Canadians love listening to music. Just this week, Google launched Play Music here to massive acclaim, and Canadian Music Week ushered in yet another year of great local bands playing live shows.
Canadians also love listening to the radio, which is still extremely healthy. Most music services have a “lean back” component, where they pick a category, activity or band and let an algorithm generate the upcoming tracks. This is what has made Songza so successful across the country, with over 2.5 million active monthly users, and why streaming startups like Rdio, Deezer and Slacker have integrated similar functionality.
8tracks isn’t as well known as Songza, and does things a little bit different, but the product is just as good. The company, which has native apps on iOS and Android as well as a very mature web experience, offers two million handmade, curated playlists in every possible musical taste.
Unlike Songza, 8tracks does not impose audio ads on its users, as its mantra is to let a playlist, usually between eight and 30 tracks, finish without interruption. An option to pay a monthly fee for 8tracks+ eliminates visual ads, but they’re fairly unobtrusive.
8tracks 3.0 for iPhone is a complete redesign of the service, adding a number of features that prepares the company for the future of free streaming. There’s a new homescreen, where you’ll see any previously-listened playlists, along with a timeline feature that offers the chance to review playlists and see upcoming ones.
8tracks 3.0 is more visually-focused than before, and certainly outclasses Songza in the design department. Its tag-based search feature makes it easy to add content to your feed — “happy”, “tired”, “dance”, etc. — but the Explore section presents possible choices, too.
The company says that a new Android version is currently in development and should debut in the next few weeks.