Make music a social experience with these sites

Listening to music can be fun. But it only gets better when you can listen to tracks and share the good times with friends on music social networks.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
6 min read

We all like to share songs with friends, and we all have songs that share meaning with loved ones. Perhaps that's why there are so many music social networks out there. These sites combine both, and make music exploration and enjoyment something that you're not doing on your own.

From the well-known to the obscure, I've been exploring a variety of music social networks that you'll definitely want to check out:

Buzznet is a great way to connect with other music lovers. You can write status updates and view an activity feed that shows what your friends are listening to. You can also tell all your friends what your "song of the moment" is and post it to a profile that can be completely redesigned and themed using built-in tools.

Buzznet has some songs from major artists, but I would have liked to see more tracks. That said, the site makes up for it with music videos from YouTube. That adds a bit more value, as long as the recording quality is good..

Buzznet has a loaded profile page. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Flotones isn't the best looking site in this roundup, but it does a nice job of connecting indie artists with fans. You can choose to sign up as either a fan or an artist. If you're an artist, you can upload music, post to a blog, give out your contact information to schedule gigs, and more. As a fan, you can find artists, follow their updates, and review their music. You can also send them private messages. Not all musicians put their music on the site, but quite a few do.

Flotones has a variety of artists on its pages. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

iLike. When you sign up for iLike, it asks you to pick all the artists you "like." The site then suggests songs you might enjoy based on your current favorites and lets you listen to them in an integrated player.

Socially, iLike is stellar. You can invite your friends from Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and others. You can use the iLike app on Facebook, Orkut, or Bebo to extend the site's functionality. And if you want to find folks with similar interests, it takes just a few quick searches. I liked iLike. I think you will too.

iLike tells you about your favorite artists' events. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

imeem connects you to both music and people based on listening habits. The site asks you to create a profile and list all your favorite artists in return for recommendations. Once complete, you can find friends, rate content uploaded by other users, and create (or join) groups centered on your favorite band or artist.

On the mobile side, imeem is available for your Android-based phone, iPhone, or iPod Touch. It's a free app that, like the online version, helps you find songs and connect with friends. You can also buy songs directly from iTunes on your iPhone or iPod Touch or the Android Marketplace on your T-Mobile G1.

imeem helps you find friends, pick themes, and more. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Last.fm is a huge social network for music lovers. You can find all the songs you like from practically any artist. You can then share your musical tastes with other users. When you make friends with other listeners, you can find out what they're listening to. If you like the song, you can add it to your song library. Like many other social networks in this roundup, Last.fm also lets you send messages to other users and leave a "shout," which is similar to adding a comment to a Facebook wall. It's a great way to connect with friends of similar musical taste.

Last.fm is also available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or any Android-based device. The app is free and has the same features as the site. Last.fm can also be found on the Sonos Music Bundle and Logitech's Squeezebox. (Disclosure: Last.fm and CNET.com are both owned by CBS.)

Last.fm lists all the artists you listened to recently. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

MOG is a unique site. Instead of helping you discover music tracks, it's all about aggregating and filtering music-related content. Its community of "MOGgers" blog about their favorite topics. You can sift through all those blogs or create new posts yourself. When you find content you like, you can add the person to your favorite MOGgers list and follow all their updates. MOG also lets you update your status with a Facebook-like status box.

Mog is a great place to get information on artists and share your knowledge with others. But if you just want to listen to tracks, it's not the site for you.

MOG has recent blog posts on a variety of subjects. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

MySpace Music To call MySpace Music--a smaller part of MySpace proper--a social network is difficult. It's basically a sub-section of MySpace where you can find and listen to music. You create playlists with tracks from artists you like, decide whether you want that playlist to be public or private, and listen.

Where the social element comes in is on your MySpace profile page. You can add any of your created playlists to your profile, and other MySpace users can check them out and add those songs to their own playlists. It's not into discovery by recommendation as much as some of the other sites on this list are, but it's one of the few that lets you purchase tracks without going somewhere else.

MySpace Music
Find your favorite artists on MySpace Music. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Pandora was one of the first music discovery tools on the Web. It encourages users to discover new music by voting on tracks.

Once registered, you can start creating stations and picking songs you like. These get added to your public profile and affect what songs are recommended to you. You can also search for others on the service to see what they're into. If you like what they do, you can choose to "bookmark" them which lets you see and listen to all the songs they dig. You can't communicate much, but you can leave a comment as long as it's less than 500 characters. It's not ideal, but it's not bad either.

Pandora is available as a mobile app in the Apple App store for the iPhone and iPod Touch, as well as one of the few apps available for the new Palm Pre. The service is also available on the Sonos Bundle and Logitech's Squeezebox.

Find friends on Pandora with its search box. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

SellaBand is a really neat idea for a social network. It breaks users up into two groups: artists and believers. The artists upload their tracks to the site, hoping the believers--regular users who listen to tracks--will donate money to the artist. That money is kept by SellaBand. Once the artist is able to raise $50,000, they're given the opportunity, by SellaBand, to have an album professionally produced and sold at music retailers. For five years, the artist and the believers that gave them money, will share 50 percent of the profit on the album sales.

Believers who sign up for the site can easily find artists with the site's search tool. They can also make friends with other believers, add comments on music, review tracks, and more. And when they want to show support, they can donate cash to the artist in $10 increments. I like SellaBand. It has promise.

Some artists are close to raising enough cash to create an album. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Slacker lets you create individual stations containing songs from your favorite artists. It's easy to do so--the site has millions of tracks from thousands of artists. From a social perspective, Slacker isn't the most social site though. It lets you share songs with friends through e-mail or add stations you like to your MySpace profile, but it's less about your friends' recommendations as opposed to those of it's experts.

Like many of the sites in this roundup, Slacker has mobile apps available for multiple app stores, including the Apple App Store and BlackBerry App World. Slacker also has a media player--dubbed the Slacker G2--that lets you listen to all your stations on the device. It costs $199.99.

Slacker lets you create a bunch of stations. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

Not all of these social networks are equally appealing. Here are my three favorites:

1. Last.fm: Last.fm combines an outstanding design with great features.

2. imeem: It's simple but robust, making it a great service.

3. SellaBand: A good idea should always be rewarded.

You might also want to take a look at this roundup of Facebook apps that will help you get your music fix. It's ideal for the Facebook fanatic.