The original service to experiment in this area was MP3.com’s My.MP3.com service. Then, users could “prove” ownership of music by placing a music CD into their computer. MP3.com would then give that user access to an online copy of the songs on that album. They were sued by the music industry and lost. Eventually the site was sold off and dismantled, and CNET now owns the domain name.
MediaMasters is pretty simple to use. You sign up for a free account. Your music folder starts with one classical music sampler, the equivalent of MySpace’s “Tom” for MediaMaster’s music service. Users can then upload songs from their computer into their MediaMaster account. Music you’ve selected for upload sits in a queue until the transfer is complete. They’re currently not limiting your account size, but disk space is cheap and users upload bandwidth is a good limiting factor. All the files you upload are linked to some nice looking album art, making it easy to drag and drop them into playlists.
You can consume your playlists in a variety of ways. You can listen to them from within your web account, a widget like the one to the right, or a “radio station” playable on any program that can process a .pls playlist file URL (ex. Windows Media Player). Once music is uploaded, MediaMaster never lets you download the whole file. Instead, the players stream music to you through each of these methods, perhaps dodging some legal bullets.
Oboe offers similar services, but is a desktop application that automatically syncs your music to your online account, allows you to download your music on another system, and doesn’t have an embeddable widget. Like Oboe, Faces allows you to sync your desktop music with your online account, but with the end goal being proliferation of your music on their social network through a widget. The Faces widget plays your own song list, but can also add and play your friend’s playlists via RSS.
MediaMaster is planning on going the same social music discovery route as Faces and the host of other social music sites and services out there. The widget is the first evolution of this idea and there will no doubt be a variety of new features added onto the little player in the near future. See Josh Lowensohn’s early review, and the demo video below, for more details.