From imeem to Last.fm to Pandora to Grooveshark: Finding good internet radio

internet radio listener headphones

Programmers do it in the dark

Online radio is great. As a matter of fact, it is so superior to FM radio that I don’t really ever use the good ‘ole airwaves anymore. Online radio suggests music for me, makes interesting connections, and often finds more sweet music by an artist that I already liked in the first place.

In all regards, web-based music sites are better than everyday radio. But why do they keep dying? And how come some of them start to suck after awhile?

I will tell you a little story about my journey through the online music scene, along with some knowledge I have picked up along the way.

imeem.com: my first … and favorite

imeem logo before it died

imeem logo ... before it died

A few years back, I stumbled across a magical musical website called imeem. It offered customizable playlists and personal music uploading – you could practically store your whole music library on their site for free!

Plus it allowed sharing of your library with others – meaning I could make playlists of all my favorite songs plus some from other users and have them ready to go via imeem’s music player.

Life was wonderful. Rich and pleasurable. And then the darkness came. In the form of Rupert Murdoch.

rupert murdoch fist pumping

Rupert Murdoch fist pumping

Well not him directly – MySpace had decided that it wanted to ruin my healthy relationship and proceeded to buy imeem, close it down, and integrate any juicy bits of functionality back into their own website.

I was heart broken. Devastated! My beautiful friendship was tarnished by a website that I loathed.

I swore off internet radio. I sat at work in silence.

Meet my friend, Last.fm

After spending many weeks (well days really) in pure silence while I worked (my work computer at the time didn’t have my MP3s, and my iPod was busted), I finally decided to motivate.

I went on some forums, I Googled, hell I even went onto Wikipedia to find some more internet radio stations.

That’s when I ran into Last.fm, a website I was aware of but barely remember visiting when it was young.

In a weird way, we both had taken our separate paths, matured, and found each other down the road (okay – this sounds too much like a real relationship).

last fm radio page

Last.fm radio page. Notice how they taunt you with your loved tracks list.

Last.fm had all the bells and whistles – recommendations, favorite songs, music libraries, forums, playlists, and no ads for a very small yearly fee. I was happy once more. I had an online music station that gave me just what I wanted!

Of course, someone out there must have noticed how enamored I was – how carefree I looked while listening to my hand crafted list of “loved tracks” – I was so innocent.

On a cold, stormy day in December, I started getting little messages and popups notifying me of changes. Changes to the way Last.fm played my music. Changes that would essentially break the website for me.

For whatever reason, the owners and operators of Last.fm decided to do away with the ability to play a radio station composed of just your “loved tracks” as well as listen to your own custom playlists. Which is a very big change.

It didn’t take long for me to take the hint. It was over.

I didn’t renew my Last.fm subscription fee. We still talk occasionally though. It was nice enough to keep my stuff – I still have all of my loved tracks and playlists. I just can’t use them.

My rebound with Pandora

pandora radio station

Pandora is good for parties. Also, Buzzcocks.

After having imeem stolen from me and watching as my very own Last.fm had betrayed me (and many others … slut), I decided to forget about any serious relationships with internet radio websites.

And where else is this easy to do than with Pandora.com? I can quickly jump in, type a tag, and listen to some awesome music.

Sometimes that’s all you need: quick fu… I mean a quick set of songs from a genre you like. And Pandora offered that – I don’t feel any shame for saying that.

But Pandora and I will probably never develop anything deeper than just a “musical booty call”.

Pandora is good for parties – people can type in something like “80s music” and it does a good job of finding the right hits to keep your guests dancing.

Last.fm was never really good at that – a lot of the tag or artist based radios on Last.fm were rather … lame.

Grooveshark? Hmm, you remind me of my imeem

While messing around on the internet one day, I ran into a website called Grooveshark. It is basically just like how I remember imeem being before Rupert and his MySpace cronies took it away from me.

grooveshark screenshot

The selection on Grooveshark is pretty amazing.

Grooveshark offers playlists, favorites, and has a large amount of music to choose from. While it may not cover all of my auditory tastes, it hits most of them.

Plus, it’s free and pretty slick in terms of the interface and such. It’s definitely worth a try if you’re looking for a new way to hear music on the internet.

It may not be the best in terms of finding you new music, but it does help you keep track of your favorites in a smart way.

Online radio – my final thoughts

So now you may be wondering what I use for my music while I am working or away from my massive MP3 library. Well … the answer isn’t so simple.

I still use Last.fm quite a bit, as I find that listening to “My Library” still produces some good music that I enjoy. I use Last.fm only for my own personal use and usually only when I am working.

I put Pandora into action rarely, and only ever turn it on when I have parties or people over. Others know how to use it, it’s simple to figure out, and most people have their own account and can pull up some really cool stations.

I use my old iPod for the bulk of my music playing at work, and all those MP3s are also stored on my home desktop. I utilize my MP3s at work, in the car, at home, and even at parties. It’s the best bet for good music that I like and have control over.

I also keep Grooveshark around for some cases. The times I value it are when I am looking to discover more music by an artist I already know. Perhaps I want to listen to one of their albums that I haven’t heard or find a track that I don’t know but people are talking about. Who knows?

If it comes down to a single song that I just want to listen to, I usually just hop onto YouTube and I find the song. It’s pretty quick.

If anything is to be learned from my experience – don’t rely too much on one website for your internet radio needs, and always try your best to keep your personal MP3 library up to date with your tastes and collections.

It makes the transitions easier. And more musical.

music on the radio in your car

As long as you don't got back to FM radio.

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