By Tyler Hersko
Social media is evil. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr are the Four Horsemen of modern society, perpetuating superficial relationships while destroying any and all notions of privacy.
Despite not having any particular love for social media, it’s not hard to refute such outlandish claims. Obnoxious game invitations aside, the digital age has had an undeniably positive impact on the dissemination of all sorts of media, especially music.
Most everyone is familiar with online music distributors like iTunes and Amazon MP3. Streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora aren’t far behind in popularity. These services have become technological mainstays, acting as virtual gateways into the world of music for artists and consumers alike.
Though the aforementioned websites deserve much of the attention they’ve received, as is often the case for the swath of music scenes they represent, digging a little beneath the surface can yield even better results. There are a number of music websites with a social networking focus and features far surpassing their more well-known brethren.
For those looking for the most musically in-depth website on the internet, nothing can compare to Rateyourmusic.com. Unassuming namesake aside, Rate Your Music’s breadth of information is truly unprecedented. Essentially a massive, interactive database, Rate Your Music allows users to rate, review, discover and otherwise discuss music (and films) from every imaginable genre and level of popularity.
Whether you’re interested in knowing what the highest rated album is — it’s Radiohead’s “OK Computer,” by the way — or you want to unearth the worst traditional Arabic pop record of the 90s, doing so is a cinch, with the simple, yet infinitely customizable, interface.
If you have some free time, the opportunities for discovering new music are boundless. Thanks to a lack of commercial incentive and a community comparably smaller to those of iTunes or Amazon MP3, Rate Your Music’s ratings and reviews tend to be far more balanced and intelligently written. Taking a brief moment to browse through the ratings and custom charts of users with similar musical tastes is almost certain to yield pleasing results.
As is expected from any social networking site, Rate Your Music allows you to send messages, make friends, discover locals who also use the website, and, of course, boast about your musical collection.
It also collects all of your information. But unlike Facebook, it isn’t creepy or invasive. The website notes when artists you’ve liked are releasing new material, and it makes surprisingly accurate musical recommendations based off of your ratings.
The opportunities for discovering new tunes on Rate Your Music are about as unmatched as anyone could reasonably expect. But if you prefer websites that let you get a bit more hands-on with your music, Last.fm is in a league of its own.
While Last.fm is hardly an underground website, its overshadowing by Pandora is something of a mystery.
Pandora is a free radio station generator that adapts to its users’ preferences.
Last.fm is another free radio station generator that adapts to its users’ preferences. Oh, and there are, among several other notable features, less ads, and you can skip as many songs as you’d like.
Aside from being Pandora’s worthy competitor, Last.fm’s primary draw is its “scrobbling” feature, which is compatible with computers and phones alike. After downloading a small plugin, Last.fm will track all of the songs you listen to and add them to your profile.
The result is an extensive categorization of your most played songs and artists. While the novelty of this may be lost on some, Last.fm will document your preferences and suggest appropriate music and even make note of relevant concerts and festivals nearby. Since the website takes note of all sources of music you allow it to recognize, its potential for offering new and relevant music surpasses Pandora’s.
Like Rate Your Music, Last.fm includes a number of social features. The obligatory: friends, comments, “loving” certain tracks and a plethora of social media sharing options are all duly present. Other aspects of the website, such as groups for people with similar music tastes, miniature discussion boards for every conceivable artist and a wealth of statistics and charts concerning music, all have their own apparent appeals.
Discovering new music shouldn’t be a chore. iTunes and Pandora are here to stay, but they’re not the only services in town. If you’re looking to painstakingly rate each and every record in your collection, want a feature-packed and hassle-free radio service, or just want to connect with other musically-inclined individuals, websites such as Rate Your Music and Last.fm are among the best sources for musical exploration that anyone could ask for.
Tyler Hersko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.