mflow – Music is Social Again

2010-04-28_192814 mFlow Version Tested : 1.1.11127.0
Compatibility : Windows XP SP2 and above, Mac OSX

Description : mflow is a streaming music player which works with the idea of twitter, following others’ musical tastes and sharing your musical tastes with followers. No adverts are played while listening to the stream of music from people you follow (because the tracks themselves are the adverts). Sharing music just got easier, now with cash money as a reward!

mflow seemed to come out of the blue, and was quite a surprise to me. When you hear about how mflow works, you can’t help but wonder  “why hasn’t someone done this already?!” mflow makes sense, and I wasn’t surprised that Spotify included many mflow-like features within its latest release.

I’ll first go over some key features of mflow, before continuing to why I believe no number of Spotify updates will allow it to replace mflow.

I’ve been using mflow since the invite-only beta, and it has improved significantly already. When you first sign up to mflow, it can seem a little empty if you don’t have many friends on there. This is why it’s a really good idea to invite people you know to start using mflow too!

To start you off while you’re waiting for your friends to join, you can follow some of the mflow “channels,” which are flows streamed with a pre-set genre. These range from electronica to reggae, so the chances are you will find something you like. Also, if you search for an artist you like, by looking at their albums, you can see people who have flowed tracks from that album. A good place to start is by following these people. Oh yeh, and you can also follow Artists, DJs and record labels too!

The place you will spend most of your time with mflow is in the ‘flows’ section, where you can listen to all the music that’s been ‘flowed’ by others you follow. If you take a closer look at the screenshot above, you will see the flows section selected from the left side tabs. You can see in the white area in the middle, a load of ‘flowed’ tracks.

Each flow shows the profile image of the user who flowed the tune, followed by a date and time. If the tune was originally flowed by someone else, and you’re seeing a ‘reflow,’ you will also see that information in the first section of a flow. Next you will see the users comment about the tune, if any. Finally the actual tune including album art and all of the track info you would expect to see.

To the right of the track details, you have the option to remove a flow from your flow stream, buy the track, or reflow it. That tune will then display in your followers flow. You can also flow a track to twitter or facebook, neither of which require your passwords (hooray for APIs). This is great for sharing the odd track, but I’m hoping we don’t see too many twitter feeds clogged up with flows!

To the right of the flow stream, you have the option to search and filter flows. You can filter by tracks that only have full preview, were actually purchased by the flower, and so forth, or just view recent flows from a particular user you follow.

Purchasing tracks is pretty neat. You can top up your account or buy tracks or albums as you go. All tracks are in full 320kbs CBR MP3 format, which is a big plus! Currently there is no support for third party payment systems like paypal, but this will reportedly be added in the near future. If you have enough friends and flow enough music, you want to add cash, though.

When someone buys a track that you flowed, YOU earn 20 per cent of the sale price, which goes into your mflow account! What a way to reward those who flow decent music that you like – the more music you followers but, the more music you can buy and flow to your followers. It’s a massive music-centric, recursive internet hug.

One other thing to point out is you can also search for tracks to flow to others, as previously I have only mentioned reflowing from your stream. Because of licence limitations, you can only listen to 30 second previews of these tracks, however there’s no reason you couldn’t use Spotify to listen to full versions. The bonus of this when using mflow is you get no adverts. Yes that’s right, NO ADVERTS! For those that pay for Spotify this isn’t really a big deal, but for those that use the free version (and I would guess that’s most people), know how annoying those ads are half way through an album!

Searching for tracks works OK, but could do with a few improvements, like selecting specific artists to display an artist’s page. Currently if you search for an artist, it will display all artists with that word in, or albums or tracks. What I do like however is you can see who has flowed tracks from each album; potential new people to follow.

There are a few other areas that can show improvement, but I think it best for me to share those thoughts with the developers over at their Get Satisfaction page. One thing the guys at mflow are really doing right, is listening to the users, finding out what they actually want and engaging in dialogue. I will point out that mflow is still in beta, so they aren’t claiming its finished either – not that we want to see a Gmail-length beta period here. Bring on the next round of improvements I say.

Conclusion : As its developers rightly say: mflow is music reborn, and is THE social music store. It’s fantastic to share music and be able to listen to the whole track before you buy, without annoying adverts. Discovering a great piece of music, and then sharing it is an experience to be treasured. Last.fm, Spotify, et al – thanks, but from now on, my music discoveries come from mflow and friends.

Thoughts on mflow vs Spotify after the links

Website : www.mflow.com
Download : Link and follow meLink

And now, those promised mflow vs Spotify thoughts:

One thing that has helped and is helping the music industry a lot, whether it wants to admit it or not, is Spotify and I love it. However, mflow and Spotify are different, and I don’t believe one can replace the other.

