Best Audio Website

Winner: SoundCloud.com

Self-identifying as the “largest community of artists, bands, podcasters and creators of music & audio,” SoundCloud was originally designed to be the Vimeo or Flickr for musicians.  A Swedish sound designer and artist collaborated to start this project with the original idea of allowing artists to simply share music with each other and get feedback from the community.  When the Berlin-based company was founded in 2007, it aimed solely to provide this artist-focused musical file sharing, but since then has expanded its offerings.  These days, the site is angled more towards the listener, making it the most popular way to upload and publicize any sort of audio or music.  Displaying the sound clip in an orange and grey waveform, SoundCloud allows music to be shared within their music community, as well as embedded into other websites.

The site, like any respectable website these days, is also connected to social media and allows users to set up an account through Facebook or Google+.   Once these social mediums are connected, SoundCloud allows for easy posting, facilitating more sharing with various people.  This publicity-geared platform has made it a favorite with DJs, composers and songwriters, along with people looking to increase their music knowledge.  With its vast array of genres, SoundCloud has also joined the ranks of music discovery tools, allowing listeners to expand their range of tastes when it comes to music.

Runner Up: NPR First Listen

For anyone who has eagerly awaited the release of their favorite artist’s new album, NPR First Listen may be the greatest thing you’ve probably never heard of.  First Listen allows you to pre-hear everything from indie artist’s new tracks to upcoming movie soundtracks, usually for the entire week preceding the audio’s actual launch date.  One of the most important features for those of us who like to put a new favorite song on repeat until we’re sick of it, is the ability to listen to any track as many times as you want in that week.  However, it’s important that you keep track of the actual release date, as the audio will disappear on that date by necessity, at which point listeners are encouraged to buy the tracks.