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Reviews

Music to My Earphones

In the last decade, the internet radio craze has swept the web, resulting in numerous sites for both listening and creating, from iHeartRadio to Pandora to 8tracks, and just recently the launch of iTunes radio. For every website it seems there is an app, but the two that I have had the most experience with are Pandora and 8tracks. While both offer a wide variety of musical tastes and options, 8tracks offers a more user-friendly experience and thus makes a better app.

Pandora Internet Radio is very simple: the app plays musical selections of a certain genre based on the user’s artist or song selection. Radio stations are selected by the user entering a song title, artist name, or a genre of music. The user then provides positive or negative feedback for songs chosen, which are taken into account when Pandora selects future songs. The app selects songs based on certain elements, such as tonality, rhythm, and harmonics. Unfortunately, users with obscure or foreign tastes are often left out of the loop. Pandora focuses mainly on the popular side of music, and the stations reflect that. A user listening for a long period of time may hear the same song twice or more on the same station, simply because they have “liked” it. 8tracks, on the other hand, offers a different take. 8tracks is an internet radio and social networking website that revolves around the concept of streaming user-curated and created playlists consisting of at least 8 tracks. Users can either browse the site and listen to other user-created mixes, or they can create their own mixes. Users can not only browse “traditional” sorts of playlists, such as by genre or artist, but they can also browse by mood, season, or even TV shows and fictional characters. For example, some popular tags are “indie”, “happy”, “summer”, and “teen wolf”. And even better, because mixes are created using tracks from users’ iTunes accounts or from SoundCloud, there is an almost endless supply of music, including the weird and the exotic.

Both the Pandora and 8tracks apps are fairly easy to use, even for less tech-savvy individuals. Pandora operates just like its original website; aside from the obvious like and dislike buttons, there is an option to “Buy on iTunes”as well as to share stations, playlists, and tracks. Users are allowed six skips per station per hour, and the app conveniently keeps playing even when closed. The one major drawback of Pandora is the abundance of ads. It’s a miracle if you can listen to a whole song without having to close at least one banner ad, and between every two or three songs there is a long video or audio ad. After a while, the ads get very annoying, especially when you have heard the same ad three times in an hour. 8tracks has many similar features, but also some unique ones that make the user’s experience better than Pandora’s. 8tracks also continues to play when the app is closed, and has buy and share options, and has the useful feature that shows artist information when their name is tapped. And while users are only allowed four skips per mix per hour, in my experience it makes little difference. The playlists are labeled and sorted with tags, meaning that there is a higher chance of the user enjoying more of the mix without having to skip as many songs. Listeners can also comment on and favorite mixes and songs they listen to. The deciding factor, though, in my opinion, is 8tracks’ small amount of advertisements. The ads that do appear are small and easy to close, and don’t block any of the track information. There are also no video or audio ads, which is less disruptive to the listening experience. Also on 8tracks is the option to flag a playlist as NSFW, which could help to prevent unwanted explicit music. The last thing about 8tracks that makes the app better than Pandora is the feature that allows the user to see all the past tracks in the mix. On the Pandora app, if you miss the title of a song, then you won’t know what it is until it shows up again later. With 8tracks, a scroll down reveals the playlist and all the previously listened-to tracks.

From music to ambiance, 8tracks is a better radio app than Pandora. While similar in that they both offer a wide selection of internet music to people for free, their options and layouts are completely different, with 8tracks taking the lead in both categories. So take a moment and download the 8tracks app. Its free, easy to use, and tailored to your tastes and moods. And maybe, if you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can make a playlist of your very own creation. Who knows, it might become famous!

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