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Last week the Songbird team announced it would stop supporting Linux. Since the article announcing this featured the annoyingly chipper bird you see here, and because the headline of said article was the jovial ”Songbird Singing a New Tune,” many people assumed the entire thing was a particularly cruel April Fools prank.
I mean, come on: this news is about as ridiculous as VLC claiming to be bought out by Real Networks, isn’t it? But then Songbird users saw the date on the post in question: April 2, 2010. This is no joke.
As you can imagine, Linux Songbird users aren’t happy. Judging by the hundreds of baffled, angry and just plain confused comments beneath the aforementioned blog post, many of them are now looking for alternative Linux music players to switch to.
If you’re a Gnome user, you’ve seen Rhythmbox before. It’s the default player on all Gnome systems, including Ubuntu and if you used to be a Songbird user, you’ve probably gave up on Rhythmbox to start using it.
That was a mistake. Rhythmbox is a no-nonsense Linux music players that indexes your music and gives you fast access to it. It comes with two built-in music stores, and with Ubuntu 10.04 later this month it will also give you access to the Ubuntu One music store. It can access iTunes shares over a network (although it sometimes needs to play catch-up with iTunes to support the latest version) and comes with a built-in Last.fm tracker and player. All this and it supports podcasts.
Now’s a good time to give Rhythmbox a second chance. This lightweight music player, modeled on iTunes, comes with a very familiar interface for Songbird users, albeit without the skin. You might like it. Heck, it even works with the iPod—that’s something that hasn’t been true of Songbird for a while.
Odds are you already have Rhythmbox; if not, find it in your package manager or read more at Rhythmbox’s website.
Some consider Amarok the best music player on the planet. While that may be a stretch, this QT4-based player is certainly worth checking out. The default player on most KDE systems, Amarok does come with its share of bells and whistles: Last.fm integration, a couple of music stores, Wikipedia and lyric viewer built in and more. Add your music to the library and Amarok will quickly create a database for you. You can also browse by file, if that’s more your cup of tea.
Anything you can do with Rhythmbox can be done here, so far as I can tell; this is the go-to KDE music player. Installing Amarok on Linux is as simple as finding it in your package manager, or you can read more about/download Amarok here.
Most KDE applications underwent significant changes when KDE 4 came out, and Amarok is no exception. Anyone who used Amarok 3 or 4 years ago no doubt hardly recognizes the above screenshot, but they might find this one familiar:
But this isn’t Amarok; it’s Clementine. You see, a lot of people didn’t like what Amarok turned into for KDE 4, so they found the source code for the old Amarok. They made Clementine, which is basically Amarok 1.4 ported to work with modern KDE systems. If you remember using Amarok 4 years ago and loved it, this is the music player you’re looking for.
Clementine’s an amazingly efficient QT4 music player. The interface can take some getting used to if you never used Amarok 1.4, but once you do, you may never want to use another music player. There’s a reason people worked to bring back the old Amarok after the new one came out, and it’s not that the new one is terrible: it’s that the old one was really, really good. If enough people were passionate enough about it to bring it back, it’s worth you giving it a shot if you don’t find the current Amarok to your tastes.
You won’t find Clementine in your package manager, but you will find plenty of packages for the program over at Clementine’s webpage.
MPD (and various clients)
There’s a good chance that, after the bloat and many features of Songbird, you’re looking for a music player that’ll just play music. This is that player. It’ll take some time to set up, but once you get MPD and its various clients operational you’ll never want to use anything else. It uses the same client-server model I described in an article about Bittorrent client Deluge.
Explaining how to get started with MPD could be an entire article in itself, but if you want a quick idea of what’s required why not check out this page on the MPD Wiki.
Banshee’s a lot like Rhythmbox, but prettier. A pretty interface isn’t all you can expect from Banshee, however: it features a video library in addition to its music library and the ability to transfer those videos to your iPod (the only Linux player that can do this). You’ll find all the Linux standards here, including Last.fm capability and podcast management.
The differences between Rhythmbox and Banshee are subtle and don’t lend themselves well to explanation; it’s best to just try both out. Install Banshee using your package manager or read more about it here.
A lot of people mentioned this project in the comments section of the Songbird post, so I thought I’d mention it. Gudyadequ is a relatively new music player being developed by the good folks at UbuntuForums. It’s pretty basic right now, but it’s also pretty fast because of this. The interface takes some getting used to, but you’ll probably like it if you’re a fan of tabbed layouts.
You won’t find Gudyadequ in your package manager, but you can download it at SourceForge pretty easily. Check it out.
If this isn’t enough choice, check out Damien’s article about 5 great alternative Linux music players. You’ll be annoyed when you see it includes Songbird, but there are some great programs there that I’ve left out, including the excellent Audacious.
The news about Songbird sucks, but there are plenty of alternatives to Songbird on the Linux platform. What you decide to use is up to you, but I hope this article gives you a starting point to finding an alternative.
It’s also worth noting that if Clementine started using the old source code for Amarok, a community might well take the existing Songbird code and start their own player based on it. So don’t give up hope. Linux Songbird faithful: this phoenix may yet rise from the ashes, and MakeUseOf will let you know if it does.
What do you guys think? Is the Songbird news terrible to you, or are you excited to try out some different Linux music players? Would you be interested in a third-party Linux version of Songbird? What’s your music player of choice? As always, the comments below belong to you, so make use of them!
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