Most avid music listeners can attest to the fact that it is hard to find exactly what you want from a playlist like Pandora or Spotify. We expect a computer-generated system to deliver us music that entirely captures our mood, but the problem is that automated playlist websites identify music that is similar to our preferences, not music that is similar to how we’re feeling. That’s where 8Tracks comes in.
8Tracks is a startup company that allows its users to discover new music in an innovative way: through playlists designed by other users. The site allows you the option to “Explore,” through which you’re prompted by a cluster of keywords that correspond to a genre, emotion, or situation. These words range from “acoustic,” “indie rock,” and “study” to “dubstep,” “workout,” and “motivation.” After you choose up to three of these identifiers, 8Tracks locates all of the user-created mixes that match what you are looking for. This way, instead of designing playlists based on musical likeness, you are given a set of songs that best exemplifies your mood or situation.
The other facet of 8Tracks is the ability for the users to develop these playlists. Users have access to Soundcloud music as well as typical Internet-based music sites, allowing them much more freedom when deciding on song selection. They can incorporate covers, instrumentals, and remixes as well as less popular tracks that may be difficult to find otherwise. The biggest draw to a program like this is that if you are dissatisfied with the mixes you are being given, or you are unable to find exactly what you’re musically craving, then you can take matters in to your own hands and find the combinations that work best for you. Moreover, this aspect of 8Tracks allows for it to also be under the realm of social-networking sites, as you are directly interacting with other users and sharing your interests through a form of media.
8Tracks has yet to gain the recognition that sites like Pandora and Spotify have built over years of advertising and attracting loyal customers. Some listeners may be confused by its purpose, or they may not fully understand the difference between 8Tracks and other Internet radio websites. However, the thing that makes 8Tracks stand out from its competitors is the humanized approach that it takes. Playlists exist for almost every situation you could imagine, and all of them have a personalized and unique touch. It is apparent by the program’s design, as well as its additional accessibility as a smartphone app, that the target demographic of 8Tracks is both teenagers and college-aged students, because this is the most technologically savvy generation that may be searching for something past the generic AM and FM radio stations that meet the needs of their parents and other predecessors.
As a dedicated alternative and indie music fan and someone with an affinity for making mix CD’s to play in her car, 8Tracks gives me everything that I am looking for in a music listening website. It affords me the opportunity to discover new music and listen to the artists that I know and love. I have easy access to a workout playlist for when I force myself to go to the gym, which I can follow with mellow acoustic pieces to guide me through a late night of studying. 8Tracks is definitely a change from the more common Pandora and Spotify radios, but it is a change worth investing in if you’re looking for a musical relationship with something that is more than simply a computer.