The recently launched Amsterdam-based music streaming site Shuffler offers a new take on Internet radio and music discovery. It's not necessarily the next big thing, but it's definitely a fun way to listen to new music.

Tim Heineke and four others founded the site. This group had previously created Tone.fm, a media and entertainment agency, and the music bookmark service Twones.

How It Works
Shuffler's catalog of music is indexed from a select group of MP3 blogs and organized into different channels. From the main page, a user can select a category of music (a channel) to stream. The homepage shows 15 channels at a time, in three rows of five. Once the streaming starts, the user is shown the blog post from which the song is taken. A Shuffler task bar remains at the top of the page.

Operation of Shuffler is simple: the task bar has a play/pause, forward and backward buttons. It also has artist and track info.

The Songs
Shuffler plays MP3 files posted at the blogs it tracks. If you like what you're hearing, you will probably be able to download the track from the blog (since many tracks are posted for downloading rather than streaming only). In the future, according to Heineke, the service will expand the songs it indexes beyond MP3 files. "We are pushing a release for YouTube, SoundCloud, Vimeo since this is more and more often used on blogs," he said.

By pulling tracks mostly from MP3 blogs, the Shuffler experience is quite different from that of traditional Internet radio. Not only does Shuffler curate by carefully choosing which blogs to include in its service, an extra layer of curation is added by the bloggers. That system allows it to piggyback on the trend watching of MP3 blogs and offer listeners the newest music.

The service's tight connection to MP3 blogs is obvious when choosing a channel. Listeners can opt for mash-ups, post-punk, shoegaze, dubstep, singer/songwriter and three types of indie (indie, indie rock and indie pop). Little is targeted for mainstream listeners. While there is an alt-country channel, for example, there is not a country channel.

Shuffler indexes content from more than MP3 blogs. According to Heineke, record label sites were some of the "one thousand or so" websites that requested to have their RSS feed added to Shuffler in the last couple of days.

Mainstream Music
Mainstream, major-label music can be found, however. Stream the pop channel and you may hear a new track by Katy Perry or Colbie Caillat. Kanye West and Drake can be found on the hip-hop channel. The classic rock channel is going to be heavy with major label content -- Neil Young, Steve Miller Band, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley were found in one test.

In trawling the Web for content, Shuffler is similar to Seeqpod, the late website that indexed and streamed publicly available MP3s. (Seeqpod acted more like a search engine, however, and lacked the hand-picked nature of Shuffler's selections. It faced numerous lawsuits and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009.) Shuffler can potentially index whatever is available on MP3 blogs. Many labels employ anti-piracy services to locate and remove their content on blogs and online storage sites (such as Megaupload). So, whatever isn't caught in these services' nets could end up on Shuffler.

Revenue Model
Although Shuffler does not yet have advertisements, Heineke says they're coming. The company is still experimenting with a branded player, overlay ads and other possible ad vehicles. Heineke adds the company also plans to release paid iPhone and iPad apps.

Legal Issues
Shuffler operates under a bit of a legal gray area. It does not currently pay performance royalties. The company attempts to shield itself from liability by asking content owners to notify the blogs to remove content. "Most of these sites or completely legit music blogs hosted on blogging platforms such as WordPress, Blogger, Typepad, Tumblr or Posterous," Heineke explains. It helps that most songs played on Shuffler are indie artists who are more likely to trade legal action for awareness. While the service is currently based on posted MP3 files, Shuffler should have fewer rights issues from the use of video posted legally at sites like YouTube, SoundCloud and Vimeo.

But there is a precedent that indicates Shuffler could continue to grow unabated: The Hype Machine. The popular site is part music blog search engine and part streaming service. Like Shuffler, it does not control the blogs it indexes. Perhaps most importantly, it has the two characteristics that tend to keep a music service out of legal trouble: it lacks big financial backing and plays mostly non-major label music.

Heineke says Shuffler plans to start paying performance royalties once it gains traction and introduces paid apps. Until then, content owners can request that links to their songs be removed from the service.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

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