You’ve probably heard the term “social networking” thrown about in the media, probably with the words MySpace or Facebook in the same sentence. Social networking is all about meeting people with similar interests, geographical location or education. MySpace was the first major success, predominantly amongst teens and young adults. Facebook also has a heavy young adult demographic. There’s so much more to social networking than those two sites, particularly if music is your focus.
Although MySpace is a broad-based social networking site, it does have MySpace Music that allows musicians to host some of their music for free as well as offering music streaming for MySpace users. There are well over thirteen million pieces of music to listen to over a good range of genres.
The social side occurs through the blogging and commenting components of each user’s page as well as the option to add friends. Let’s say you love Sydney-based string outfit FourPlay. Once you’ve registered on MySpace, you can request FourPlay add you as a friend. When they accept, your profile graphic appears on their page and vice versa. You can then also post a comment on their page or comment on a blog post they’ve done. You can also add an artist’s music to your MySpace page so that it plays when people visit.
Over the pond. UK-based Last.fm has been around a few years now and has continually evolved. “Scrobbling” is the centrepiece of this music-dedicated community. To scrobble, you need to download the Last.fm application, which automatically detects when you are playing music via iTunes and uploads (scrobbles) the details to your Last.fm profile. This allows you to recommend music you like to others on Last.fm, plus all scrobbles feed into the playlists generated on the site.
The Last.fm application provides its own enjoyment through the biography and graphics for each artist — I found it all a bit compulsive reading about each artist. There’s also discussion forums and the ability to buy most songs via Amazon. Would be an obvious model for iTunes as it continues to evolve.
Like-minded types. Imeem has also been around a couple of years and offers very similar options to Last.fm and MySpace. Groups and playlists form the backbone of the service with the ability to blog about any artist or share photos and videos. Each song you listen to can be purchased via iTunes or Amazon. I was also impressed at the sharing options for each track — one click adds to other services like MySpace, Facebook and Blogger.
MOG is similar to Last.fm in that you download an application that uploads song information to a web site. The information gained is used by MOG to link you up with other uses that have similar music preferences. Again, there’s plenty of opportunity to comment on music and share new information. MOG also has a healthy amount of music news and music can be purchased via iTunes or Amazon.
New player. MeeMix is an Israel-based startup currently in its beta-phase (which you can sign up for). MeeMix is quite different to Last.fm in that your profile is the key driver of what music MeeMix feeds you. Every song on MeeMix’s servers has been broken down to a range of musicological features, which are them matched against the preferences you select as part of your profile. You then have a personalised radio station with music you’re very likely to enjoy. On the social networking side, you can provide song or album reviews, public postings on any issue and the ability to listen simultaneously to the same song as other playlist subscribers. If you want to hear a range of new music that matches your taste, then MeeMix is a worthwhile destination.
The number of music-based social networking sites continues to grow but they all rely on a critical mass of music and users to succeed. Deciding on the service that’s best for you will depend on the music you like and the features you want to use to interact with others. For me, Last.fm has the polish and features that suit how I listen to music. That said, if you want to hear a whole range of new music, MySpace Music is hard to go past.
All the services mentioned are free so have a play with them all and at the very least you’ll broaden your musical horizons.