Comparing Music Suggestion Applications: Pandora, Musicovery, iLike, Jango, and StumbleAudio

August 8th, 2008

This week we talked about music applications, specifically web 2.0 applications that help us find and discover new artists. All of the applications mentioned refer to themselves as “radios,” one way sources of music – but that’s analog radio. Radio web 2.0 is interactive, suggestive, and able to cross music genres at the click of a mouse. We judged the “radios” by how they suggested music, how easy they were to use, and how much we discovered about new artists.

All the applications streamed music and made suggestions for their interpretation of your musical tastes, and all of them had quick links for purchase. Each had some amount of artist information, and each of them allowed you to vote for or against the track. The chart below spells out some of the differences, and we’ll talk about the applications in greater detail following the chart.

Pandora iLike Musicovery Jango StumbleAudio
Play other songs on the album no yes no no yes
Make playlists no no yes no yes
Visitors can leave feedback for songs yes yes no no no
Artist or song information available yes yes yes yes no
Searchable directory yes yes no yes yes
Email invitations no yes no yes no
Social network no yes yes yes no
Plays the full song yes yes* yes no yes
Add comments for songs no yes no yes no
Accuracy (genre selection is of that genre) yes yes yes yes no
Widgets, or plugins no yes no yes no
Suggestion algorithym music based human music based human human
Song and artist search yes yes no yes yes
Starting price free free free free free

*with a Rhapsody account

We opened with one of the better known sources, Pandora. Pandora began with the Music Genome Project, an extensive effort to assign hundreds of elements to a song, making a database of music searchable by beat, melody, artist, and so on for a few hundred attributes. The result for Pandora was a strong database with an impressive list of artists, but that in of itself is not enough. Fortunately, Pandora supplies the other side of the equation too, an impressive interface with tools to make the most of their substantial database. From the sign in Pandora shows its greatest strength, playing music that flows easily together regardless of genre. Music is grouped into “stations,” another term from the analog radio days, with each station acting as a launch point for music discovery. Suppose we were to do a search for “Beggin,” the Frankie Valli song that was covered recently by Madcon. Both versions would come up, and as you’ll see in the below screenshot, a number of attributes are already attached to the song. When we create a station from that song, music selected with those attributes will play, one after another, making a station catered to your tastes. When you return to Pandora, the station is still there, ready to resume.
Pandora Screenshot

Among the unique features of Pandora are the ability to mix stations (they call this QuickMix), move songs from one station to another, and a music industry video series. The downside to Pandora is that it is very much a music suggestion engine – its purpose is to expose you to new music and not let you develop playlists for replay. In fact, a direct search for your song places that song as a station but does not play it, instead gives you a trail of music based on the song.

Musicovery starts from a different place entirely – your mood. At the top of Musicovery is a chart for you to select the mood of the music you would like, then a chart of major genres. Once you’ve selected the mood and genre, a map of music will appear. Click on the song you like and the play options open. So far this has not been unexpected, but as one follows the connections between the song bubbles, you see that the map shifts, optimizing the songs in view for whatever you select. It’s a great way to see several genres at once (each genre is marked by a color), all linked by musical elements. Once you’ve registered you can bookmark and ban songs from your map, though for direct access to your favorite songs, Musicovery requires a $4 premium membership.

Musicovery Screenshot

Musicovery is an entertaining tool for music discovery, and the engine does deliver a mix according to your search, but it is a significant downfall that there are no ways to directly influence the music. There is no place to enter titles or names so if you are looking for someone like 50 Cent, you have to browse by genre, hoping to run across it. It is this lack of control which makes Musicovery useful only if you are browsing.

If Musicovery gives recommendations based on genre, iLike bases its suggestions on people, relying on a network of your friends or other networks of people to fuel the music selection. From the beginning you are encouraged to find at least one network (since it improves the search results), which is the downside to the application. The radio will play on its own, but unlike Pandora or Musicovery, without active participation the potential of music discovery is limited.iLike Screenshot

It should be pointed out that iLike does not expect friends to join en masse without some help. iLike provides a number of tools to develop your network, including internal messaging, email invites, and import options for contacts. Another significant feature of iLike is a downloadable plugin for Windows Media Player and iTunes, which offers the user the ability to use their home library as a basis for music suggestion.

