8tracks Internet Radio Review | PCMag

8tracks Internet Radio returns to the streaming music scene after ending in December 2019. This music platform puts you in the DJ booth, providing you with a vast, curated music catalog as well as easy-to-use tools for creating and sharing playlists. . The service also includes social elements that allow you to leave comments, rate playlists, follow users and favorite tracks you like. Still, the 8 tracks feel from another time — aside from the DJ-inspired presentation, the service compares particularly well to Editors’ Choice Apple Music, LiveOne, Sirius XM Internet Radio, Spotify, and Tide.

(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)

DJ Your Way…With Limits

Let’s get one thing out of the way: whether you’re a free user or a paid subscriber, 8tracks is not an on-demand streaming music service. Using 8 tracks, you simply listen to his many curated playlists. The service tries to mitigate this error by offering YouTube links within playlists, so you can listen to “on-demand” songs in a loop. But none of these links worked. Before the services shutdown in 2019, 8 tracks used Spotify’s catalog to compensate for the lack of on-demand music.

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What 8tracks provides is a powerful selection of diverse playlists created by other users and a platform that allows you to create your own playlists. These playlists are eclectic mixes of music themed around a genre or mood. For example, Balls of Fire, a classic rock and roll playlist, features music by Chuck Berry, Fleetwood Mac, and Little Richard. Another, I Heart the 80’s, features music by Irene Cara and Michael Jackson.

You can easily create a playlist by publishing your favorite music in any order or around any topic that suits your taste. For the most part, putting together a playlist is a cinch and pretty fun to do. This is 8track’s strongest point; you feel like an active participant in its community.

However, there are some limitations to creating a playlist. 8tracks has a mobile app for Android and iOS, but only the browser-based version lets you create playlists. In addition, you can create them with music that you can download from your computer only. In other words, if you don’t have music files on your computer, you can’t add music to your playlist and thus contribute to the community. 8tracks accepts AAC, M4A, MP3 and MP4 files.

There is no additional content to enjoy other than the music. For example, iHeartRadio offers music, podcasts, live radio stations, and music industry news (it even broadcasts live events from time to time), while Tidal has in-depth stories about music. 8tracks is pretty sparse by comparison.

8tracks Internet Radio Review

8tracks’ $4.99 monthly subscription ($29.99 annually) has a few neat perks, but nothing significant enough to fundamentally change how the service works. The subscription removes ads, gives you a shiny icon next to your username, and lets you upload animated gifs to use as playlist artwork instead of static images.

If you enjoy the service and want to support the platform, subscriptions are a great way to do so. However, don’t expect much else. That’s a shame, because LiveOne gives you unlimited streams, ads, and enhanced audio quality for a wallet-friendly $3.99 per month.

Subscription page detailing 8tracks benefits

(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)

8tracks Performance and Features

We tested the web browser and iOS versions of 8tracks. The browser-based version has a gray background with navy blue colors and a wide panel-based presentation for easy navigation. The site scrolls down to reveal an assortment of user-generated playlist suggestions based on your music preferences as well as employee preferences. If the home page option doesn’t do it for you, the explore button takes you to a search page where you can select specific tags to narrow your search (or browse trending playlists).

8tracks streams music at a bitrate that oscillates between 48 and 64 kbps (in AAC+ format), and you can’t adjust the audio quality. Unfortunately, this bit rate is comparable to Pandora’s free account offers. It’s not high-quality audio, but the streams should satisfy the casual, non-audiophile listener.

You can comment on user playlists and read what others have written. You can also view playlists that other users have liked and give people a social media-style following to discover more music. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable community-based experience.

8tracks has a similar presentation on mobile, except that the search function is accessed via the magnifying glass icon in the upper right corner of the interface. Unfortunately, the iOS version (tested on an iPhone 13 Pro Max) is prone to crashing; during testing, the application fails to load several times. Closing and reopening the program fixed the problem.

Find sweet melodies

(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)

Music Licensing Issues

8tracks Radio is surprisingly limited due to its streaming music license, which negatively affects your listening experience in many ways. The search function is limited to tags within the app, for example. You cannot search by titles or words; only Tags, Playlists and People. Many artists and tracks are tagged, so you can still find relevant results rather than the simple way. For example, Dr. If you search for Dre, you’ll be presented with a great selection of hip-hop and rap playlists that include his music, but you won’t know what tracks are on the playlists.

Many free music streaming services restrict listening in similar ways. For example, Amazon Music Prime recently expanded its catalog to include its robust library of 90 million tracks, but it’s mixing things up so you can no longer listen on demand. That said, 8tracks takes things even further by adding a limited license even more restrictions. You can only switch three times per playlist per hour, and you’re limited to six total switches per hour (the latter limit is the industry standard for free services). Oddly enough, the service only allows you to listen to a playlist once every eight hours. If you decide to listen to the playlist again in that window, 8tracks shuffles it.

It gets worse. You cannot listen to more than four songs by the same artist in three hours, or more than three tracks from the same album in three hours. These restrictions also extend to your created playlists. You cannot add more than two tracks from the same album to your playlist. There is no solution either. If you add multiple tracks from a certain artist to a playlist, the playlist is flagged and unlisted.

YouTube links don't work in the app.

(Credit: BackBeat Inc.)

Attractive, Yet Rare

8tracks Internet Radio was born at the dawn of music streaming, inspired by early internet file sharing and trendy DJ culture. The social elements of the service were ahead of their time and set the platform apart from its contemporaries, and it’s surprising that other platforms haven’t yet adopted the 8th way in this regard. Unfortunately, 8tracks has not done enough to thrive in a competitive market. It’s essentially free, which is in its favor, but services like iHeartRadio and Spotify offer free listening options that are more complete and less restrictive.

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