Early 90’s Hip Hop and a review of online radio

Well, I recently discovered finetune – a pretty awesome playlist maker with an embedded player (thanks Robb!). It just works – the catch is your playlist has to be 45 songs and at least 15 artists, which through me for a loop. I started this list with a pretty specific set of songs – got to 15 songs and 15 artists and thought I was done. Surprise for me! But in the end, except for a few, I’m pretty ok with this. Almost everything in this list is from 91-93, maybe a few in surrounding years – sorry! Playing with this renewed my interest in online radio after being disillusioned by Pandora.. more on this below the player.

Anyhow, I don’t know about yours, but my 9 is most definitely easy to load.


I’ve spent a little time with FineTune as well as Pandora, less time with Last.fm. Pandora is much more web1.0 than the other two (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I really liked the web before it had a version number) in that it is completely one sided, other than seeding it with what you like, it simply decides based on it’s own internal data what else you might like to listen to. In theory I love the music genome project, I love that a bunch of music academics sat down and categorized all this music according to whatever axes they used. In practice, I haven’t found it to be overly successful – when it worked, the selections were pretty obvious but a lot of times, I just found that it didn’t really work giving me more songs by the artists I seeded it with or else music that I didn’t really like. I tried putting in music that I really liked that wasn’t related, too, thinking that perhaps Pandora’s magic genome would distill down some commonality between the two types of music and give me some really interesting choices, no, it just created a multipersonalitied list that was like putting together a few completely different playlists. Nothing interesting, I stopped using Pandora awhile ago.

On the other hand, I really liked FineTune, it is unique in it’s ability to let you pick songs to add to your playlist. The 15 artists/45 songs may be problematic for very specific lists like I was building, but for most people I don’t think it will pose a problem. The embeddable client is really cool – letting you proudly slap your list onto your blog or forum, or what have you. It’s web2.0′ness stems from it’s use of all the data it’s users provide it building playlists and tagging elements all over the place. It draws connections from all this data and uses that to build “artist radio” where if you click on the play button under any artist it starts playing that artist as well as songs it finds that are related. The things it finds to be related are not startling – but it is consistently good, it’s about as good as when Pandora is successful except it is much more consistent. And it’s pervasive use of tagging is pretty interesting, they give you various other ideas to use tagging for in their blog. All in all, I really like FineTune. My only gripe is that the player gives you a tantalizing peek at the upcoming song with it’s narrow view of the next cover, but there’s no way to find out what the next song actually is until you get there. I wouldn’t let that stop you, though, give it a shot if you are interested.

I’ve spent the least time with Last.fm. It is similar to FineTune in it’s love of it’s users and all the data they provide. It doesn’t let you create your own playlists it’s schtick is that it ties into your music listening habits letting you upload the number of times (they call it scrobbling) you’ve listened to various songs on your computer and ipod up to Last.fm. This is pretty interesting and it appeals to me on a certain level because it’s so easy and presents Last.fm with a lot of information it can use to find me more music. One problem I see with this is that if I love Last.fm why would I be listening to my music on my computer? This limits the amount of info I can provide to Last.fm – and I guess I’m unique in my not listening to my iPod that much. Overall, I think for most people Last.fm is a great site for music – but for me and the way I like to listen to music, I prefer FineTune.

Overall, I recommend FineTune. I love it, I think the ability to make your own playlists is amazing and brings me back to those days before the intertubes and before itunes and before shuffle when people would spend a really long time crafting the perfect mix tape. I think that it brings this back and I think the data that FineTune has as a result of this caring is better than Last.fm’s which makes up for a more hap hazard data set by having a ton of it. Last.fm, though, does a great job of taking your preferences and building music around it. For many people, Last.fm will probably be the way to go. Pandora, in my opinion, comes in dead last with a playlist that at best is ok and more often than not gives some really bad suggestions.

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