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These social sites put users in a groove: but the site lets you browse, search, buy, and listen to 30-second or full-length previews of songs in many genres (jazz, reggae, hip-hop, Latin, punk, and world music, for example).

A growing number of websites are mixing music with social networking. Here's an overview of a few sites that can help you find new tunes you like, talk about them with your friends, and make new musical friends around the globe.

Scrobble Your Tunes

Last.fm (www.last.fm) is a U.K.-based global music service that's available in 12 languages. After you've registered on the site and downloaded Last.fm software, you can automatically add data on the songs that you listen to on your computer or your iPod to your Last.fm profile page.

The site calls this "scrobbling." Last.fm uses data generated by millions of scrobbled songs every day to organize and recommend music. You can also create your own personalized radio station and send recommendations to your friends. Last.fm also lets you form public and private groups, watch music videos, check on concerts in your area, and write and edit artist, album, and song information on wiki pages.

Weekly artist and song charts show you what type of music is most popular with other Last.fm users. Recently, the top five artists were Cold-play, Radiohead, The Beatles, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Muse. But the site lets you browse, search, buy, and listen to 30-second or full-length previews of songs in many genres (jazz, reggae, hip-hop, Latin, punk, and world music, for example). You also can access music organized by decade (starting with the 1950s).

You don't have to register if you just want to listen to the previews. But if you want premium services, you'll need to not only register but also subscribe for $3 per month. Then you can view pages without ads on them, create an unlimited number of playlists, and find out who's been visiting your profile page. You also are treated to "red carpet treatment," which means you get "top priority with our webservers and radio servers at peak traffic times," according to the site.

Last.fm has been publicly beta testing a new subscription service that lets you listen to most songs three times for free. When the beta is over, you'll be offered a subscription package with unlimited access to a catalog of music built on partnerships with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner, EMI, and more than 150,000 independent labels and artists.

If you are an artist, you might want to check out the benefits that Last.fm offers musicians. For example, you can view statistics about how often the site's users play your music, and you can deploy a range of promotional tools. In addition, the site launched a royalty program in July that pays artists a percentage of the company's advertising revenue when fans stream their music.

Create Your Own Radio Station, Share It With the World

"Play and share wherever you go" is the slogan at Anywhere.FM (www.anywhere.fm), an online music service based in San Francisco. MIT and the University of Pennsylvania graduates who used to work at Microsoft, Xbox, and Amazon.com created the site. Anywhere.FM lets you upload music to a personal radio station that you and anyone else can listen to wherever you have access to a web browser. However, you cannot download music from a station.

"Anywhere.FM enables sharing of music through Friend Radio in the form of non-interactive playback and complies with the rules under the statutory license for public performances," says Anywhere .FM co-founder Sachin Rekhi (see www.dailytech.com/Music+Service+ Lets+Users+Store+and+Play+Tracks +Online/article8890.htm)."Anywhere .FM pays the associated royalties to SoundExchange, ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC to legally operate these radio stations," Rekhi says.

The site is still in public beta, but more than 14.1 million songs have already been uploaded. Music is available in just about any genre including rock, classical, jazz, hip-hop, rhythm & blues, pop, techno, trance, and heavy metal.

You can upload individual songs, or you can use the site's Desktop Uploader to send your entire iTunes library. In the future, Anywhere. FM plans to add support for other media players, including Windows Media Player and Winamp. The website also plans to add support for other formats besides MP3. Right now, you can upload an unlimited number of songs in that format, but when the site is out of beta, users may have a limit or a charge for a premium amount of storage.

Anywhere. FM lets you browse, search, and sort information on the members of its user community by such criteria as Most Popular, Recently Active, Recently Joined, Compatibility, and Genre.

'Great minds think iLike'

That's one of the slogans at iLike.com (www.ilike.com).Another is "Discover new music with friends." The site offers the potential to make a lot of new friends because it recently announced that it has more than 30 million users. You can download an iLike Sidebar that scans the library in your iTunes application or your Windows Media Player. The sidebar will then recommend new music based on your tastes, connect you to the iLike community, let you download free music by new artists, and give you the ability to create playlists with one click. The sidebar also will tell you when your favorite artists are coming to your area to perform, when they put out a new release, and when they post videos, songs, or blog entries. To buy new music, you can follow links to iTunes and Amazon for tracks, to Ticketmaster for concert tickets, and to Thumbplay for ringtones.

This past summer, iLike added a full-song streaming playback feature that lets you listen to entire songs free via the Rhapsody music service (www.rhapsody .com).You're limited to 25 songs a month, but after you reach that limit, you can sign up for a Rhapsody account or stay on iLike to listen to 30-second track samples. iLike claims it is "the dominant music application on Facebook, Orkut, Bebo and hi5. Using the popular iLike application, music fans on these leading social networks worldwide can add music to their profiles, be alerted to concerts and new releases by the artists they enjoy, see what music and concerts their friends like, and communicate directly with their favorite artists."

iLike offers artists and labels something called a Universal Artist Dashboard that lets them reach fans across many channels, including the social networks previously mentioned: iLike.com, Ask.com, iLike Sidebar plug-ins for iTunes and Windows Media Player, and the iLike iPhone application. Artists and labels can use an "artist-fan graph," a database of connections between consumers and artists, to "reach their fans and cultivate the viral spread of their music," according to the site. iLike also operates an indie music site called GarageBand.com.

Make More Friends, Hear More Music

If you don't like any of the previously mentioned sites, or if you're a social butterfly who wants to sign up for as many online music communities as possible, here are some other places you might want to visit:

* MOG (http://mog.com) lets you set up personal pages that list your musical interests. Like Last.fm, MOG helps you include a history of the tunes you've listened to, and you can share your playlists and your opinions.

* imeem (www.imeem.com) lets you create and share audio, video, and photo playlists from your own collection and from imeem content.

* Jamendo (www.jamendo.com/en) is an online community built around a collection of free music published under Creative Commons licenses.

* Zune Social (http://social.zune.net) is a network for users of Microsoft Zune software and the Zune digital media player.

Want more? Check out the Social Music List (www.social-music.info) and the Social Music category in the Yahoo! directory.

Thomas Pack is a freelance writer who lives near Louisville, Ky. Send your comments about this article to itletters@info today.com.

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Title Annotation:Link-Up@Home: Your Personal Guide to the Web
Author:Pack, Thomas
Publication:Information Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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