Even years later, Soulseek is not only my P2P client of choice, but it is basically my source for any music obtained via WAN-related means.
Despite the preponderance of, and seemingly exponential growth in, web-based services meant to distribute and/or promote independent and generally obscure music, I still believe that P2P is the highest tier of music distribution methodology. Simply put, it is because the most reliable recommendations are peer-based (welcome to the last year of Facebook’s development, incidentally). This goes for music, cuisine, anything.
Personally, I don’t buy into the “Hype-Machine-as-a-source-of-new-music” ethos that everyone has been buzzing about the last couple of weeks. To me, aggregation means nothing. I don’t agree with the tastes of the aggregate. Hell, I don’t agree with the tastes of my best friends. But I can conceptualize what those tastes are, what they mean to me and how to perceive their recommendations. (ex. Jeff recommends to me a “trenchant” pop-punk-styled band; however, as Jeff also happens to like Fall Out Boy and Panic! at the Disco, I would not be automatically inclined to examine said “trenchant” band [clearly, Jeff and I are both huge Klosterman fans].) I can’t do that with the taste of the aggregate; there’s simply no context upon which to make an accurate analysis.
The P2P medium is, in theory, the online manifestation of this, and Soulseek optimizes the desired components of the medium:
1) It is extremely easy to find rare and obscure tracks. The tastes of the members are almost exclusively various forms of underground music.
2) The interface makes it as easy to search for and download by album as by individual song, which I personally believe is critical.
3) The GUI is clean to the point of being Chrome-esque. Unlike the Limewire family of P2P clients, there is no built-in player or library that clutters the functionality. It is very easy to integrate with iTunes or your media player of choice.
4) Most importantly, community is emphasized. There are genre-based chat rooms. Messaging and interacting with users is commonplace and encouraged. Searching another user’s library takes two clicks. Recommendations abound. The close-knit community also creates a sense of security, which is critical when downloading files anonymously via the internet.
I’m not always right with these things, but I still believe in P2P as a relevant medium. The internet community at-large has always been trigger-happy for new services, applications and delivery methods, at the cost of forgetting that development and improvement are not synonymous. I maintain that this is a perfect example of this syndrome.
If you’re not already in on this, try the client for yourself here: www.slsknet.org. Of course, you will judge this recommendation in the context of my taste and decide for yourself. But that’s the point.