If there’s one thing I love as much as listening to music, it’s discovering new music — I’m always on the lookout for new scenes, sub-genres, and artists to feed my craving for novel sounds. Unfortunately, that habit isn’t very easy to keep up where I live — Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and Google Play Music aren’t yet available in India, which means that I can’t check out recommendations, playlists and new tracks from popular content providers.
That’s why I was glad to have stumbled upon Earbits Radio, a new internet radio app that brings you tons of indie and mainstream artists no matter where you’re located. The app has scores of channels with something for everyone, and even learns your taste in music from locally stored tracks on your device. But is it enough to help you get your melody fix? Let’s tune in and find out.
Earbits Radio brings users free internet radio to your Android device, from over 350 genre-based channels with no commercials or in-app ads. The app also mixes in tracks stored on your device’s memory along with music that it streams, so that you can enjoy a personalized and familiar listening experience every time. It’s free to use and even allows you to earn in-app currency by supporting artists, which you can redeem for rewards.
Earbits Radio serves up mostly indie content and you’ll most likely come across several artists you’ve never heard of — but that’s not a bad thing. In fact, the app tackles this issue (for some) during its initialization process, where it scans your local music library to find out what you’re into and recommends channels based on your tastes — once it’s done with its research, Earbits lets you determine how much of your own music you want mixed in along with radio tracks.
In essence, that means that when you choose a recommended channel, like Progressive Rock, you’ll not only hear the sweet sounds of lesser-known talent like Dylan Furr and Atlas Complex curated by the editors at Earbits, but also the creative stylings of bands from your own collection like Porcupine Tree and Riverside. Okay, yes, I was really talking about myself here — but you get the idea.
Earbits does better with its content than with the usability of its app — navigation is a bit confusing and the interface is lacking in features that users in today’s age of curation find essential. Using the app’s four tabs, you can browse through channels recommended to you, look at all the channels on Earbits’ network, check out artists from both your device storage as well as those you’ve favorited (marked with an Earbits icon) and look up your own account to check your in-app currency and configure how Earbits will mix music for you.
Earbits has more than 350 channels of music to choose from, most of which are genre-based. When it scans your music, it seems to group artists into its own vocabulary of genres so it can mix content from your device and the Earbits network correctly. There are channels for most major genres like Blues, Classical, Electronic, Rock and Metal, and for sub-genres like Dream Pop, Nu Jazz, Newgrass, Chillwave and Glitch Hop. You’ll find a mix of indie as well as mainstream artists on every channel — but mostly indie.
If you dig a little deeper you’ll also find Special Collections with content featured on Bandcamp and We Are Hunted, as well as Editor’s Picks, Listener’s picks, and Local Scenes from around the world, including Live recordings from around the world. For those of you whose choice of music depends on the time of day or on what you’re doing, you can check out the Mood and Activity section — there’s Classical, Jazz and Hip-Hop suitable for work and studying, and even some tunes to meditate or fall asleep to.
Earbits is essentially about getting indie artists global exposure, and users can actually earn in-app currency by showing their support for musicians they enjoy. Every time you share a track you like on Facebook or sign up for an artist’s newsletter, you earn Groovies (100 and 50 groovies respectively) that you can use to play tracks on-demand (10 Groovies per play). It’s a neat system, and I hope this extends to other goodies in the future such as downloadable content and discounts on albums.
Let me get right to it: the tunes on Earbits are so good that I basically favorite every new artist that comes on, so I can look them up later. That says something about the quality of content that’s on the network and how well the genre grouping works. There’s tons of great stuff in here to get into, especially if you want to explore your favorite styles of music, or discover genres and artists you never knew you’d like. I’m currently hooked on lots of new finds including Hobosexual, Brutus, Anna M & Johnny Owl, Emilio Solla, Vices I Admire and Monks of Mellonwah.
Room for Improvement
While the quality of content is great and the interface looks good for the most part (especially the Now Playing screen), Earbits Radio could be a lot better. For starters, it’s buggy and sometimes is slow to respond to track changes and menu selections. The UI also isn’t very intuitive — I didn’t figure out that you can get to the Now Playing screen by swiping because there were no pointers or documentation to guide me. Also, when you favorite a track, it adds the artist to the global list of artists, where you’ll have to hunt for the ones you favorited — another feature I had to figure out on my own.
I’d have liked to have seen better options for curating tracks and artists I enjoyed — I often make playlists for friends and would have loved to have been able to do so pulling from my favorite Earbits tracks. The app could also do with better sharing options so users could send tracks or artists directly to other Earbits users. Finally, I’d like to be able to do more with the artists I discover — buy their music online, check out tour schedules and find them on social networks. Let’s hope that these ideas are in the works and will make an appearance in the near future.
If you like music, Earbits Radio is a must-have app. Usability issues and bugs aside, the app is great for finding new music and enjoying your own collection at the same time. Just about every genre you can think of is in here, even if it doesn’t have a dedicated channel. And it works anywhere in the world! Get this app now and enjoy unlimited tunes all day long, for the great price of free. Turn it up to 11 and kick out the jams!