting that it was illegal to play or download ANY music online. This now seems absurd and archaic, but people forget that that was the RIAA's official position during the 1990s and into the first few years of this decade. iTunes then changed their assumption that all digital downloads were bad. But what about the idea of online radio and streaming audio files from which there's no direct revenue? Well, that assumption has finally been thrown out the window too.
For almost three years now, I've been an avid listener of Pandora, a website that lets users create their own online radio station. You rate which songs you like and dislike, and Pandora adjusts which songs it plays for you accordingly, learning as it goes. Eventually, you build yourself a station that not only plays the music you enjoy, but also turns you on to new artists as well.
What makes Pandora great is that you can customize your own station and listen to streaming music anyplace that has an internet connection. The downside is that it's not easy to share your station with the rest of the world (selected friends you invite have to confirm by email), and also that no matter how well you train Pandora to know your tastes, the song selection is still ultimately random.
Thus, a few nights ago, due to a short bout with insomnia, I spent hours checking out another online radio website called Blip.fm. Blip is a wonderful alternative to Pandora because it's not just a clone, but is fundamentally different. Blip lets users build their own radio station by choosing exactly which songs to play. In other words, whereas Pandora suggests songs that you vote up or down, Blip.fm has a search field where you type in the exact name of the song you want to play. It's truly streaming music on-demand.
Blip.fm also takes advantage of the Social Web, making it easy to share your station with the entire internet - no special invites needed. You can "favorite" the DJs who you like best, build your own following, and, through a voting-style system of exchanging "props" with other listeners, you can measure which DJs are the most popular. Essentially, all of these features allow you to build a social-network of like-minded music enthusiasts.
Give a listen to my new Blip.fm station at http://blip.fm/Rdomanski. I'll add new songs everyday to keep it fresh. If you like it, give me some "props" and "favorite" me too!
The recording industry still isn't thrilled with these types of online radio stations, but they're slowly coming around. As sites like Pandora and Blip.fm gain viability, it's quite amazing to step back once in a while and see just how far the music landscape has fundamentally shifted in only a few years.