Let’s get real: I want to bike to work, but I’m not sure if I’m tough - or coordinated - enough to pull it off. Last weekend I saddled up and got myself a funky-sweet bike from Bicycle Czar. It’s an awesome ride, but I’m still terrified of distracted drivers, making left turns, and helmet hair.
While doing some research, I came across this article from Wired about the bicycle culture at Google. The on-site showers and bike repair service are pretty cool, but what really got me thinking is the awesome ConferenceBike. Think I can get the rest of the Engine crew onboard?
One of the reasons I never listen to the radio is that I can’t listen to the same song every day and enjoy it. Plus, the radio never plays music that I want to hear. Pandora is the wunderkind of internet radio, or music streaming services, as I like to call it, but I find that Pandora falls short.
Pandora will play the same top 40 songs, multiple times per day, if you don’t actively tell it not to. Lots of people may tell me that I should be interacting with Pandora more, but I think maybe Pandora was just designed for a different audience.
My response has been to seek other music streaming services, and here’s a list of the most useful. A bonus: not one of these alternatives has audio ads like Pandora does.
A personal favorite is Hype Machine. I’m not a fan of being required to log in, and you will be required to login or register after listening to a few songs, but Hype Machine makes it worthwhile by keeping the songs you love in a special playlist that you can listen to at will. Who doesn’t love listening to a playlist of favorite songs?
Hype Machine works by aggregating the output of over 800 blogs, which means new music is always on the homepage. I feel like I’m on the cutting edge of music when I listen here. You can also go back in time and see the most popular songs each week from 2007 on. Hype Machine has a party music tone to it, but you can pick particular genres to customize your listening experience.
Before I continue, I should mention that whenever I want to listen to a song right now, I generally go to youtube. There are a few channels that upload rare tracks, and it can be a good way to replay that jam you’ve been hooked on, over and over again. But youtube requires a lot of effort to keep the music playing. Creating playlists isn’t very easy.
My second favorite service is Grooveshark. It is extremely useful for when you want to listen to a particular song, or an entire album, or even go through an entire discography. Creating your own playlist on Grooveshark is a breeze and is the basis of how you interact with the site.
Grooveshark is a ‘music locker,’ meaning that people upload and tag the songs that you then search for and listen to. There are 15 million songs in the Grooveshark catalog, meaning you’ll be able to find almost everything you can think of.
Some featured bands make it to the homepage and artists are displayed on your listening history, but you won’t make many discoveries here.
An awesome place to listen to highlights from artists you’ve discovered is Soundcloud, which is sort of like youtube for music. Songs that haven’t been released yet, unique mashups and remixes make their way onto soundcloud, and sometimes nowhere else. It’s simple to listen to an artist playlist here, so Soundcloud is an essential part of the streaming toolbox, but, again, you won’t make many discoveries here.
The most unusual service in this list is Stereomood. You’re along for the ride after you choose the mood you want to listen to, from options like reading or spring cleaning. The playlists don’t change very often, but a new group is highlighted every week or so. It’s so easy to just kick back and let stereomood keep your dinner party or weekend afternoon moving smoothly. I have found a gem or two through these playlists.
Last but certainly not least is turntable.fm. It’s like a distributed DJ service. The site is organized into rooms, and in each room up to five DJs take turns spinning for you. Any user can be a DJ by adding songs others play into their queue, or uploading their own songs. Rooms tend to stay on a certain genre, but this site tends to gravitate towards dubby or ambient-chill. Turntable also is unusual because it uses a visual metaphor for a room, and you can see the avatars of the other listeners. It can be cool to see 200 heads bopping to an awesome track. The other great thing about this site is that they host live events where DJs and artists take over the decks and spin their inspirations or their latest cuts.
Good luck finding some sweet tracks.
Last in the latest round of new faces is Haley. This incredibly talented lady joins our account team, bringing with her a passion for phenomenal creative, love of people, and less than perfect balance.
Childhood Career Aspiration: Anything with a brief case. Sadly, this has yet to happen. Although, she just got a pretty sweet padfolio, and is well on her way to a full blown brief case.
Most Stereotypical Experience while at UC Berkeley: Going undercover for a thesis on pirate radio, posing as an aspiring show host, in the back of an atheist bookstore. Unconfirmed reports on the presence of patchouli and Vagina Monologue posters at said bookstore.
Secret Skill: Thriftstoring + Craigslisting. Once got a $2,000 couch for $100, and has never been kidnapped.
Favorite Post-work Stress Reliever: Jamming out to Cat Stevens on an electric piano, no joke.
Fantasy Dinner Date: Rod Stewart
Favorite Rod Stewart Song: Maggie May
Next in our line-up of new faces is Mitch Kelly, who joined the Engine shortly after Tony. Like Tony, Mitch is also a senior designer that hails from Minneapolis [insert obligatory Minnesota Twins reference here].
Most Outrageous Hobby: Ghosthunting. What exactly does ghosthunting entail, you ask? Well, it involves long nights at haunted hotels with EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), electromagnetic field detectors, and infrared cameras, for starters. And that’s all the detail I could muster before my courage failed me. Moving right along to something a little more warm and fuzzy…
Least Outrageous Hobby: Movies! Mitch’s tried-and-true favorites include The Talented Mr. Ripley, I ♥ Huckabees, The House of Yes, Death Becomes Her, and Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice).
Fantasy Dinner Date: Tim Burton.
Favorite Tim Burton Movie: Batman Returns.
If you haven’t heard, we have some new faces at the Engine! Unfortunately, we’re terrible at introductions – so our definition of “new” is a little lax. First off is Tony Vitali, who joined the Engine as a senior designer in November. A Minnesota native, Tony ditched the snowy winters for a more forgiving climate where he can explore the great outdoors year-round.
Favorite Hobby: Playing outside! Mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, the list goes on. Also, Tony loves all things creative: drawing, painting, photography, and graphic design (how convenient!). In fact, Tony even self-published a book of photography – and took the photo featured in this blog post, of course.
Best Sandwich of All Time: The “Big Bird” from Rudi’s Pizza and Subs in Hibbing, MN. (The secret sauce was absolutely worth the 90-minute drive when he was in college.)
Fantasy Dinner Date: John Lennon.
Favorite Beatles Song: Come Together.