The World Wide Web was opened to the public 25 years ago this week, so to celebrate, we’re taking a look back at the websites (as opposed to apps and programs like iTunes and Napster) that have helped to change the way we consume music. You might not visit all seven every day, but chances are you’ll have given each of them a go at some point in the past quarter-century.
When: 2003-present day (sort of)
What it did: It was the first social networking site to become properly massive – in 2006, it even surpassed Google to become the most-visited website in the US.
How it changed music: It allowed artists to share new music in a matter of minutes, connect with fellow songwriters and producers, and form closer bonds with their fans than ever before.
Best thing about it: Helping to launch the careers of artists like Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and Kate Nash.
Worst thing about it: The slow decline it’s suffered since other social networking sites have become hipper and more sophisticated; even a 2011 buy-out from Justin Timberlake and his business partners wasn’t able to revive MySpace, which now feels as dated as the flip-phone.
When: 2009-present day
What it did: Other sites have tried to offer a Wikipedia-like service for song lyrics, but Genius is the first you’d actually bookmark.
How it changed music: Launched as Rap Genius, it initially helped to push hip-hop forward by enabling fans to decipher rappers’ quickfire rhymes. Since 2014, when it was relaunched as Genius, it’s been helping fans of all genres to work out the lyrics to their favourite songs.
Best thing about it: The sheer volume of song lyrics on offer; Genius just keeps getting more and more comprehensive.
When: 2005-present day
What it did: It enables artists, whether signed or not, to host their music videos online for free.
How it changed music: Before YouTube, we relied on music TV channels to watch our favourite artists’ videos. Now we watch what we want, when we want, without having to wait for The Hits to finish its “63 One-Hit Wonders From The ’90s” marathon.
Best thing about it: Pretty much every music video ever is now a few clicks away.
Worst thing about it: The pre-roll adverts can be a little tedious, but they’re a small price to pay.
When: 2008-present day
What it did: What YouTube does for music videos, SoundCloud does for the humble track.
How it changed music: It enables artists to share their new music in an instant, without having to bother with any kind of conventional “release strategy”.
Best thing about it: It’s fast, free and easy-to-use.
Worst thing about it: There’s something a bit anonymous and impersonal about SoundCloud, probably because it doesn’t try to second-guess your music tastes the way YouTube does.
When: 2000-present day
What it did: It’s a huge online database with information about music releases on all formats, whether they’re official, promotional, white label or even bootleg.
How it changed music: It makes hunting for rare vinyl much easier, not least because Discogs also has its own very active online marketplace.
Best thing about it: The sheer scope of the database – it currently lists over seven million releases by over 4.5 million artists.
Worst thing about it: The design and branding could be little bit sexier, but really we’re just nitpicking; this is basically a very useful and user-friendly website for the serious collector.
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When: 2010-present day
What it did: Like Discogs, it’s a staggeringly vast online database, but this time for gig setlists by bands of all different sizes.
How it changed music: More than any messageboard or fan site, it’s helped to remove the mystery surrounding which songs bands actually play live.
Best thing about it: If you’re the sort of fan who wants to enter a gig fully-prepared, Setlist.fm is a life-saver.
Worst thing about it: If you’re the sort of fan who likes to be surprised, Setlist.fm is a spoiler-filled irritation.
When: 2006-present day
What it did: It allows everyone to share their opinions with the world, as long as they keep those opinions to 140 characters or less.
How it changed music: It enables artists to communicate with their fans faster and easier than ever before. If you want to announce your new single, album or tour to the world, Twitter is now the most efficient way to do it.
Best thing about it: Twitter facilitates a collective conversation about trending topics like Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ album or Adele’s Glastonbury headline set that can be exciting to participate in.
Worst thing about it: It can also be hijacked by online trolls who use it to aim negative comments at artists or celebrities they disapprove of. Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones recently quit Twitter, albeit temporarily, after receiving a shocking torrent of racist and misogynistic abuse.