I’ve been playing with iRate for the past week or so. A few things that jump out:
• The system adapts to your tastes fairly rapidly. This is a mixed blessing, depending upon if you are a) looking for new music or b) if you just want a free substitute to satellite radio;
• There is no genre distinction. I would love to see different “channels” for jazz, alternate, hip hop, etc. As the system expands, that’s likely a realistic possibility. As a source for new music or a radio station, it would be more listener friendly to hone in on exactly what you like;
• The lack of genre distinction subtly colors the rating process. Example: I tend to be pretty forgiving of alt.rock, as long as there’s a decent melody and tasty guitar licks. So my overall rating on songs from that genre are probably on average higher then — lets say — pop or hip hop, where I tend to be much more critical (as I like the genre less). iRate has been feeding me more alt.rock songs; Good for listening, perhaps less good for new music discovery.
• For the most part, the streams were pretty clean. Streaming audio gets disrupted easily, depending upon web traffic. For the most part, the iRate streams have been pretty robust. I would imagine that as traffic picks up, this issue could become more of an problem;
• While the Java based iRate is plenty stable, I was able to disrupt it by launching multiple programs or Safari Windows while iRate was streaming (and I have oodles of RAM). Perhaps it’s the CPU load — I’ve found Java apps often take a backseat to other programs in terms of grabbing the Central Processor’s attention;
• Considering that there are no major artists on iRate radio, there is a surprising amount of very good talent here. The biggest risk to iRate’s business model is that it becomes a “minor leagues” for talent to find an audience and then get discovered — and bail to a major label.
All told, a very enjoyable experience, one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to fellow music aficionados as well as casual listeners.