8tracks is an Internet radio and social networking website that streams user-curated playlists. Its name comes from the use requirement that all playlists contain at least eight tracks. Since its creation in 2008, 8tracks has grown to attract wide audiences; in 2011, Time magazine’s “50 Best Websites” list recognized 8tracks for its fresh take on music streaming. Wired, CNET, and Business Insider have also review 8tracks positively. The site’s following is relatively small, but loyal.
Despite the newness of its format, 8tracks offers a number of simple, intuitive features:
- To use the site, listeners search existing songs or create their own mixes. Each mix must have a minimum of eight songs, but many have more than eight. Users can upload media from their personal libraries or through a bridge with the audio distribution platform SoundCloud.
- The "Cloud" feature lets listiners tag their songs and playlists with a variety of psychologically or environmentally descriptive tags, like "autumn," "fitness," and "good vibes."
- To shape their listening experience, users can upvote ("like") entire mixes or upvote ("star") individual tracks. Users can also follow other users to see their mixes, and share the mixes they create on different social networking sites, including Tumblr. 8tracks reverse-syncs with social networking sites to help users find friends on the 8tracks site.
- 8tracks offers a single subscription package: 8tracks+. For $25 every six months ($4.16 per month), users get an ad-free listening experience and may use GIFs in their playlist displays. 8tracks+ includes a 14 day free trial, and users that cancel within the trial period won't be charged. The package is currently in development and will likely include more features as time goes on.
- Each song in a playlist has a link to purchase on iTunes, if available.
- On the home page, 8tracks displays a user's listening history and a number of station suggestions, sorted by genre and activity. These station suggestions change as the user listens to and rates different kinds of music.
- Each playlist has a feature image and a unique name, chosen by their creators. Examples of playlist names include: "Catacombs," "track and field," "Discotech Revival," "twas a dark and stormy night," and "With Our Hearts Full, We Set Sail for the Summertime."
- In addition to music, 8tracks includes audio like spoken word, speeches, audiobooks, storytelling, and comedy tracks. 8tracks accepts most kinds of audio, which makes for a rich exploration experience.
- 8tracks offers extensive music discovery features. The "Explore" tab brings users to a page with different cloud tags to choose from. The tags then filter playlists and songs.
- The streaming agent at the bottom of the screen displays biographical information about the artists, including artists from other countries.
- 8tracks streams music at 320 kbps, which is much higher than most other online music streaming companies offer.
- 8tracks currently hosts 3 million songs, but the number grows every day as users upload new media from their personal libraries or bridge their own media from SoundCloud.
- 8tracks offers a wide variety of applications: mobile apps for iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, and apps for Xbox, Mac, and Windows 8. 8tracks is also compatible with Wordpress, Joomla, Aha, Apptui, Gsound, WeatherJams, Infinitracks, FratMusic Radio, and a number of unofficial mobile apps like Mixtapes and Flat Beats.
- All mixes on the 8tracks website have a comment section where users can engage with one another or request more information about certain songs.
- 8tracks offers a forum to guide users as they navigate the website.
The Bottom Line
The service 8tracks offers is as diverse as it is unprecedented. There is no other streaming service as well suited to discovering new music, engaging with new artists, and generating new audio content, musical and otherwise. From the moment users log in, 8tracks offers an immersive and intuitive listening experience. There is nothing like it currently available in the streaming industry, and the free version of 8tracks is well worth the time it takes to explore.