Spotify came first, and was a big relief to many. Free music, full length tracks, almost any track you want. It has a big catalogue of music, which is rather impressive. For the free version of Spotify though, there are the dreaded adverts, granted, but they are needed to keep the service alive and a the paid version of Spotify is available, to avoid them. Further the offline play feature is a big pull, and working in conjunction with mobile devices, good decision for sure.

mflow came along, and has some things that Spotify simply does not. Granted, currently the musical catalogue isn’t the same size, but it’s still pretty good! One big thing is not having adverts. Spotify’s model is based on adverts and subscriptions, I can’t see many people buying individual tracks on Spotify. Even then, the money artists earn from Spotify isn’t very much; as little as £108 for 4 million streams in a year for one track! The latest update of Spotify added some social aspects, like seeing your friends playlists. As a number of people use Spotify already, and it links to facebook, I now have over 25 friends listed (was expecting a bit more really). Fantastic, but I’m still not buying tracks off Spotify.

Where mflow can get an edge, in my opinion, is by first, setting up a mobile app (which is currently work in progress), and second, starting a subscription model. Ideally, undercutting Spotify, either by lower prices or by being able to spend that credit on buying tracks as well as streaming tunes. As I said before, on mflow you can listen to 30 seconds of any track you search for, but not the whole track. mflow is much more focusing on buying music, which is more likely to reward artists that people love and want to share.

The thing is however, I bet the majority of people only want to use Spotify to play music, rather than share it. I think the two services will remain, and for quite a while! Both are planning to jump over the pond to the USA, so lets see how they do in competition with Pandora, which I wish we had back in the UK. For now, I will be using both. I will be surprised if one replaces the other, but then I’m no expert. Competition is good, so lets see the feature battle begin. mflow make a thing about getting users feedback, which I can’t say is the same for Spotify, at least in my experience.

So what do you think? Will one overtake the other? Is there no place for mflow or Spotify? Let us know your experiences with mflow and the latest Spotify update.


9 Responses to “mflow – Music is Social Again”

  1. My biggest gripe with these apps (although I haven’t tried mflow) is the song database. Spotify has around 10% of the music I listen to (which is quite pitiful really), and if mflows db is smaller… Not off to a good start. Even the buggy Grooveshark fairs better, there I find around 30% (possibly more, was a while since I tried it last) of the music I like. Or Blip which also holds its own pretty well in that department, and on the social bit as well I’d say.

    Although the social bit is of little importance imho, it’s a music-player, it’s supposed to play music (and in these cases, find music as well), not be another twitter client. Understand me right, I got nothing against these features in a player, but, the devs should spend most of their time making sure the app has as good an interface as possible (for playing and sorting music), that it’s easy to use, and possibly even have some advanced features for people who like to dabble themselves. Spotify for instance has a horrible interface, sure it’s pretty and all, but the playlists and sorting, amongst other things, are a disaster. I wouldn’t mind it looking like crap if the functions were there, but they’re not. It’s the same thing with Songbird and a bunch of others, the age old style over substance issue…

    So what this boils down to is, how can you find new music you might like when the things you already like aren’t there. Catch-22 anyone? And I’m talking across most genres here, not some narrow specialist ones. And it’s also not about “expanding ones horizons”, or something like that (which someone once told me when I said I didn’t like Spotify), because the problem is having too broad ones to begin with that skimming the surface doesn’t suffice anymore.

    I’m sure they work just fine for the casual listener who isn’t really that “interested” to begin with, and doesn’t care all that much that these apps provide, more or less, just the tip of the iceberg and the most rudimentary interfaces. For the rest of us however, these apps provide very little, if anything, at all.

  2. @sten mflow is definitely a supplement to your music player.

    Have you seen skype’s new features which incorperate your own library and even fill in the gaps? Its still nothing compared to a proper player though.

  3. Thanks a lot for the write up – really interesting piece. Quite right we’ve got a lot in the pipeline (including much more music) – but pleased you like things so far.For us, recommendation is right at the heart of what we do – which leads to discovery. And the excitement that comes with it…

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  5. I tried to fill the gap by not having a friends[ ;) ] by subscribe to mflow’s FB – http://www.facebook.com/mflowmusic but i’m stuck in there. How to process with FB invitation?

  6. Is this another dead blog? Just to be sure, beacause has all that it needs to be a Cool space to visit. :)

  7. Hi Marlyn, The site is currently under a long overdue redesign. Currently because of moving and starting a new job I haven’t had much time to do any more reviews. Plus I haven’t seen any bits of awesome freeware around recently! If you have any suggestions send them my way! =]

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