Two years from now, it is projected that four out of five "radio" listeners will stream their music through online sites like Spotify or Pandora. Put in more precise numbers: Every six months, Spotify is adding another million paying customers!
But while these well-known sites dominate 21st century radio—as, say, ABC, NBC and CBS dominated television in the second half of the 20th century—there are plenty of smaller gems for audiophiles to find on the Internet "airwaves."
Good Looks: www.thesixtyone.com
Music streaming should be pretty. That's the main tenet behind thesixtyone. The user interface for this site is handsome. Photographs of the artists span the screen while tidbits of information periodically pop up. But that's just where the adventure begins.
Curated playlists are made up of songs uploaded by the artists themselves. Once up and running, listeners are given "quests" to complete as a means to encourage exploration of the site. There are also daily challenges as well. The rest of the site is a rabbit hole of site-driven streams and user-directed radio. There is basically zero explanation for how to use the site; meaning it only pays off for those willing to put in some work.
Get in the Mood: www.musicovery.com
Much like Pandora, Musicovery has mapped music at its most basic level. However, this European site chose to implement an acoustic algorithm based on the mood or tenor of a song rather than instrumental makeup and genre.
The result is a site where discovery is based on X and Y axis of "Energetic," "Dark," "Positive" and "Calm." Users can hover over points on the grid and immediately load a radio station with suggestions based on where the moods intersect. If that sounds complicated, it kind of is. But the bottom line is there is enough music that should be new to most listeners mixed in with some of the best hits from past eras that the curated radio stations are a satisfying mix.
Role Play: www.turntable.fm
In this virtual world, users become DJs and assign themselves an avatar. Then they join rooms where other avatars either hop into an available DJ spot with their laptops or chill in the audience, listening, chatting with other users and rating songs. If enough people dislike a song it gets skipped. But if they "awesome" it, they will indicate their pleasure by bobbing their heads up and down. There is full integration between sites like Spotify and iTunes and last.fm, allowing tracks to be bookmarked for later purchase or streaming. The site is fully immersive experience.