8tracks internet radio returns to the streaming music scene after ending in December 2019. This music platform puts you in the DJ booth, giving you a huge catalog of music along with easy-to-use tools to create and share playlists. . The service also incorporates social elements that allow you to leave comments, rate playlists, follow users and favorite tracks you enjoy. That said, 8tracks feels like it’s come from another time. Besides its DJ-inspired presentation, the service offers a straightforward listening experience, especially compared to editors’ picks Apple Music, LiveOne, Sirius XM Internet Radio, Spotify, and Tide.
(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)
DJ your way… with limits
Let’s get one thing clear: 8tracks is not an on-demand music streaming service, whether you are a free user or a paid subscriber. By using 8tracks, you simply listen to its many curated playlists. The service attempts to mitigate this omission by offering YouTube links in playlists, so you can listen to songs “on demand” in a roundabout way. However, none of these links worked. Before the services shut down in 2019, 8tracks leveraged Spotify’s catalog to make up for the lack of on-demand music.
You can trust our reviews
What 8tracks offers is a robust selection of assorted playlists created by other users and a platform that allows you to create your own playlists. These playlists are eclectic mixes of thematic music around a genre or mood. For example, a classic rock and roll playlist called Balls of Fire features music from Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, and Little Richard. Another, titled I Heart the 80’s, features music by Irene Cara and Michael Jackson.
You can create a playlist with ease, posting your favorite tracks in any order you want or around any theme that suits you. For the most part, creating a playlist is a breeze and quite fun to do. This is the strongest aspect of 8tracks; you feel like an active participant in their community.
However, there are some limitations to creating playlists. 8tracks has a mobile app for Android and iOS, but only the browser-based version lets you create playlists. Moreover, you can only create them with music that you can download from your computer. In other words, if you don’t have the music files on your PC, you can’t add music to your playlist and therefore can’t contribute to the community. 8tracks accepts AAC, M4A, MP3 and MP4 files.
There is no additional content to enjoy other than music. For example, iHeartRadio features music, podcasts, live radio stations, and music industry news (it even streams live events from time to time), while Tidal offers in-depth music reporting. . 8tracks is quite rare in comparison.
8tracks Internet Radio Pricing
8tracks’ $4.99 per month ($29.99 per year) subscription has some nice perks, but nothing substantial enough to drastically change how the service works. A subscription eliminates ads, gives you a flashy badge next to your username, and lets you download animated gifs to use as artwork for your playlist instead of static images.
If you enjoy the service and want to support the platform, subscriptions are a good way to do so. However, don’t expect much else. It’s a shame because LiveOne gives you unlimited skips, no ads, and improved audio quality for $3.99 a month.
(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)
8 Track Performance and Features
We tested the web browser and iOS versions of 8tracks. The browser-based version features a gray background with navy highlights and a large panel-based layout for easy navigation. The site scrolls down to reveal an assortment of user-created playlist suggestions based on your selected music preferences, as well as staff picks. If selecting the homepage doesn’t do it for you, an explore button takes you to the search page where you can select specific tags to narrow your search (or browse trending playlists).
8tracks streams music at a bitrate between 48 and 64 kbps (in AAC+ format), and you cannot adjust the audio quality. Unfortunately, this bitrate is comparable to Pandora’s free account offers. It’s not high-res audio, but the streams should satisfy casual, non-audiophile listeners.
You can comment on users’ playlists and read what others have posted. You can also see playlists that other users like and give people a social network style follow to discover more music. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable community experience.
8tracks has a similar layout on mobile, except the search function is accessed via the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner of the interface. Unfortunately, the iOS version (tested on an iPhone 13 Pro Max) tends to crash; the app failed to load several times during testing. Closing the app and reopening it solved the problem.
(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)
Music licensing issues
8tracks Radio is surprisingly limited due to its streaming music license, which negatively affects your listening experience in several ways. The search function, for example, is limited to app tags. You cannot search by titles or lyrics; only tags, playlists and people. Many artists and tracks are tagged, so you may still find relevant results, but not in an easy way. If you search for Dr. Dre, for example, you’re presented with an excellent selection of hip-hop and rap playlists that include his music, but you won’t know which tracks are in the playlists.
Many free music streaming services restrict listening in the same way. For example, Amazon Music Prime recently expanded its catalog to include its robust library of 90 million tracks, but mixes it all up so you can no longer listen on demand. That said, the 8tracks limited license goes further by adding even more limitations. You can only skip three times per playlist per hour, and you’re limited to six total skips per hour (the latter limit is the industry standard for free services). Curiously, the service allows you to listen to a playlist just once every eight hours. If you decide to listen to a playlist again in this window, 8tracks shuffles it instead.
It’s getting worse. You cannot listen to more than four tracks from the same artist in a three-hour period, or more than three tracks from the same album in a three-hour period. These limitations also carry over to your created playlists. You cannot include more than two tracks from the same album in your playlist. There is also no workaround. If you add too many tracks from a particular artist to a playlist, the playlist is flagged and deleted.
(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)
Committed, but sparse
8tracks internet radio was born at the tumultuous dawn of music streaming, inspired by early internet file sharing and hip DJ culture. The social elements of the service were ahead of their time and set the platform apart from its contemporaries, and it’s a wonder other platforms still haven’t aped 8tracks in this regard. Unfortunately, 8tracks hasn’t done enough to scale in a competitive market. It’s mostly free, which is a plus point, but services like iHeartRadio and Spotify offer more comprehensive and less restrictive free listening options.
Do you like what you read ?
Register for Lab report to get the latest reviews and top product tips straight to your inbox.
#Track #Internet #Radio #Review