Audiophiles regularly lament their disapproval with music players. The algorithm-based system of Pandora lacks a human element when selecting tracks to play. On the other end of the extreme are streaming apps such as Live365 and Songza, which rarely allow outside influence when listening to someone’s pre-programmed station. Spotify playlists are at the mercy of their creators and ⎯ let’s be honest ⎯ sometimes our friends and favorite media sites don’t have the best taste in music!
Can a balance between being controllable and being out of the box exist for music discovery? Shuffler.fm thinks so. It uses blogs, one of the digital era’s most prevalent tools for music experts, to guide listeners to new music. But is Shuffler.fm’s in-the-know curation method enough to keep listeners tuned in? Find out after the jump.
Create Your Radiozine
Shuffler.fm fancies itself an “audio magazine made by music blogs.” Sites that have joined the service can be considered contributing editors. Each has sorted through the abundance of music available on the Web and posted what they think their readers should be hearing.
Provided the blogs have classified their tunes into the satisfactory genre, users of Shuffler.fm ⎯ who are recommended to create an account using an email or Facebook login, for reasons that will be touched on later ⎯ can scan styles to start getting introduced to new music.
Popular choices include indie, electronic, hip-hop and mixtape, but specific options such as gangsta rap, witch house, noise pop and Chicago are also ready to be explored.
Not sure what sounds you’re in the mood for? Check out the trending category to see which songs are the fastest rising (added to the most blogs), most played or newest additions to Shuffler.fm’s participating websites.
You can also scan through those blogs to subscribe to your favorites, but more on that later.
The fun part of Shuffler.fm is that even if you’ve narrowed down your musical focus, you’re going to hear more ear candy than you can possibly process. When was the last time you had that experience on iHeartRadio or even a terrestrial station?
Once you’ve opened a genre or list, select a track to get your channel started. The track should start playing instantly. Should you need it, you’ll have the option of pausing the song, or scanning forward or backward through it.
Not a fan of the noise that’s playing? Flick the screen to the right to hear the station’s previous track or to the left to listen to something new.
The songs will play from newest post to oldest. Time stamps are typically along the bottom of the song’s picture, so make sure you don’t skip any good recent additions.
Just because Shuffler.fm sources its sounds from blogs doesn’t mean that the surrounding words are left out. Under each track’s progress bar is a “Read Post On Blog” button. Tapping it will take you to an in-app, full-page view of the posting page. This is a great way to get playlists for mixtapes or to learn about the featured artists.
Users won’t be trapped on that one page of the posting blog, though. They’ll be able to explore the website’s about section, other posts and contributors ⎯ all without interrupting the sound quality or encountering skips. Once you’ve finished, tap the done button to return to the page with the progress bar.
Inevitably, users will find tracks that they’ll put on repeat. It’s also a safe bet that you’ll want to be kept in the loop by your favorite blogs and about your most-liked artists.
Above a song’s featured image will be a star, a plus sign and a send to icon. Tap the star to add a tune to your favorites list.
The plus sign will give you two options. It allows you to subscribe to either or both the blog featuring the song or the artist who performed/mixed it.
Subscribing to the blog will queue up future entries for your consumption, while subscribing to the artist feed will keep you posted on their latest works, regardless of where within the Shuffler.fm network they’re posted.
Keeping a Hi-Fi Profile
What’s great about the star and plus sign features mentioned above is that if you created an account, your marked songs and preferences carry over to your iPhone, iPad and Shuffler.fm’s website, so you’re never a beat off when it comes to keeping up with your music.
Your profile will feature easily accessible lists of your favorites, which can be heard in your own unique station.
The magazine tab is a little confusing, though. Separated into three lists (all, artists and blogs), it looks as though this is an attempt to aggregate the latest content. For some reason, the newest posts for each, which can be found elsewhere on Shuffler.fm, do not immediately show up here.
Some blogs were missing from the reviewer’s list entirely, but perhaps that’s because some of the posts are older. Also, the individual all category seems to be a blend of the artists and blogs categories, but again, is missing the latest content.
Everyday I’m Shufflin’?
Shuffler.fm succeeds in engaging music fans as much as they want to be engaged. Listeners can read the posts featuring the song they’re listening to or they can simply let Shuffler.fm be the source of ear-pleasing background noise.
For the most part, Shuffler.fm also allows users to be entertained with familiar tunes, but offers avenues for exploration (and escape!) no matter what your preferences are.With so many curators with such diversified tastes, you won’t be forced to listen to the same song over and over again. You also might get exposed to stuff from back in the day that you missed.
The fact that Shuffler.fm transitions well between platforms is a big plus for its continued use. Note that the iPhone version has many more features than its iPad equivalent, while the website is definitely Shuffler.fm at its best. But regardless of where it’s heard, it’s the one app that delivers when it comes to music discovery.