There’s wisdom—and diversity—in crowds. For evidence, look no further than Mercora’s IM Radio platform. With an estimated nearly 2 million users, and something in the neighborhood of 30+ million tracks—spanning everything from garage and grime to adult contemporary and bluegrass—Mercora’s 10-month-old P2P client is one of the more interesting Internet music applications I’ve used.
Think of Mercora as a tool that enables personal radio broadcasting. I just downloaded the client, set up a playlist, and started my own web-based music station. Like blogging, it allows people to express themselves online—with music. It sounds quaint, but with 25,000 different channels (or broadcasters) at any given time, it’s a powerful form of expression. More importantly, it’s a good way to discover new music: Mercora will recommend music based on the song/artist being played, which means you can follow a thread from one artist you like to a whole group of similar-themed acts.
It’s all legal, too. Mercora pays annual fees and royalties to the music dons—which helps explain the $48 annual fee for the Mercora premium subscription service, which provides unlimited listening, 10 hours of recording, and 5 channels for webcasting. If you really like
a song (or album) you can also click through to an artist page that offers links to either MSN Music or Amazon.com where you can purchase the music in question. In all, it’s a surprisingly well-designed, and comprehensive application.
In the end, my biggest complaint is with streaming radio itself. Though it’s a P2P application, you’re not actually downloading music. Everything is streamed, and that means pauses for buffering, failed streams, and annoying cut-outs. It’s not a problem endemic to Mercora—and it will certainly be addressed over time—but it can make for a frustrating listening experience. Still, its one of the best applications I’ve seen for connecting a community of music-listeners, and that’s important in itself.