I recently went to see Linda Linda Linda at my local theater (you should see it too; it’s on video now) and left the film needing some music by Japan’s Blue Hearts. ITunes had a few options (though there were two entries for the band, making their music hard to find). And while I could see what other people who had bought the tracks had also purchased, there was nothing about the iTunes store that made me want to stay to find new music, nothing that led me to bands I hadn't heard before. Instead, I looked into some new sites that offer options iTunes doesn’t.
We7 intrigued me at first by offering 128Kb DRM-free downloads for the low, low price of free. The catch? An ad is attached to each song you download; you can download an ad-free version of the song four weeks after your initial selection, though, or simply pay for the track. It’s an interesting idea, and it’d be a good way to check out new artists, but right now, the selection leaves something to be desired; only about a dozen artists are available and the site seems to be catering to mainstream tastes by featuring the work of Hall & Oates and Dave Matthews.
DiscRevolt aims to give musicians a way to sell digital downloads at concerts. Bands sign up for an account, upload songs to the DiscRevolt site (the band chooses the bitrate of the songs they upload), and then custom design a card they can sell at shows. Each card has a code that allows you to download an artist’s songs from the DiscRevolt site. Additionally, the site plans to sell cards that aren’t artist specific, so you can purchase music from a variety of groups. Until DiscRevolt sells download credits on the site itself, however, it’s difficult to purchase songs.
Although I couldn’t purchase tracks from the site (you can stream samples of songs), the search feature kept me on the site for a while. You can even pinpoint band searches down to a particular zip code—hey Bittersweets, apparently we’re neighbors. Additionally, DiscRevolt’s song categories, such as shoegazer, psychobilly, and melodramatic popsong, were spot-on. Once the purchasing system is figured out, it’ll be a site I'll go to regularly.
My new favorite, though, has to be Songbird, which is a combination music player and web browser; it's still in beta, but a developer's preview can be downloaded. Built on the Firefox platform, Songbird can play music stored on your computer or directly from web pages, and since it’s not tied to any one music store, you get a much richer variety of music. When doing a search for the Drive-By Truckers, Songbird went out and found not just album tracks but demos and concert material that I wouldn’t have found on iTunes, eMusic, or the Zune store.
Via Songbird, I subscribed to a number of music blogs—nine bullets, largehearted boy, born by the river, and southernshelter to start—by subscribing, new music from each blog is downloaded to my music player each day. While Songbird doesn’t sell music, it’s easy to move from the site to the music store of your choice—and unlike iTunes, Songbird kept me clicking links, checking out new music blogs, and listening to artists I hadn’t heard before.
Artists on DiscRevolt can design custom artwork for their download cards.