Music to Our Ears and Connect
If you're old enough, you might remember sitting with friends around a phonograph turntable listening to vinyl record albums for hours while philosophizing about music and life in general. Music could even be shared across generation lines with discs from the early 1900s made with shellac, pulverized rock, and cotton fibers.
Sharing recorded music has been one of the best ways people socialize with one another. We graduated from records to eight-track tapes, cassette tapes, and then CDs and MP3s. In the 1950s, we had jukeboxes. In the 80s, we had mix tapes. In the 1990s and 2000s, we had Napster.
When technology advanced and people began spending more time online, they found ways to share favorite music through websites such as MySpace.com. However, it was mostly one-way sharing, or we shared music awkwardly through email. Online, we began losing the ability to easily hand over tunes and listen to them together.
Evolution to an Online Music Mecca
When social media websites such as Facebook appeared, it became a little easier to post a link to one of our favorite songs and receive comments, but we still were missing the feeling of playing the music we wanted when we wanted it and enjoying it with our friends.
The Pandora project brought us a little further into the future of online music sharing by allowing email links and the marking of songs with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to modify the stream of music compiled for us based on our chosen genre, artist, or song. However, we can't choose tracks or share with people outside of the U.S.
Now, thanks to new online music players and applications, we've gained more control over our online listening experiences. Online music players with social media features have restored our ability to choose the way we listen and share music intimately and immediately with friends all over the world.
For example, the Facebook "Listen" button on official Facebook pages of bands and musical artists takes us instantly to the music-listening application we use most to hear pre-selected tracks. When we hear a track we like, we can choose other tracks to listen to, share the music instantly with other online friends, and even chat while listening.
Music-Loving Friends All Over the World
Today's cloud-based music players take the musical experience way beyond local boundaries to people all over the world with similar musical tastes.
Music lovers can join fan clubs with members in every corner of the globe, talk with like-minded listeners daily as if they were sitting across the coffee table, and send tracks to one another to enjoy. We can analyze the music — and life — just like we used to around the phonograph turntable.
In some cases, you can even converse online with the members of your favorite band, learn what kind of music they listen to, and find out where they will be in concert next so you can create social media events to gather up your friends and go.
The Technology of Tunes
The heart of the social media music experience is the music player, software you can easily download to your computer, tablet, or other Web-enabled device. Once downloaded, a player's "dashboard" presents you with options for listening, learning about, and sharing music.
With the click of a button, you can now send tracks, albums, or entire personal playlists to friends along with comments via email or social media platforms. Subscribe to other people's playlists and pop into online music rooms to listen and chat with people hearing the same songs at the same time. While a track plays, you can look up a performer's biography or read lyrics.
Add-on apps choose music for you, identify what your friends are listening to, and automatically stream music from public playlists. With mobile apps, you can listen to the same personal music on the go.
Sharing music online used to be like passing a partially deflated ball with your knees at a family reunion: awkward and unreliable. Now, with options expanding every day, we can play a more satisfying game of music sharing.
Which Online Music Players Sound Best to You?
These popular online music players offer a variety of features, some free and some paid. Check them out, if you haven't already, to see which ones strike a chord with your music preferences.
Spotify: Stream 15 million+ songs and/or combine them with songs you already have stored on other music players. Send tracks or albums to friends, check their personal playlists, visit music rooms, and listen to music with friends while you chat.
Meemix: Create personalized online music stations and share what you like with friends through social media. Meet other music lovers who share your tastes. Meemix recommends concerts near your hometown. "Meeps" are comments that automatically go to your Facebook page or Twitter account.
Maestro: Collect music from offline media devices and add to an online library. Find out what friends are listening to and share the music you like best. Access profiles of artists and lyrics. Read and share the latest music news.
Last.fm: Access a large library of music. Share with friends using social media tools. Use a downloadable app called "Scrobbling" to automatically combine songs on your computer with your Last.fm library.
Pandora: Create personal music streaming stations you can modify by noting what you like and don't like about a station. Doesn't include personal playlists, but it's easy to share what you're listening to.
Worldsings: In addition to watching free streaming music, create your own profile page and share comments, likes, and dislikes with other music lovers. Vote for your favorite artists so they can win cash prizes.