Radio, streaming services, social networks – everyone has their own way to discover new music. Meanwhile, there are dozens of entrepreneurs out there who believe they have a better way. Here are some of the best ones out there.
How it describes itself: This is not your mothers radio. Listen awesome tunes from cmd.fm’s curated playlists.
How it works: It’s radio powered by a command-line interface. To keep it easy, it lets you click on the most essential commands. Player controls are activated by typed commands. All music appears to come from Soundcloud.
First impression: Fun! And I’m pretty sure this is how hackers listen to music. Does this make me a hacker?
How it describes itself: Get the playlist of your dreams based on a song.
How it works: You type the name of a song in a search box and it automatically generates a Spotify playlist with 30 other tracks.
First impression: It succeeds because it doesn’t let itself fail: generating a playlist from one track doesn’t create huge expectations, so it doesn’t disappoint. The playlists are not amazing, but it works as a quick way to pick a theme and have some music to listen to.
How it describes itself: Discover songs the world is falling in love with.
How it works: Cymbal is a music social network that looks and feels a lot like Instagram.
First impression: Easy to use, because they make use of familiar interfaces. They make it easy to share content outside of the app, which is important in the early stages of social networks. Upon first try they really show you where the content is, so you immediately have something to check out. The onboarding process has too many steps and needs work. Ideally, you let people use the app ‘immediately’ and guide them through it, nudging them step by step to connect other accounts, etc.
As a social network, you need a certain critical mass to let users retain each other, so they should consider how to improve sharing the content outside the app in such a way that:
- Users will use the app, even if their friends are not on there;
- The content becomes so engaging that their friends will join.
How it describes itself: Discover new music by listening to a song’s best part first!
How it works: trbble sources music from Soundcloud and lets users define the most important part of the song, so others can get a quick impression of it. This 30-second clip is then called a trbble. The playback and upvote count of your trbbles is displayed on your profile. So there’s an incentive for active users to provide music for passive users.
First impression: Found it hard to get used to the interface, but there’s a use case to explore. trbbles could perhaps provide a passive stream for DJs to listen through a lot of music, instead of actively skipping through tracks. I think conceptually it could be interesting, but needs to simplify its interface.
A Song a Day
How it describes itself: Music from humans, not robots, delivered to your inbox every day. Because people are cool.
How it works: Give your email address, select which genres you like, and maybe select a curator. From that point you’ll receive new music recommendations, every day, in your inbox.
First impression: What I really like about the way it’s designed is that at every moment in the sign-up process, you can either give your preferences or say screw it, just send me some music. Simple and does what it says. I could imagine this having some growth potential.
How it describes itself: Music charts powered by Soundcloud.
How it works: It looks at data from “social media sites” and has a simple ranking algorithm to come up with charts. It’s basically an easy way to discover popular and trending music on Soundcloud.
First impression: Works well for the default tags and very popular search phrases, but if you go a bit more obscure, you get no results (eg. psytrance, goa). Even ‘trance’ returned just 6 results of which 3 were not trance. Perhaps it’s just not tracking the right blogs for that.
How it describes itself: 22tracks is a brilliantly curated playlist service, run by 120 expert and influential DJs from Amsterdam, Brussels, London and Paris.
How it works: The service appoints curators for genre-based playlists in each city. The curators are mostly local DJs, journalists, etc. with many being known within their scenes worldwide. Each playlist consists of 22 tracks and is updated regularly. You can save tracks to your own 22 track playlist.
First impression: Very cool concept, and so simple. They seem to monetize through brand partnerships, but I imagine they should be able to monetize part of their userbase at a low price point (between $1 and $4 per month) for additional mobile features like offline syncing, personalization, and perhaps exclusive premiers.
How it describes itself: DJs everywhere. Right here.
How it works: DJs can livestream their DJ sets on the platform, but you can also rewatch sets later. You can find all kinds of electronic music on the site, basically: if you can imagine it, they’ve got it.
First impression: Fun. Takes me back to when I would put Boiler Room sets on my TV all day long. This is a bit more personal, as you can follow DJs and also engage with other listeners through the chat function. In terms of music discovery, it would be nice to have some type of dynamic tracklist, but having a phone with Shazam handy has done the trick for me so far. And else you can always just tweet a DJ to ask about that track you must find!
Check out my interview with Will Benton from Chew.tv.
How it describes itself: Wonder is a platform that simplifies indie music discovery — a place to hear what’s new as soon as it’s released.
How it works: Wonder uses some ranking mechanism to find trending tracks on Soundcloud and then presents 99 one of them to the user. Some research suggests that after the algorithms surface tracks, some human curation is involved.
First impression: Wonder is a great way to find hot new tracks before they make it to the charts. I personally enjoy Primary and Whitelabel off-shoots more, which represent hiphop and dance music respectively. Very high quality tunes. Throw out your radio.
How it describes itself: Create your own music journey.
How it works: You pick a genre as departure point, another genre of where you want to go and then the app creates a playlist that builds from the former to the latter. You can adjust the tempo, energy, popularity, and vocal-drivenness of the tracks in your playlist, as well as the length of the playlist.
First impression: There’s quite a bit of work to be done. For one, it’s currently iOS-only, and you have to connect to Spotify. The authorisation process is a bit of a pain in the butt when first launching the app, especially if you just want to try it. I’d move the ‘Connect to Spotify’ step to after playlist creation. That way you already have commitment from the user. To avoid disappointment, the necessity for Spotify should be communicated upon launch. I also wasn’t able to find the genres I prefer, because they’re not available in the app yet.
There’s plus points too: the app’s design is neat and the playlists it creates are interesting. This is in part by the concept of genre journeys: you immediately start to wonder how the app is going to transition from Blues to EDM.