Music is more accessible now, with your favourite bands and songs just a mouse click away. The internet gives you the freedom to go by your ears.

When was the last time you hit the music store next door to buy yourself a CD? Gone are the days when shabbily dressed youngsters would crowd music stores to buy or explore new music. The Internet, ladies and gentlemen, has taken the charm out of real life music stores to virtual libraries and stores where one can not only buy music but can explore and discover new music based on one's taste. Given the limitless boundaries of the Internet, online music social networks have sprung up to meet the demands of gregarious music lovers who want to share ideas and loves.

Fans rule

Exploring music has turned into “an adventure”, as sixtyone.com puts it.“It's become much easier,” says Niranjan, drummer for Chennai-based band Blacklisted. There was a time when one would contemplate, with the meagre monthly allowances, which new artist to explore, which new CD to buy. You'd go by hearsay, friendships would revolve around musical tastes, and advice and suggestions would be placed. The chances were 50:50.Online applications like last.fm, myspace, grooveshark, sixtyone.com and others have revolutionised the way music is discovered. It's no longer going by hearsay, by what people tell you, what's topping the charts and what the record companies want you to hear. Call it sharing, collaborating,exploring... whatever.

On the Internet, it's all about going by your ear. Listen. If you like it, awesome. If you don't like it, relax, there's tonnes of more music you can listen to. Historically, in music, there has been a buffer between star and audience but, thanks to social networking sites, the barriers are coming down. Social networks are putting the power of discovery into the hands of fans. Now, it's so much easier to find out what your friends are listening to or what other people who like the same music on the other side of the world are recommending.

And it's not just random geeks and people with inadequate social skills who're hooked to these sites. Musicians across genres are taking to these sites, not just to explore contemporaries and like minded people to work with, but also to express themselves and make themselves heard. “We sold most of our last album on iTunes. Surprisingly a majority of the album was sold outside India,” says Anand Altekar, the frontman and guitarist of Bruteforce, a Pune-based heavy metal band.

Sites like sixtyone.com and myspace enable smaller labels and less mainstream artists to spread the word about their talents. And if you aren't already signed up on one of these sites you're not just missing out on the coolness factor, you're in-fact missing out on a lot of really good music.

Cyril is a student at Asian College of Journalism.

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