If, like me, you become easily bored with the music you own, there's now a plethora of apps and sites which allow you to stream pre-made playlists with varying functions and features.
Now, some may argue that there are too many options for discovering and streaming music these days, so I've delved into the app store and waded through the choices, picking out my very favourite *free* app: 8tracks.
(I highlight that this is the best free option, because if you're willing to pay, the restrictions become far less intrusive on every count.)
Now let's look at why I consider it the best.
8tracks is available in more formats than I even knew existed. Aside from the simple access in your browser at 8tracks.com it is available in app form on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows 8, Sonos, Mac Uploader, Wordpress, Radio for Mac, Windows Phone and more. This inclusivity is great - as it means that playlists you create or discover can be easily shared with friends on any device.
8tracks is not only visually appealing, but easy to use for even the novice app user. The use of the dark simple backgrounds and the subtle logo makes for a basic frame that is very easy on the eye. Aside from that, the icons and layout of the various screens are easily navigable. Any use of text or numbers is fairly minimal (apart from where user input takes over) and doesn’t overbear or detract from the point of the app; the music.
I like having the heart ♥ option to favorite a mix, and the play count showing how many people have listened to it. Generally, I’ve found that if a mix has a 10:1 play count: favourite ratio, it’s a damn good playlist.
This, for me, is one of the highlights of this particular app. It centres around ‘mixes’, not artists or albums, so there is more chance of discovering new music that fits your tastes. Of course, there are other apps designed solely for those searching for new music, such as discovr, but that's a whole different ball game.
The way in which the feed works on 8tracks means that whatever genre, mood, or combination of choices you searched for, it will continue to generate playlists with similar tags. (Thereby avoiding the situation when you have music on shuffle and Angus & Julia Stone is suddenly replaced with Enter Shikari, giving your eardrums an unexpected blast.)
As for creating your own playlist, it couldn’t be simpler. Choose from the library, soundcloud, or upload your own music, pick a cover and select the tags. The only drawback is that the creation function is only available in browser, not in-app.
The choice of music on 8tracks is pretty varied. Because it is largely user-generated, the more obscure stuff is exactly that, but it’s not something that I noticed until I decided to create a playlist of my own. I had a very specific list in my head, some of which I couldn’t find. As a listener though, the huge difference between 8tracks and a service like Spotify again boils down to the search process. If you want to listen to something very specific it’s sometimes difficult; if you allow yourself to be open to new music, the selection is good.
STORAGE AND USAGE:
For the most part you want any music app to sit happily in the background while you continue with your chores. Most people have multiple windows/apps running in the background, and multi-tasking has become the norm. For those who are ‘technical-natives’, listening to music needs to take a backseat to work, facebook, twitter and email (not necessarily in order of priority). 8tracks’ way of continuously playing through similar mixes means less faffing around trying to choose what to play next.
As for storage, it only takes up a tiny 61MB on an iPhone because it doesn’t store any of the music on your device.
As with any music streaming app, there need to be limitations to comply with copyright issues.
On 8tracks, you don’t have to contend with audio ads or limited plays, just limited ‘skips’ per hour. Which, in comparison with the limitations on other free services (an annoying ad every 5 songs, or only 5 plays per song, ever) is fairly minimal.
When it comes to creating a mix there are a few further rules; namely there can only be two songs from the same artist or album, it must include at least 8tracks (hence the name) and also include a cover art.
Essentially they aren’t asking much, and are giving a great service. If you’re not in a position to want to pay for music and like to discover new content, it’s a wonderfully designed, lovely looking, easy to use app.
If it sounds like you would like to give 8tracks a go, why not start with our first playlist:
(App available for download here:https://8tracks.com/apps)