The visionary Lucas Gonze (what's the equivalent term for audio thought leaders? Audinary?) just launched Fresh Hot Radio.com, a smart new twist on Web radio. It runs on Flash, but there are no flashy features to get in your way. You simply load the site and music starts playing. If you don't like the song, you click the Next Track button. If you do like it, click a link to go to the artist's site, or another to download the MP3. The design is similarly straightforward; the site simply grabs a relevant image from the artist's site and tiles it.
Gonze is currently picking all the MP3s himself, by surfing sites "where there is net-native musical culture — netlabels, band communities, musicians' own blogs...bulletin boards where musicians go to get technical advice on their mixes." He describes the mood as up. "It is for partying, working, or working out."
I like his choices. In the time I was typing this, I discovered several new songs I liked well enough to download. Here's one now, via the handy Embed link on the site. (The music starts about 15 seconds in.)
Braces Tower — Ten Fingers
I especially like the idea of showcasing free, independent music in a simple window. Gonze says, "The mission of FreshHotRadio.com is to connect mainstream listeners to web-native music. It's about new music, not hits. The content is legal. The curation has a strong identity and voice. The hosting is all deep links. [In other words, the service points directly to the songs on other sites.] There is an incentive to click through to the song host on whatever web site it came from, and from there to explore the fringes of the music web."
To that end, Gonze has pared it down to the essentials, like a traditional radio. "This is not a social site, and it's not about listener curation," he explains. "It is brutally simple — one player page, one playlist, and a static page of documentation. It is deliberate that this is a zero-option experience, unlike Pandora. You go there and the music just starts, which makes it easier to use and less of a distraction."
Indeed, I'm a big Pandora fan (see our article), but I always feel compelled to listen actively, because once a song floats by, I can't go back to it. (That's probably a DMCA requirement.) With FreshHotRadio, I can easily back up and even download the song. It would be nice if Fresh Hot maintained a list of links to the last ten songs it had played, though, so you could jump back several steps at a time.
It's a goofy name for a radio station, but Fresh Hot Radio points the way to a friendlier style of distribution. It's also a great example of why simpler is often better.