Like other Internet services, music Web sites have moved toward Web 2.0 and social media. Customization, sharing and social networking are at the heart of online music services such as Last.fm, Pandora and iLike.
Pandora and Last.fm let users create a profile, similar to the social networks at Myspace and Facebook, and enable users to find friends and join groups of people that share their musical taste. Users create custom radio stations and playlists that play their preferences, which are indicated by rating, disapproving or approving songs and artists. The service recommends other songs and artists based on their preferences as well, making musical discovery a big part of the experience.
iLike, another online music service, has grown mainly through integration with social network services such as Facebook, hi5 and Bebo and programs such as iTunes and Windows Media Player. iLike helps people share music recommendations, playlists, and personalized concert alerts. Last.fm and Pandora also seek integration with social networks; both services have created Facebook applications, which show the radio players in Facebook users’ profiles.
Last.fm, Pandora and iLike list tour and concert information, including links to Ticketmaster or other sales points, for the artist currently playing in your browser-based player. All three services also offer users the ability to purchase the song they are listening to through Amazon.com and iTunes.
In March 2008, R.E.M. became the first band to launch a new album in iLike. The band’s album streamed (note: not downloadable) for a few days in its entirety exclusively, and most importantly free, on iLike, nearly a week before the album’s North American release.
Orchestras can benefit most by providing these social music services with the most up-to-date information: concert and tour information, cover art, latest releases etc. But why not set up a similar promotion to R.E.M.’s foray into social music for your orchestra’s next release? R.E.M., being the first and being a major band with highly anticipated recordings, received much coverage, in both print and online media. I’d be willing to bet classical music critics around the country would pay attention to the first orchestra to do a similar promotion.
On a last, brief note, music on the Internet and its impact on copyright is a very current topic of discussion among webcast radio services, artists and labels. Currently in the United States, many webcast radio services are fighting a May 2007 rate increase in the royalties payable to performers of recorded works broadcast on the Internet, as approved by the Copyright Royalty Board. Whatever happens with this discussion in the future might duly impact the abovementioned services.