Internet radio usage has been on the rise with apps like Pandora and TuneIn Radio. The reason these apps have become so popular is because people like listening to music that relates to a specific song or genre.
The major downfall with most of the applications out there is that the playlists are generated by an algorithm, rather than actual human beings. This method unfortunately lacks personalization and doesn’t quite feel as intimate as music should be. Wouldn’t it be much more attractive to have your playlists created by real music listeners?
This is where 8tracks comes in. The entire program is centred around DJs who make playlists based on a specific genre. As the title implies, these playlists have to be at least 8 tracks long. This is quite a different concept and definitely provides a greater sense of flow from one track to the next. No longer will you have to be disappointed by Pandora’s or Genius’s choices of songs.
The User Interface
When you first launch 8tracks, you’re greeted by recent mixes that were made. These mixes come from a variety of different genres and DJs. While browsing through the recent mixes, you can see the genre of the playlist, the DJ who made it, and what others think about the mix. This lets you easily see what mixes you might want to listen to so you don’t play a mix that you won’t like. This is a great way to discover genres of music that you usually don’t listen to.
The 8tracks home screen
You can then click on ‘refine results’ to bring up a list of possible genres. This is a great tool because it allows you to listen to a mix to complement your current mood. It is also great if you are looking to expand your musical listening to foreign genres. This is a great way to browse mixes because it is a very simple way to keep in touch with the music you love while still allowing you to branch out if you would like.
Once you decide on a mix, clicking on it will take you to the main mix page. Here you will be able to see how many times this specific mix has been played. In addtion, you can also see how many times a listener has listed the mix as their favorite. These is helpful information because it allows you to gauge how popular or how new a specific mix is. You will also see a description of the mix and who the DJ is.
A single mix's page
One truly amazing feature of 8tracks is the ability to communicate with and follow DJs. If you are listening to a mix that you are particularly fond of, you can chose to follow the creator of the mix. You can do this by clicking on the DJ’s name on the main age of the mix. This will bring you to the profile of the DJ. Here you can see the DJ’s stats like number of mixes, number of followers, and how many DJ’s they themselves are following.
A specific DJ's profile
This is a unique feature and is actually very useful. If you like a particular mix, then the odds are you will like other mixes by the same DJ. On the DJ’s profile is also a list of other mixes they have created. You can very easily go from one mix to another because the mixes are connected by the specific DJ and the specific genre.
The Listening Experience
So now that you know how to get around the user interface, you’re probably wondering how the actual listening experience is. Since I have discovered this application, I have fallen more and more in love with it every day. I am constantly disappointed by the songs that Pandora chooses to play and I always find the Genius feature in iTunes to be very impersonal. I have to admit that DJs on 8tracks are very talented. They seem to recognize exactly what people look for in a playlist.
The only downside of the playlists themselves is that they are not infinitely long like in other internet radio apps. You can’t simply put it on and have it play all day without stopping. I would love the ability to link specific playlists in a non-stop play cycle. I do find it kind of annoying to have to pick a new playlist once the one I was listening to is over. However, I realized this is a small shortcoming because the playlists themselves are so good.
Another unfortunate aspect is that, although there is a decent number of genres to pick from, I find myself wanting more. I am a musician and am very interested in many different genres. They have everything you would expect – like rock, jazz, funk, and country – but are missing some of the more abstract genres like fusion and avant-garde. I suspect that this will change once more people begin using the application and more DJs begin to emerge.
A truly great aspect is that you can use different views while browsing playlists. There is the ‘All’ tab, which shows all recent mixes that have been created. The ‘Home’ tab is great for keeping up with your favorite DJs, acting as a news feed and showing all the recent mixes that the DJ’s have created since you started following them. The ‘Liked’ tab, as you can probably guess, shows all the playlists that you have personally liked. Finally, by pressing Menu, you can switch to the ‘Featured’ playlists. This will show you what’s particularly popular right now and what the developers recommend.
This is the Featured Mixes view
A great feature that puts 8tracks ahead of other internet radio applications is the ability to share your musical tastes socially. Being able to follow your favorite DJ’s is something that truly makes the listening experience unique. It lets you connect with the DJ and bring a whole new level to social music. In the socail age that dominates the world today, it is very cool to be in contact with people who share your taste in music. It brings people together that wouldn’t normally know each other because they share the same musical taste.
When you are listening to a playlist, there is a Share button, which lets you share the playlist via bluetooth, Gmail, messaging, or Google+. The last option is a very cool feature especially since Google themselves is making a big push to incorporate Google+ into as many aspects of Android as possible. It’s rather fun when you get a couple of friends using 8tracks in conjunction with Google+; it lets you see what your friends are listening to and, consequently, which DJs they are following.
Example of Google+ post
In a music world ruled by computers and automated services, 8tracks is a breath of fresh air. I have listened to computer generated playlists so much, I really didn’t realize how bad they were until I began using 8tracks. This is an application created by music lovers for music lovers. It makes being a DJ somewhat of a status symbol.
Now that I have discovered such an amazing way to listen to music, I can’t see myself ever going back to applications such as Pandora. 8tracks has developed a listening experience that truly feels personal and creates a much more intimate atmosphere.