I think a lot is happening concerning consumers and audio just now. Many of you know of last.fm, pandora.com and now slacker.com. The idea is roughly the same — you create an account on these systems, define channels of music you like based on either artists or general genres, and then the service will stream similar kinds of artists and music. You have a chance to vote if you liked it or not, so the stream is constantly fine tuned.
I’ve been using an account on pandora for a day, and I made a very eclectic set of channels spawning from Todd Rundgren to Michael Mayer. I could combine your channels to a QuickMix channel where various tracks emerged. Due to my eclectic channel setup I got everything from New Faces (60ies) to very contemporary techno. It was fun listening, constantly surprised, but I had to vote out some of the more plastic trance music that bubbled up from time to time.
Slacker is very similar, you could signal what you like and what you don’t like. You could read more about their big plans about satellite-provided downloads to original hardware at their web site.
Personally, as a consumer I like this model, as I could pick up interesting artist and music. As an example, the Todd Rundgren channel suddenly played Feist – Mushaboom (Postal Service Mix) which was a fun idea of taking contemporary singer material and make an electronica mix around it.
As a producer and label owner, this is tough. last.fm at least has a way for smaller labels to provide music for their service. pandora expects CDs, and many of us new labels are not into CD distribution, so it means that we need to make compilation CDs from time to time. It’s also hard to bubble up in such services due to the massive amount of material they are most likely receiving. slacker.com I don’t even know about how they handle label relations — I suspect again that the big labels have high priority.
I would not be surprised if any of the existing underground dance music channels online would start with something similar — actually I blasted off emails to certain parties about possible opportunities here.
Anyway, we are drowning in music, and something like this makes it possible for consumers to find new music, so I’m all for these kinds of new services. They are also free for the basic service, and 128kpbs streaming is OK for work, so I can’t complain.