With the highly successful launch seen by Pandora’s iPhone app, streaming digital radio seems ready to finally go mainstream. Unfortunately, as great as Pandora is, its music recommendations can shy towards music you already know – you may like the song that gets recommended, but there’s a good chance you’ve heard it before. For listeners looking for something that’s entirely new, there’s StumbleAudio, a streaming music service exclusively for indie music that is launching today with a catalog of over 120,000 artists and 2 million songs.
As the name implies, StumbleAudio is designed to help listeners discover new music, rather than find their old favorites. The site uses a search format very similar to streaming music services like Jango and Pandora. Instead of searching for a specific artist or song, users are asked to name one of their favorite bands. The site then generates a new “station” comprised of similar artists (but usually not the one you asked for).
Once a song begins playing, users can either assign a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘down’, which helps the system generate a more suitable playlist. If you don’t like a song, you can click “Stumble”, which shuffles to the next recommendation. And, unlike Pandora, there’s no limit to how many songs you can skip. But the best thing about StumbleAudio is that it lets you listen to an artist’s entire album – just click the arrows on the CoverFlow-like album art to skip to the album’s next song.
If StumbleAudio has a weakness, it’s its recommendation system, which doesn’t seem to be particularly accurate (unsurprising given the huge volume of content available). Fortunately, the ability to skip through tracks indefinitely makes this more of a nuisance than anything. The service’s other weakness is that it is currently only available through its website – there isn’t any external music player or compatibility with mobile devices (both of these are in development and are expected within the next few months).