If you’re goddamn sick and tired of Coldplay popping up on your Pandora station every few songs (No really, why? Why does that happen?) I have excellent news for you. Web music is easing into a sweet spot right now. At least here in the hapless U.S., we’ve been contending with an old model of music, one dictated by a small collection of record label overlords who insist that CDs remain relevant while keeping music rights in a chokehold — because sharing is obviously evil and the only way we can discover new musicians is by buying CDs at random based on their cover art in the aisles of Best Buy, right?
If you live outside the U.S., you may have been using Spotify for months, in which case gloat on, you gloaty diamonds. If you were stateside last month, Spotify took the the Niña, Pinta and the Santa María, over the fucking Atlantic ocean and right to your ears. After negotiating deals with the four major music industry demons, you can now stream basically whatever your tiny, ever-earnest heart could desire.
Spotify is a music streaming service, not unlike Rdio, but not like it either. Rdio is okay if you’re into compromise, but Spotify combines the super-clean, navigable interface of iTunes with an epic catalogue of music that probably meets 95.5% of your sonic needs. Spotify is on-demand, which means you don’t have to endure songs that you’d be uncool if we knew you listened to while you’re waiting for Your Next Jam.
It’s basically a pre-stocked iTunes that takes up essentially no hard drive space and you can tie it into your Facebooks and your Twitters and whatever you budding social media flowers are doing these days (but not Google+, yet. By the way, can we all go back on there? Remember how it’s cool?)
So, like, how much does it cost? Happily, Spotify has a free plan that’s on a waitlist right now unless you can swing an invite from your Europals or savvy state-side friends. If you want to jump the queue, you can invest in a monthly paid plan for $4.99 or $9.99. If you can swing it, the most expensive plan is totally worth it. You get the mobile app too, and it can cache your playlists offline so you can actually listen to stuff even when you aren’t mooching off of your neighbor’s menacingly-named wi-fi network.
Turntable.fm is a totally different animal, but it’s a really cool one and you’re gonna like it. Hell or highwater, you are. Don’t make me come over there.
It’s a really fun way to casually interact with friends (or lovers, penpals, strangers, weirdos, enemies, frenemies who when you’re down ain’t your friend) without needing to actually trade words back and forth, because lets be honest, sometimes sentences are hard. It’s also a great suggestion engine, since you can skip around, hear something you like, and whisk it to your social network of choice to remember it, or to Spotify, Rdio, iTunes, or Last.fm.
So once you request an invite and get all signed up, you’ll be gifted with a little avatar (lord only knows I have strong feelings about avatars). Then you can start DJing your tunes and be up-voted by your supernice friends and change your li’l DJ’s outfit and accessories, which essentially makes it like World of Warcraft, but without the elves and with more dubstep.
You take turns curating your miniature DJ world, like you’re at a big house party where everyone is switching the iPod connected to the speakers, except it’s much less domineering and there’s no ironically light beer spilled on your second-to-favorite pair of jeans. (I don’t know, maybe I’m old fashioned, but I like taking turns.) You can queue up your songs and overthink your personal music selections all you want, and then watch your little avatars bop along to your mad beatz together.
It’s like if Pandora was sentient, and populated by a small army of tiny digital cats and gorillas with discerning music tastes. Also, look, we can have an Autostraddle Turntable.fm room, isn’t that neat? Fucking pump those jams, please.
Spotify is more of an all-purpose sonic Swiss Army Knife. For me, it’s completely replaced the weird blend of Last.fm, Pandora, Rdio and iTunes that I had going. And if you’ve got a ton of jams downloaded (legally, right?) already, Spotify vaccums those right up and let’s you listen to them too.
Turntable.fm is more of a bonafide social network — it’s a great place to roleplay the cat-eared, alt-capitalized diGiTaL DJ coiled deep within your sonic soul — but using both services in tandem will be sweet, endless streaming music to your mixtape-making, earnest little heartparts.
[image credit: emilyonasunday]