Let’s get this out of the way: There is no perfect app for watching live music on your computer, phone, tablet, and/or television, and there probably never will be. The licensing issues are simply too complicated.
Having once predicted that live online music would start to make sense in 2008, I have a new guess: It will never make sense. Too many people want a piece — bands, managers, venues, labels, publishers, the apps and services themselves, and, possibly, the ISPs and cell data providers who can extract a bounty for delivering the 1s and 0s. On top of that, live shows don’t sound as clean as the album version, the online versions can never come close to replicating the experience of actually being there, and nobody really knows how many people want to pay for them anyway, among the subset of people who want to pay for music.
With all of that out of the way, if you like music, you should try Qello, even though we found its catalog is a bit anemic due to the licensing issues mentioned above. Qello bills itself as “Netflix for music,” but it has nowhere near as many live concerts as Netflix has movies. Qello has about 2200 titles, and many of them aren’t actually shows, but “behind the music”-style documentaries about bands or albums. (See update below: Qello responded with some good news about more concerts to come.)
Qello claims to have “more than four times as many music films as iTunes and Netflix put together,” which we believe — again, because putting together a comprehensive catalog of live music is so difficult. So why are we even telling you about this in the first place? Qello isn’t new, and it won’t have every band you want to see live, or even close to it.
The reason is simply that we’ve been enjoying it. Even without paying, you can get a song or two from just about any band’s show (Look — Deerhunter at McCarren Park in 2008 (pictured)! An Air tour documentary! The Pains of Being Pure At Heart at the Williamsburg Music Hall! Whatever thing you might be into instead!) You get at least one free song from each concert, or there’s a seven-day trial of the $5/month or $45/year service that gets you all of the songs from all of the shows, plus all the documentaries. You can also watch it like the old version of MTV, one music video content item after the other.
If you like music, you should probably try Qello at least once, even if it’s not perfect. It’s available on the web, iOS, several Android configurations, Windows Phone, and native apps for Apple TV, Google TV, and Samsung Smart TV.
Update: Qello director of communications Nicole Johnson responded with news that Qello will be adding many more videos following deals with Universal Music Group and Sony Music:
True, music clearances is a tough game to be in. Although Qello has been around for three years, it is only within the past two months that we closed on the licensing deals with the two biggest music labels in the world (Universal and Sony) who control about 70 percent of all music. So while up to then our catalog came from our deal with Warner Music and a ton of great content providers, we are just about to EXPLODE with a lot more new content.
In fact, right now we have 1500 concert films in the queue for delivery, and more and more content providers are calling us all the time. It’s a very exciting time!
In the past few week’s our New Releases include U2, Madonna, Jack Johnson, Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Sublime, and more.
As music lovers, we understand that music fans want a place to go where they can watch the live performances of their favorite artists whenever they want – on any device. That is 100 percent our mission: to deliver every music lover’s favorite artists’ greatest live performances and documentaries so they can watch anytime – anywhere they want. We’re on our way! And we will just keep on adding more top quality content.
Hip hop fans and artists are constantly searching for the newest ways to discover, write, see, and record new music. As we continue to move forward in the digital age, smartphones and tablets are the means of choice for a lot of that.
These five apps that should probably find a home on every hip hop fan’s phone (hopefully, we’ll see some more Android compatibility on this list soon):
DJ Funkmaster Flex is one of the most popular radio DJs spinning at New York City’s Hot 97 radio station; this app (made with TopFan) is where he puts new tracks, mixtapes, and radio mixes, all available for free. With so much hip hop music released every day, much of it for free, often times it can be difficult to keep up. The DJ Funk Flex is conveniently laid out for easy browsing, and it updates daily.
It’s not just music, either — it also delivers newly-released videos and hip hop news. The app creates a community around the music and everything else, as you and other users can comment on specific songs or in the general Wall area.
Genius should be your primary source for rap lyrics, flat out. Like the above app, it updates daily, and it also contains the lyrics to virtually every hip hop song, but that’s just the beginning. It also contains annotations, descriptions, and opinions of the lyrics you won’t find anywhere else, written in a line-by-line format. It’s helpful for those who sometimes get confused by the wordplay in the music, or who want to share their take on what a particular line might mean.
The audio fingerprinting feature that accompany can negate the need for apps like Shazam as well — and not only do you get to identify the song, but you can learn all about what it means, right there on the spot.
Say you’re listening to a brand new song. As soon as the beat drops, there’s a small sample that you just can’t pinpoint. The Who Sampled?app comes to your rescue — just search by artist or track name to check the samples they used and other songs that sample what you searched for. Or, explore uncharted territory, discovering samples you didn’t even know you knew.
Although you have to pay for the app, and could just use the website for free instead, there are no advertisements in the app, and it comes with you wherever you go. Our advice: try the web version first, and you should soon know whether it’s worth your three bucks in mobile form.
Autotune seemed to take over the pop music scene for a while there, during which Smule created an app to autotune your own voice. This new app from Smule turns your spoken words into rap, by analyzing what you said and chopping them up to fit to the beat correctly. Then, it plays the song back to you, laid on top of whichever beat you choose.
Yes, you can sing, rap, or even talk into the app, and can literally “auto rap” it. Even if you’re an actual rapper, this could be fun to play around with.
Jukely (Free, iOS)
Jukely is a social discovery app for concerts. They post concerts that are upcoming in your area and connects you with other users that like the artist or have bought tickets. Unlike most of the popular live music apps, this one can filter everything for a given city or cities by genre, meaning that you can get just the hip hop stuff, if that’s all you want to see.
As you use the app and buy tickets through it, you earn rewards points that can eventually be used for free or discounted tickets. Unfortunately Jukely has only rolled out in 10 cities so far, but hopefully it will reach more soon. So far, it’s in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland, and Seattle.
Rap to Beats (Free, iOS)
As its name implies, Rap to Beats lets you write and record raps over pre-made beats. It will then save the recordings you like, so you can share it or store it for later. Recording on an iPhone’s microphone will not leave you with the best-possible-sounding recording in the world, but you can buy any number of microphone attachments that plug into your iPhone to the increase sound quality of your Rap to Beats (or any other rapping) creations.
Stay tuned for more music app news, reviews, and analysis.
(Top photo courtesy of Flickr/chealseaaf)