Social Music: A Last.fm vs Slacker Head to Head
The Social Music series is supported by Blive Share Beta, hosts of the Groove Armada mini album.
Now that you have more options than ever, we'll pit the new kid on the block against the older kid that owns the block in a round by round match to see who wins when it comes to instant playlists, social features, mobile apps, and music extras. We've selected our winner, but we welcome your vote in the comments.
Both Last.fm and Slacker have instant playlist functionality that take your artist or song query and automatically create a station of related tunes. So who does it better?
Playlist creation is the same across the board — search and listen. With Last.fm you can view related artists, ban, love, tag, skip, and share tracks, as well as add shouts (comments). With Slacker, you're sharing options are slightly more limited, there's no commenting feature, and skips are limited.
Slacker's station customization features, however, just might make your playlists perfect. Of course you can love or ban songs, but Slacker goes a few steps further and gives you granular control of the artists and songs you want to hear. When you click on your station name, you'll notice a customize option under the play button. Press it to get access to a huge list of songs and artists, recommended by Slacker, that you can request to include in your station. You can even fine tune elements to turn artist discovery on or off, play just fringe or unfamiliar songs, and adjust preferred years.
Winner: Slacker. Last.fm just doesn't offer enough features to customize station playlists as the new kid on the block.
Here's where Slacker tends to slack off. Yes you can share your tracks via email and MySpace, but that's about it. There's very few features designed to make it easy to connect with listeners, discover people with compatible interests, or connect through comments, likes, and tags.
Last.fm, on the other hand, destroys the competition with social functionality that makes us social media freaks jump for joy. Users can add shouts to songs, view what their friends are listening to, find music neighbors, and join groups. There's also Facebook, MySpace, and Bebo community created apps to port friends and listening tastes wherever you go.
Winner: Last.fm. This one should be obvious. The battle is akin to a lightweight trying to take a down a heavyweight — it's not going to happen.
Slacker and Last.fm aren't pulling any punches when it comes to providing users with unlimited mobile access to music. Both have mobile apps that rock, are easy to use, and offer a convenient way to listen to music on the go.
Slacker's iPhone and BlackBerry Storm mobile apps are a nifty pocket-friendly way to listen to Slacker stations or your own machinations. You can pretty much do anything on the road that you could do online, including the ability to get artist info, fine tune stations, and love or ban tracks.
Last.fm's offering is available for Android and iPhone and is a great complement to the web experience. Users can view their profile (recently played songs, friends etc), listen to Last.fm recommended songs, create new playlists, share and tag tracks, view similar artists and top listeners, and even take a glimpse at upcoming artist events. It's a pretty complete offering, with features not immediately obvious to newbies, and we couldn't really ask for more.
Winner: Last.fm. We love Slacker's pre-fabricated stations and on-the-go customization options, but Last.fm's mobile app combines utility and social features to throw a mean punch.
If you thought both Last.fm and Slacker were resting on their mobile and web experiences, think again. Each service is taking a unique approach to ubiquitous playlist accessibility.
Most Last.fm users already know from firsthand experience how awesome the desktop scrobbler is, and we think it's so great that we included it in our list of top 5 music recommendation services. The software streams songs, gives you complete access to your profile, and works with your media player of choice to fine tune playlists, view recommended new artists and songs, and use the same love and share options offered online.
Slacker is doing things a little bit differently and offering a personalized web radio device, similar to an MP3 player, called the Slacker G2 Personal Radio Player. Yes the player will set you back $299, but it's certainly a fresh attempt to bring you high quality, universally accessible music, with or without WiFi, and minus the MP3 download. We're intrigued to say the least.
Winner: Last.fm. We're definitely partial to free desktop software that enhances our music listening experience.
And the Winner is...
Last.fm. Slacker puts up an excellent fight in the mobile and playlist categories, but seasoned competitor Last.fm is a more well-rounded winner when it comes to satisfying all of your online music needs. We think Slacker, as is, is fantastic and we hope to see more developments make this relative new comer stand out in the crowd.
The Social Music series is supported by Bacardi BLive Share Beta, a platform for online music sharing. BLive Share members get access to exclusive tracks from the Groove Armada mini album free of charge. Learn more about BLive Share Beta.
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