Last week, Sean Adams from Drowned in Sound and DiS readers shared with my editor a bunch of methods they use to deal with the problem of digital-age music collection. The list includes some great ideas, but the hunt for the most efficient way to collect music is still on.
Later.fm (free; web) stands as a pretty good contender, at least for collecting stuff on the web. (Pro tip: The web is not the same as the internet, which includes things like apps).
Similar to the way InstaPaper lets you queue up blog posts and news article to read later, Later.fm lets you save songs from around the web for future listening by clicking a bookmarklet in your browser’s bookmark bar. Songs are stored on Later.fm, where you can listen to them at your convenience. Once you’ve collected songs and listened to them, you can remember your favorites by “loving” them (i.e. clicking a heart icon).
If the web is where you do music, this app comes close to our dream of a “triptych”-style app for discovering, auditioning, and collecting music.
We asked Eoin Hennessy, the software engineer behind Later.fm, about his motivation for creating this thing. He explained that he was similarly frustrated by the lack of options for collecting music in a way that makes sense in 2013:
I started building Later.fm about a year ago to address a problem I was having: I love music and l love the process of finding new music. I noticed that increasingly, I was listening to new music in new places like YouTube, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, Official.fm, Spotify, and Rdio. And, that I was finding that music in lots of different ways; via Twitter, The Hype Machine, ex.fm, This Is My Jam. I wanted a simple way to save the music I was finding, so that I could listen to it later.
Developers at Music Hack Day Sydney created a similar app called Ivy (free; web) last year, earning them the Best Overall Hack award at the event. However, unlike with Ivy, which runs on the Rdio platform, you don’t need to pay for an account with another service to listen to your saved songs on Later.fm. (To be able to hear the full versions of your saved songs on Ivy, you must have an Rdio account. Otherwise, you’ll only be able to listen to thirty second samples). If you don’t pay for Rdio, you might have more incentive to use Later.fm.
When compared to Ivy, Later.fm remains fairly bare bones for the moment. For one thing, Later.fm does not play your saved songs continuously as a playlist, the way Ivy does. Also, Ivy not only acts as a music bookmarking service, it also lets you share a link with your friends so you can build collaborative playlists together.
However, in terms of discovery, Later.fm beats Ivy by a mile because of the number of sites with which it is compatible. Ivy only allows you to collect songs from YouTube, but Later.fm currently supports YouTube, SoundCloud tracks, and HTML5 audio. Hennessy says he’s adding compatibility with SoundCloud, Vimeo, Official.fm, and Bandcamp over the next few weeks.
Later.fm definitely steps in the right direction of facilitating music collection across services, and we suspect we’ve only begun to see what this web app will do. Currently, Hennessy is working on Chrome and Firefox extensions, as well sharing via Twitter, Facebook, This Is My Jam, and more. Eventually, he also hopes to integrate subscription services like Spotify and Rdio. A mobile app may also be on the horizon.
But even in its current state, Later.fm is a solid option for “collecting” music in the digital age.