Friday, June 25, 2010

Pura Guvera

It's interesting how technology can change your music listening habits. I grew up with radio, vinyl and cassettes. I still have my first CD player. Then came the internet, mp3's, iPods, and all the sites you could search from the comfort of your home, rather than digging through record store crates. I joined eMusic, and quit five years later after buying music from almost 600 artists. Lala changed my music-buying habits until it was shut down. I got a USB turntable and a laptop recently, and that will change my listening and buying habits once more. I've started buying vinyl again, and I plan to journey through the past of my own record collection. Some of my rediscoveries may end up here.

One of the things I miss about Lala is the ease of streaming albums online. I saw an ad for a site called
Guvera and decided to try it. Guvera originated in Australia, and a beta version became available in the US a few months ago. The concept is that you can stream as much music as you want, and you get free mp3's from the artists of your choice. In return, you look at a few ads. You set up a profile of "favorites" which tells advertisers which ads to target to you. You earn credits for free downloads by clicking on the advertisers' "channels", each of which includes a playlist and an advertising image. The ads don't interrupt the music, and you don't have to look at them while you are streaming music. You can create and share playlists (or keep them private).

The mp3's are 256k (better bitrate than eMusic), and the participating labels include Universal, IODA, EMI, Virgin, Capitol, Bluenote, Mute and Domino Records. Guvera may not offer the newest releases, but it is rich with unexpected surprises: almost 300 songs from the Rough Trade-era Cabaret Voltaire, two dozen Peel Sessions, and lots of Robert Wyatt. Each download is one credit, regardless of length. You could grab a full album for only two credits by choosing the two side-length tracks from the Residents' "Third Reich & Roll" (or two minutes' of music by choosing any two songs from their "Commercial Album").

It's hit or miss, and the rudimentary search feature doesn't help much. One quibble is that almost all compilations are listed as being performed by "Various Artists", so you have to know what you are looking for (or open another window to search Allmusic). You can't search by genre, although you can use "keywords" such as "tribute", which will return a thousand results from various genres (jazz, classical, gospel, country, etc.) Another quibble is that you can't change the order of a playlist.

The first day I signed up, I was offered ads from eleven channels. Each ad I looked at gave me one or two credits for free downloads. I signed on again the next day to find two more credits, but no more channels. You can't choose new channels to look at ads; the channels are offered to you based on your profile of favorites. Changing your favorites doesn't seem to increase your credits (or channels). But two credits a day is sixty per month, and there seems to be no limit on streaming (other than the extent of the Guvera catalog). In the words of the 60ft Dolls, I'm a happy shopper.


At 6/28/2010 10:03 AM , Blogger Nazz Nomad said...

it's hard for me to justify spending money on any of these mersh sites - this site you recommend is intriguing... the ads are the price of entry- but no money comes from my pocket! thanks for the tip- ps- i like to stream on pandora, however, even as you config your "station", I find the stuff that comes on isn't diverse enough.

At 6/28/2010 2:22 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

Agreed on Pandora. I think it's a good site for someone like my son, who is still figuring out his own tastes in music; not so good for me, because I know what I want to hear, and what I've already heard before! Let me know how you like Guvera.

At 7/03/2010 4:42 PM , Blogger jonderneathica said...

Guvera cuts you back to one free mp3 per day after the first few visits. I signed my wife up and she got a few different channels than I did based on her favorites (gender profiling!) Playlists seem to work best if I make a separate one for each album that I want to stream, and you don't have to deal with ads while you listen (unless you're streaming Sigue Sigue Sputnik).


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