There’s a growing number of websites and apps that allow you to conveniently stream music for free, whilst still staying on the right side of the law. Grooveshark, Spotify and Mougg are just three such examples. More often than not however, you’ve got to put up with interruptive audio and banner adverts for products or releases you have little interest in.
Despite the lure of free music without adverts, you should probably be aware that whilst using the beta I encountered a few issues. I first found out about mflow via the Chrome Web Store, where I saw it promoted as a free Web App.
I clicked install, loaded the rather fancy looking interface and… waited. And waited. Not only did I get no adverts, but no music. I then tried it in Firefox and everything worked a treat. For the record I used the latest stable Chromium and Firefox builds for Ubuntu 10.10 x64.
The development team have done a worthwhile job of designing an easy to use, clean and fairly well-behaved interface from which to do your streaming.
You don’t need to sign up for an account, although if you want to take advantage of the full set of features then you can choose to link your Facebook, Google or OpenID accounts for a quick sign up. You can also just register an mflow account with an email address and username, if that’s your style.
If you already know what you’re looking for then you can jump right in and search. You can filter search results by tracks, artists, albums, people (profiles that directly relate to your search) and tags.
If mflow has it in the database then it won’t take long to find, and once found you can simply click on the small play icon next to the track of your choosing. Once your song has finished mflow will simply move on to the next track in line, be it from search results, an album or an individual’s recommendations.
Once you’ve clicked play, your song will open in the mflow player. The player is always visible on your screen and remembers what you’re listening to regardless of what else you’re doing on the site. Despite the issues I encountered in Chromium, I was really impressed with the player and the approach taken by the mflow team.
Unfortunately there is no way at present to use mflow to create a playlist, or indeed queue a track from a different artist/collection/search without ending the one you’re currently listening to. I’m going to put this down to the early development stage, and cross my fingers, arms and toes that the feature will be added at a later date.
At the time of writing (and hopefully for a good while yet) there are literally no adverts to interrupt your listening experience. Whilst users of Grooveshark and Spotify will probably find the interface (and lack of playlists) a little lacklustre, there’s no arguing that listening for free without interruption is hard to beat.
Instead of adverts you’ll find a quick-and-easy way to buy any tracks you especially like via a ‘Buy’ button next to the song. Downloads generally range from 256-320kbps MP3 files that are completely DRM-free, allowing you to do what you like with the music you’ve bought.
Next to the ‘Buy’ button there’s another button, labeled ‘Flow‘.
What Is A Flow?
A flow is essentially a musical tweet, that is shared across the mflow network. You can use the flow button to recommend a track to your profile, social networks (Twitter, Facebook and Buzz) or via email.
You’ll need to connect any services you wish to announce to, and once done you can turn them on or off in the flow box. Hashtags are used to add a genre, so users who enjoy similar music can find your recommendations easily.
This is all part of mflow’s plan to marry social networking and music. What makes it really special is that unlike Spotify (for example), your Facebook or Twitter friends won’t need to register or download a client to listen.
At present mflow are offering your first 5 flows as free MP3 downloads, although you have to use them within your first week.
If you find any users who regularly share the kind of music you’re interested in then you can choose to follow them and any subsequent shares. Simply visit your profile page to check up on the latest flows, who you’re following, your followers and stats.
Similarly you can also follow tags, which will aggregate all relevant flows featuring that tag.