Sound Advice For Music Downloads

By Branko Miletic

Napster may be dead and you may now be wedded to your iTunes account, but if you like your music unlimited, unpredictable, unusual and in some cases also free, there are plenty of legal music sites out on the super information highway. Here, you will be able to stream and share some of the best and most eclectic music on the planet – all without having to sign up to iTunes – and all within the strict legal confines of digital rights management and international copyright law. Here are some of the web’s better known ones:

SoundCloud- this one is my personal favourites. One thing that I like about SoundCloud is that you can record your own music or voice recording and interact directly with the artist. It offers robust, free accounts to amateur music makers, with more advanced users being able to upgrade to premium accounts for high-end features like upload statistics, controlled distribution and even custom branding of their band and/or albums.

Grooveshark- is very similar to SoundCloud. One of Grooveshark's best features is its iTunes-esque song recommendation system known as "Grooveshark Radio", which finds similar songs to those in your user's playlist and then it will queue them for playback. Grooveshark claims some 60 million songs uploaded from its site each month and also says it has 10 million registered users. Not bad considering its less than 5 years old. The only thing I don’t like is that it likes to think for you – a little too hard sometimes. However, it’s easier to add to your playlist with this program than most of the others I reviewed. Now here is a music catalogue that has been specifically designed to cater more to the pro and semi-pro music producer and/or artist.  As one of the older (2004) legal online music sharing catalogs, Beatport is focused to the digital and electronic music buff and as such won’t appeal to all and sundry out there, however it’s still worth a look. On point of differentiation between Beatportand the other sites is that it uses the WAV format – in other words, it uses uncompressed audio at 16 bits per sample thus maintaining original CD audio quality.

Bandcamp- – Bandcamp is not for everyone – sure it’s a great online music resource, except its geared specifically for music makers. According to the sites owners, Bandcamp is a “publishing platform for bands, or, anthropomorphically/arthropodically-speaking, your fifth, fully geeked-out Beatle – the one who keeps your own website humming and lets you get back to making great music and building your fan base”. Enough said. – This is perhaps my least favourite of all the music sharing sites. UK startup Mixcloud is a fantastic idea – it combines music, radio, FJ mixes and podcasts all one site, which you can upload or share via Twitter or Facebook or just plain old email. The concept is great, the site looks OK, but one thing that holds it back is its usability or rather, lack thereof. It seems that Mixcloud has become somewhat notorious for being hard to use and at times and is buggy – something that I found out when I tried to sign up to the Mixcloud service. Perhaps I suggest a little more work on the back end technical side of the web site and a little less marketing hot air would do Mixcloud a world of good.

Guvera – Launched in Australia last year, Guvera sees itself as the guerilla marketing tool of free music on the internet, thus the name (although a slightly different spelling variation from the revolutionary). It’s a simple concept – you sign up giving up a lot of information about yourself and you get to download free music. There is a slight catch in that each page visit to download the music is sponsored by an advertiser – it can be Dominos or Billabong or whoever. They pay for the download as you look at their ad. Not a bad concept.