Spare a thought if you will for the hipsters amongst us, and the travails they face on a daily basis. It’s hard finding the right Urban Outfitters flannel and skinny-jeans combo to go with your finely-groomed, ironic upper lip hair. It’s hard when you rush to your nearby organic-cooperative craft ale bar only to find that their seemingly endless supply of copies of Vice Magazine have run out. Perhaps most crucially, it’s hard finding bands to talk about that your equally hip friends have never heard of.
MusicFellas aims to solve the latter problem. Recently formed in India by four enterprising music fans, it aims to offer a service that bridges functionality found in iTunes and Spotify, and make it easy to discover quality Indie music, as well as showcasing undiscovered artists.
It also hopes to revolutionize the way we consume and pay for music. An ambitious project if there ever was one. But does it deliver, or does it hit a bum note?
A Beautiful Streaming Experience
Beautiful is a word that is banded about far too often in technology circles, often to describe anything that uses the right combination of drop shadows and pastel colors. Despite that, I’m confident enough to say that MusicFellas is a beautiful product in every sense of the word, and provides the user with a listening experience that rivals that of Spotify.
The homepage makes it easy to see what artists are popular on the site and showcases the top artists that are currently featuring their wares on the site. Sampling their tracks is a simple matter of pressing a big ‘play’ button, upon which a HTML5 audio player will pop up on the right hand side of the screen with all the usual controls.
Listeners can add comments to each track, as well as leaving ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’. In addition, you can share tracks on Twitter and Facebook, as well as internally on your personal profile on MusicFellas.
Most of the artists on the site are unsigned acts. Finding the ones who resonate with your personal tastes can be hard. Thankfully, you can discover artists by genre. The list of genres on offer are wide and varied, including folk, alternative, world, and much more.
Perhaps the real test of MusicFellas’ worth will be if the playback experience is any good. After spending a day listening to the likes of ‘Centuries Old‘ (a personal favorite) and Liam Howard, I didn’t come across any interruptions and jerkiness.
Songs were incredibly pleasant to listen to, even with a pair of modestly decent headphones. There was none of the fuzziness that you might expect from an online streaming service. Nothing suggested I was listening to low-bitrate audio, although the absence of FLAC will irritate some audiophiles.
More so, the music is actually, dare I say, good? For a site which caters exclusively to independent artists, songs are incredibly well produced and wouldn’t feel out of place being played on NPR or Triple-J.
Despite being a recent startup that serves an incredibly small niche — and therefore lacking the sheer fiscal capital that the likes of Spotify and Pandora command — it still feels incredibly polished. Even the logo (a mustachioed cassette wearing a monocle. I kid you not) is adorable.
It’s not just streaming, either. Users can purchase tracks, with the cost varying from as much as $1 per song to a measly 15¢. Artists should note that MusicFellas will keep 30% of this, but this is pretty much in line with the cut that iTunes takes.
Some artists have adopted a Radiohead-esque ‘pay whatever you want’ policy, although spendthrifts ought to be warned that if you elect to pay absolutely nothing, you will be made to share the song on Facebook or Twitter before you get your track.
The Mobile Experience
Sadly, MusicFellas is let down by a mobile experience that doesn’t match up to the high standard that is set by the rest of the site.
There’s not a single mobile app to be seen, although I’m assured they’re working on it. This means that to listen to MusicFellas on a mobile device, you are forced to use the desktop site. Sadly, this doesn’t offer an experience that is tailored to mobile devices and I found that listening to anything on my Google Nexus 7 tablet or HTC 8s cell phone was almost impossible.
At the time of writing, there aren’t any third party applications either. However, there have been rumblings that they are making moves to release an API which would allow developers to start making their own apps for the MusicFellas platform.
These is a major failing, no doubt about that. However, when you consider that MusicFellas is a startup in its infancy, you can almost let them off.
Time will tell if MusicFellas can compete against the likes of Spotify and iTunes. Despite their underdog status, there’s something really likable about them. They have done something wonderful and have created a platform for independent artists which showcases acts that would otherwise be undiscovered. Give them a try. You won’t regret it. And check out Centuries Old.
Have you found any music you like on Musicfellas? Let me know in the comments.