Unlimited streaming music, for free, legally available all over the world, and with no audio ads. Have I got your attention yet? That’s just what 8tracks offers. One of the oldest and best music websites in existence, we mentioned 8tracks way back in 2008, and far more recently as one of several great tools for creating digital mixtapes. Most recently, I’ve shown you how to enjoy 8track on the go with the amazing third-party client InifiTracks. But interestingly enough, we’ve never taken an in-depth look at the 8tracks website itself and all that it offers. That is about to change.
The Big Picture
Before we dive into the screenshots, let me give you a bird’s eye view of how 8tracks work: People create mixtapes by uploading music from their computer, or by linking to Soundcloud (a service Tim covered back in 2011). You can decide which tracks to put in your mix, but you don’t really have full control over the sequence in which they’ll be played (due to legal issues). Also, in years of using 8tracks, I’ve yet to see a single complete album by one creator on the service – it’s just not how it’s meant to be used. The result is an eclectic mix of excellent tracks, usually conveying one feeling or style. So don’t go to 8tracks looking for albums you love – go in search of a musical “feel” or groove, instead.
The Homepage and Menu
Let’s take it from the top; the 8tracks homepage is quite big, so it’s best to look at it piece by piece. Assuming you’re already playing something, you’ll see this:
Here you can see the mix you’re currently playing (Haunting acoustic covers, in my case), as well as a feed showing what the people you’re following have been up to.
Further down the page, you can look at your recent listening history (an excellent way to track down a mix you liked), as well as recommendations for some new mixes to try:
To the right, you have a navigation menu. Most of it is self-explanatory, but we’re going to look at the Explore option in a moment:
Finding What to Listen To
The first thing you’re going to want to do is find some music, of course – and that’s where the Explore page comes in, with its excellent tag interface:
Above you can see me adding together three tags, which instantly filters the complete list (over 1,100,000 mixes) down to just 83 playlist of instrumental, orchestral, soundtracks. That’s an incredibly fast way to find exactly the type of music you’re after. Results (for a different search) look like this:
For each mix, you can see how many times it was played and Liked (that’s internal Likes on 8tracks – no Facebook involved), its total playtime and track count, as well as tags, a description, and an often lovely cover image. Basically, everything you could possibly want to know about the mix before you even start playing the first track. Actually, speaking of tracks, you don’t get to see the exact music featured in the mix, which could explain why you so much other information is made available.
The Mix Page
Once you settle on a mix to listen to, it’s time to start jamming on the mix page – this one’s for Haunting acoustic covers mentioned above:
You can see Like the mix, add it to a collection, or share it. You can also Facebook-Like it, as well as +1 on Google Plus. Finally, as each new track plays, its name scrolls onto the mix page. So you don’t know what you’re going to listen to in advance, but once the song comes on, you can Star it and get back to that specific track at any later time. In other words, you don’t have to play the mix and sit there, waiting for that song you love to come up.
The Persistent Player
One very neat feature is the persistent player that shows up at the bottom of the screen:
It’s “persistent” in that it doesn’t go away when you navigate around the website. So you can cruise around, look for different mixes, and leave comments, all without interrupting the music. What’s more, if you’re curious about the artist you’re listening to, you can click the Info icon and get a photo along with a detailed bio. Note the selection of playback buttons: You can pause a track or skip to the next one, but you can’t go back. The direct button to any available YouTube video (which pops up alongside) is a nice touch.
All of these great mixes are created and curated by dedicated users, which is why the user page is so handy. This one is for a user who goes by the handle of calmcity:
You can see how many mixes the users created (and listen to them), how many followers they have, and how many people they’re following. There’s also a little blurb about the user, which tends to be quite uninformative (though I do agree with that bit about music giving wings to the mind).
No Audio Ads, No International Limitations
That’s one thing I started the post with, and it’s important enough to end with as well. Being based outside the US, I am all too accustomed to finding myself blocked from listening to many cool music services. With 8tracks, that’s just not the case – you can listen to it pretty much anywhere (let me know in the comments if you find that’s not true, as well as where you’re from). It also bears repeating that there are no annoying audio ads here – you just pick a mix, and enjoy listening to it. A truly remarkable service that has been around for years, and deserves more love. Go check it out today, and feel free to recommend any great mixes you find in the comments!