With the advent of broadband, the world of on-demand audio has become more of a reality. Services like Rhapsody provide on-demand streaming of songs in its purest form — if you want to hear a song, you search for it, and play it in its entirety, if available.
Two variations of on-demand are vying for the attention of web-savvy music fiends the newly-released-to-beta Finetune and the year-old Pandora. Both have huge back catalogs of songs available for streaming. The difference is in the user experience. Pandora’s interface asks the user to enter a song or artist, and their system plays similar artists or songs based upon metrics established by their paid team of in-house taxonomers. Users can offer a degree of input by giving a thumbs-up or -down to the song, and they can skip a song if they don’t care for it [at least a few times each hour; more than that and they will shoot you a pop-up saying that you have to wait to do that again].
Finetune travels a different route by using a more web 2.0 method — other users create playlists. Listeners can choose one of three options:
1. Listen to the playlists created by Finetune [broken down into the usual categories like classic rock, pop, R&B, etc.]
2. Choose an artist and let the system play similar tunes/artists, much like Pandora
3. Listen to a playlist created by a registered user [users can easily sign up to create playlists of their own.]
Users cannot skip tunes, which is a serious deficiency. If I search for Black Sabbath, a couple of tunes later I am subjected to Ted Nugent, which is inexcusable. At that point, I tune away, just like I would use the radio knob. A skip feature would keep mine ears from the pallid stylings of the Nuge. Perhaps there are some rights issues that prohibit them from offering such an option.
Update: The Finetune developer informed me that you can indeed skip; see comments for details.
Rhapsody seemed to be a threat to radio by offering thousands upon thousands of songs at the click of a link. Pandora took it a step further with their interesting concept of RIYL [recommended if you like] system. Finetune takes things one step beyond with the social media aspect. As these services become more sophisticated and wifi becomes more prevalent, terrestrial music radio stations and their internet radio counterparts will have a harder and harder time filling the niches that the global village of the internet so well accomodates.