Music is dead. That’s how I feel when I listen to the radio these days, or when I flip to a music video channel and find myself assaulted by the latest, greatest “reality” television series. Do people actually like Jersey Shore — or is it just some kind of morbid fascination? In any case, when it comes to music, I find myself searching for… something more. That’s how I came across ExtensionFM.
ExtensionFM is an addon for Google Chrome that “turns the entire web into your musical library”. There is a lot of free music floating about the internet — attached to blogs, artist websites, etc. — some of it from mainstream sources and some of it from independents. If you install ExtensionFM and visit sites that host music (MP3 format), it indexes all of the music files on the page and adds them to your extension’s music library. If you create an account (not a requirement for casual use), ExtensionFM has the option to sync your library to the cloud for later use, and can continue to check the sites in your library for future updates, adding more new music (potentially) every day.
Everything happens in the background, with only a little number attaching itself to the ExtensionFM icon in Chrome to tell you how many songs are available on the site you are visiting. As soon as a song is added to the library, it can be played by clicking on the icon and then pressing the play button on the song in the dropdown list. You can also choose to Queue the song (or the entire song list from that page) and start a playlist. All entries in your library link back to the original site, and you are not downloading anything to your computer — unless you want to buy something, of course. For sites that have the option available, like Bandcamp, you can right-click on a song and click buy, which then takes you to that site’s purchase area. I found Neil Gaiman’s girlfriend, Amanda Palmer, via Bandcamp (bit dark and moody, that one…), as well as some other talented indie artists. All are now a part of my ExtensionFM library.
The player for your ExtensionFM songlist is pretty straightforward and can be accessed from the extension icon itself, or via an overlayed player at the bottom of your browser window. Not to worry if you don’t like to compromise real estate, though, as the overlayed player closes away without affecting song playback. I would like a few extra options in the player, I think — like the ability to create more than one queue, or the ability to shuffle my queue or library. Maybe some handy sharing options? At the moment, all you get is stream control, a volume slider, and a next/previous button set. This keeps things simple, but doesn’t compare well with other music players. I hope that future updates make the player a bit more robust.
My biggest concern was with the auto-adding of music to the library. I know its handy that the extension does it for you rather than bugging you about it, but — initially, anyway — I was unable to find a way to get things out of my library that I didn’t want to be there. There’s some really good music out there, true, but there is also some “music” that I don’t want even remotely connected to me. The trick to getting rid of library entries lies in changing the view of the library page to list mode. You can then right click on a song or even an entire site and delete it, keeping things neat and tidy while maintaining your sanity. You can clear your queue with a simple right click/select action as well.
ExtensionFM does try to make itself as useful as possible. It makes it easy for you to get started in creating a library with a magazine-style dashboard homepage that links to featured music sites and the latest “Site of the Day” post from the ExtensionFM Tumblr blog. It also has a couple of cool integrations: one with Tumblr that allows you to access 50 queued tracks in your Tumblr dashboard (which, I imagine, could be handy if you are using other browsers); and one that scrobbles your play choices to Last.fm to help you hone your interests. If I were to wish for anything it would be for some way for ExtensionFM to get inside flash music players like the ones used on Myspace. Myspace is a treasure trove of free-to-play music, and being able to add pages from there to your library, especially with a buy option, would be great for everyone concerned.
What do you think? Is ExtensionFM a potential band-aid for the problems with modern music – or should I just give in and spend the next 10 hours forcing myself through a Jersey Shore marathon? Check out the 60 Second Intro Video below, or give the extension a whirl and leave your thoughts in the comments.