Songbird turned 1.0 this week, and aims to do to iTunes what Firefox did to Internet Explorer. That is, it aims to take the basic design of something closed and proprietary, and turn it into something open and extensible and fun. Songbird aims to give the power back to the people.
Appearing in February 2006, Songbird is five years younger than Apple’s iTunes, and does not yet match it feature for feature. iPod support, album artwork, podcast support and stability are considered beta features and need improving. CD ripping, watching folders for changes and video support are all still coming.
However, Songbird’s unique features make it a great media player in the Web 2.0 world. It is a flexible tool that belongs in the toolkit of any musician who explores new music online. In particular, the way it works with music-related websites and blogs greatly interests me. Songbird has completely changed the way I think about discovering and playing music online.
Here is what Songbird does best:
1. Tabbed Browsing
Like most of today’s web browsers, Songbird comes with tabs. If you can only listen to one song at a time, you might wonder about the point of trying to multi-task within a media player. So far I have found the tabs much more useful than I expected.
With my song library open in one tab, I’ve been able to change settings, install add-ons, explore feathers and surf the web in other tabs. The tabs are also used effectively for displaying photos and YouTube videos of the currently playing artist.
2. Feathers (Themes or Skins)
Songbird is based on Firefox, and shares many of its strengths, including themes, which Songbird calls “feathers”. A variety of feathers are already available, including some nice dark themes, an iTunes-like one, and a Vista Aero look.
As Songbird takes off, I’m sure many hundreds will be created by the user community. This feature alone will give Songbird appeal to those who value creativity and individuality.
3. Add-ons (Extensions)
If Songbird doesn’t do what you want, you can always install or write an add-on. Some of the add-ons that are currently available include:
- LyricMaster, which displays lyrics so you can sing along. I’m waiting for someone to create a chord chart add-on.
- MediaFlow, which is similar to Apple’s Coverflow.
- iPod Device Support, which seemed to work very well when I tested it on a friend’s iPod earlier in the year.
- LiveTweeter, which adds support for Twitter, MSN/Windows Live Messenger, Pidgin and Mercury.
- Last.fm Album Art, which may save hours of fiddling.
4. Turn a Web Page Into a Playlist
Songbird includes an integrated web browser based on Firefox, with features like bookmarking and tabbed browsing. A unique feature of the browser is that any playable music files on the page appear in a playlist at the bottom of the screen.
This makes Songbird an excellent tool for exploring new music online, especially when combined with the subscription feature mentioned below. The playlist also allows for easy downloading of songs.
5. Subscribe to MP3 Blogs as Playlists
When you right-click on the page as you view a music-related blog, you’ll see “Subscribe to this page” as an option. Click on this, and you’ll get a chance to choose which folder to save the blog’s music into, and how often Songbird should check the site. After subscribing, the page will appear as a playlist, and new songs will be downloaded to the specified folder automatically.
6. Display Media Related to the Currently Playing Artist
Songbird’s Mashtape feature allows you to discover Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Last.fm biographies, Google news (and more) for the currently playing artist. The Mashtape pane appears under your playlist. It contains tabs for artist info, news, photos and videos.
- The artist info page contains a short biography, discography, tag roll and web links from Last.fm. Clicking on any links in this section opens a new tab containing the relevant Last.fm page.
- News is aggregated from a number of sources via RSS, including Google News, Hype Machine and Digg.
- The Flickr photo stream scrolls smoothly across the screen. Clicking on an individual photo opens the Flickr page in a new tab.
- The videos are related to the currently playing artist, but not the currently playing song. Clicking on a YouTube video link opens a new tab in Songbird where your video is played.
7. Play a Wide Range of Media Codecs
Songbird supports MP3, FLAC, and Vorbis on all platforms; WMA and WMA DRM on Windows; and AAC and Fairplay on Windows and Mac. I’m by no means a fan of DRM, but the fact that Songbird can play protected files will make it much more usable to some. Add-ons allow the playback of DirectShow and Audible media formats.
8. Better Last.fm Integration
If you haven’t heard of Last.fm yet, sign up for an account today. Last.fm collects a list of every song you play (plugins are available for most media players), recommends songs you may like, and introduces you to people who have similar musical taste. It also allows you to stream a very large collection of music. Besides submitting your played songs to Last.fm’s database, Songbird also allows you to scrobble, love, and ban your tracks directly from the program.
9. Purchase Concert Tickets
If you purchase your concert tickets online (and who doesn’t), you may find Songbird’s integrated Songkick helpful. From within Songbird, you can search for concerts available in your area, and purchase the ticket there and then. Songkick services the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
10. Run It On Linux
Last, but not least, Songbird works on Linux and related operating systems. Yes, I admit that I’m a geek. Like iTunes, it supports Mac and Windows too, which should also keep the rest of you happy.
Make Sure You Look Good in Songbird
Consider how people using Songbird to listen to your music will perceive you. You can use Songbird’s rich media experience to improve the image of your music and band.
- Use a direct, unobscured link to the MP3 files on your website so that the mini-playlist will appear at the bottom of your screen when viewed in Songbird.
- Add your band to Last.fm, including a good description and photos, and consider uploading some of your music. This way, when playing your music, Songbird will have something to display, and you won’t come off looking like you’re unknown. Near the bottom of the main page you’ll see a link “Do you make music? Upload it!” which will get you started.
- If you’re part of a gigging band, make sure your gigs are scheduled in Songkick’s database. That way, when you’re playing in someone’s area one Friday night, they’ll have an extra way to find you. The “Add new concert” link on their home page is pretty hard to miss.
Have you tried Songbird yet? Please share your thoughts.
BTW did you know you can watch thousands of satellite channels for free on your computer without a satellite dish or monthly subscription? You really stand to save a lot.
Source- Audio Jungle