Music Services Everywhere

It seems Google Music has just launched, but like most of Google's products it doesn't sell you and products, but simply links you to the resources which do. When you search for an artist, album or song in the main Google engine you may see a music icon followed by a small blurb about the artist such as popular albums and songs and a link to a more comprehensive results list.

Viewing the comprehensive list of the artist shows both information about their albums and songs. The albums may show links to popular music download stores, such as iTunes, as well as retailers such as Amazon.

You can view all the songs by that artist. Information shown includes the corresponding album covers, a snippet of the lyrics and links to different versions of the songs. As well as links to the music store to buy the songs. Although a snippet of the lyrics is shown in the preview area, clicking on the song doesn't show the complete lyrics, instead a only a link to search is provided.

Microsoft have announced their online music service, in partnership with the music-television giant MTV. They're aiming to compete with iTunes, but the main issue is that iTunes is extremely well-known now, has a huge catalogue of both music as now TV shows. The killer though, is the ease of use in which it integrates with the most popular portable MP3 player, iPod.

If you simply want to find out about new music similar to your existing tastes then there are a few good services for you too – Last.fm and Pandora.

I have been using Last.fm for a month or two now, and it's great. Download the plug-in for your favourite mp3 player software and listen, it's as easy as that. Last.fm records every track you play, then recommends users who play the similar type of music. You can view artists similar to the ones you're playing, join groups, add friends, tag your favourite bands and more. The best part of this service (for me personally, as a web developer) is the fact you can integrate all your music information easily with your own website. My preferred method is using a range of audioscrobbler data feeds, but there are predefined banners and charts too. Finally, there is also a radio station element to the site, which plays music based upon your played music.

Pandora is a radio station with a difference – it plays music similar to other bands. You start by choosing an artist or a song, and it goes from there. You can let the the music just play, or rate tracks on an individual basic, thus improving the service as a whole. Rating is simple, it's just 'yes' or 'no'. You can also skip songs, but not too many in a row. The system is based upon the Music Genome Project. Extremely useful and fairly easy to use (just let it play), but the interface is terrible. Apart from that one tiny issue it's definitely worth checking out for a new tunes and artists.