Another music suggestion site that relies on the social network is Jango, whose special feature is that they offer song lyrics and easy access to other users’ stations. It offers much of what iLike does, but there is no downloadable plugin. It does have an embeddable widget into MySpace, which may go a long way to describe both the look and database of Jango. Most genres are represented in Jango, but at the time we searched, there was more activity for contemporary artists. To Jango at least, less popular artists such as Slim Whitman, and songs like the “Charleston” are completely beyond appeal.

Jango Screenshot

Appealing, at least on the surface, is StumbleAudio, which has a visually engaging interface, well planned infrastructure, and a database that could make a music lover cringe. At the time of this review the indie music site was confusing genres, slipping Gospel into Rock and Christmas music into World. In StumbleAudio’s defense they are attempting to show independent and most likely unknown artists so they may require the assistance of the users to determine value, yet there were no links to correct the classification.

StumbleAudio

All the applications are free, though Musicovery has a monthly $4 premium membership that sets the lo-fi to an ad-free hi-fi. iLike only plays partial songs (most of it unless it is featured), but does offer full songs to users who have a paid subscription through Rhapsody. For sheer playability and information, Pandora is the strongest of applications mentioned. Some users have found it so playable that they actually use it as a radio, a commercial free player that plays well matched songs to your preferences. With an impressive database, artist pages, bios, and highly searchable it is easy to overlook that you can not listen to a searched track. It does exactly what you would want to do – help you discover music. Musicovery would be a second, with its mapped song clouds perfect for the user browsing through genres. Because of the investment in time and the smaller databases, Jango and iLike are runners up – too cumbersome for casual use, but excellent choices for the user who is looking to add more music to their social networking.

For more information on Pandora, Musicovery, Jango, iLike, and StumbleAudio, and to find these applications and others like them there is the Listio search discover+music.

Previously in this series: StumbleAudio: Engine For Music Discovery

Application: Pandora
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Pandora/
Website: http://www.pandora.com
Use Pandora's Internet Radio application to discover new music on the web. Create your own radio "stations" with Pandora and share them with others. Search for your favorite artists and songs with Pandora and find out more information on these artists and songs. With Pandora, search results yielded... Learn more
Application: Musicovery
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Musicovery/
Website: http://www.musicovery.com
Imagine a web radio that helped you find music by mood and genre, and you've got Musicovery. One click buttons for quick purchase, controls on tempo, mood, and genre. Put in your preferences into the side panel and watch a network of music stretch out across the screen, customized for you. Registra... Learn more
Application: Jango
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/Jango/
Website: http://www.jango.com
Listen to music while meeting others that share your interests in music with Jango. Jango is all about making online music fun, social and simple. Custom radio service that learns from your taste and connects you to others who like what you like. Just type in what you want to hear - and Jango we'll... Learn more
Application: iLike
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/iLike/
Website: http://www.ilike.com
Discover new music with iLike. Meet other people who share the same interests as you as far as music with iLike. Rate and recommend music on iLike and help other users decide what is good and what is not good as far as music. Share your music library with others, and browse through their libraries a... Learn more
Application: StumbleAudio
Listio Profile: http://www.listio.com/web20/app/StumbleAudio/
Website: http://www.stumbleaudio.com
StumbleAudio is a social music discovery site to help you find new and exciting music. Indie, rock, pop, and off the beaten path artists are there for discovering. Over 2,000,000 tracks by over 120,000 artists already!

Recommendation engine helps you vote and keep the best on top with this free... Learn more

New to Listio? Our tag cloud search offers an easy way to narrow your hunt for the perfect web application or service. No more second guessing of search terms. Just click on one tag, then as many more as you'd like to narrow your search results. It's easy and ensures you get to the listing you want. Finding web 2.0 was never so easy.

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One Response to “Comparing Music Suggestion Applications: Pandora, Musicovery, iLike, Jango, and StumbleAudio”

  1. Thomas Says:

    Their are some great community projects available that enhance these applications. I happen to like a program called Jango desktop by Samuel Haddad http://samuelhaddad.com/software-projects/jango-desktop/ it brings http://www.jango.com to my desktop with some added features. I love it! I know others exist for some of these other sites, but Jango is my favorite by far!

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