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Twitter #music Tops the Charts for Song Discovery

Twitter #music Tops the Charts for Song Discovery

Those looking to keep up with the latest Top 40 hits will probably sing the praises of Twitter #music, the social network's new app which provides music discovery features currently lacking from iTunes and subscription services. The app mines Twitter's vast database of artists and their fans in an elegant design that's easy to navigate and fun to explore. Potential sour notes include song snippets that are too short.

Twitter #music is available for free at the iTunes App Store.

Twitter Music

The new Twitter #music app for iOS is the coolest app I want to love forever. However, it still gives me the nagging feeling that its slick graphics and fast play might leave our relationship just an empty shell of glitz and hope.

Like those hot-and-heavy relationships that defy explanation, #music is a hard app to truly love -- or let go.

Let me explain.

First of all, I firmly believe that music discovery is the biggest challenge the music industry faces right now. Diehard listeners probably don't understand what I'm talking about, but there's a group of people who love music and want to listen to more music, but don't have a lot of free time to click, search and listen to songs.

The iTunes Store is a discovery travesty, especially for those who would like to find some new rock songs and not wade through all the old classics that dominate the charts -- songs which they probably already own.

Subscription music services seem like a pretty good deal, except the pricing just seems to fall outside of the perfect budget. I think most people would rather buy a few dozen great songs a year than commit to US$120 in subscription fees.

As for free services, they are ad-supported and can kill the music mood. They can also leave you wondering if every single click and movement around the Internet is being recorded and added to yet another database profile in the sky.

So this group of people cues up the same playlists again and again, listens to the radio, and randomly adds a few new songs here and there. We all know there's more great music out there, but by the time we have a chance to sit down and hunt for it, our time is up and we didn't buy anything. We go back to the overplayed songs we still barely love.

Twitter #music Is All About Discovery

Twitter, on the other hand, is a social media phenomenon -- particularly for musicians who want to connect with their audience. Take a look at The Voice television show: It embeds tweets from Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Usher, and Shakira right into the broadcast itself.

High-profile stars are using Twitter, and I have to imagine that thousands of lower-profile musicians are using it as well. Twitter is smart enough to know they are musicians.

The #music app lets you follow your favorite artists and see what other artists they follow. The thinking here is that if your favorite artists follow other artists, there's a great chance you'll appreciate the music from those other artists.

This is brilliant -- no doubt about it.

Plus, as a #music user, you'll get a tiny thrill of a personal connection when a new discovery happens. It's not a real connection. Just because Blake Shelton follows Luke Bryan and you discover a new song, it doesn't really mean you're any closer to your artists. Music, however, is about feeling, and Twitter makes you feel as if there's an artist somewhere out there on the other end of the Internet.

In addition, #music is broken up into several different screens that you swipe left or right to see. The first is Popular -- new music that is trending on Twitter. It's populated by new artists that are getting a lot of attention on Twitter. I have no idea how the Twitter algorithms work, but there it is -- @thedavidcook in the number one spot, @rayj at number two, @petshopboys in the third spot. This screen shows 140 tiles that have artists and songs, and the tiles and songs are all over the map.

If you tap on the David Cook tile, box or icon, the tile quickly expands to four times the size of the original and shoves the other tiles around. The graphical effect is fast and sweet. This is just one example of the polish and subtle activity Twitter managed to squeeze into this app -- how it showcases and feels and navigates. It's all nice.

Back to David Cook: If you tap a familiar play icon, you'll get to hear a 30-second snippet of his trending song. That's it. Not the whole song. That's a disappointment. What's worse is that right after that clip, you'll jump right into a new clip -- and not another David Cook song, either. Whatever was next in line on the 140-tile list. It's jarring, especially if the genres are different. At the very moment you're feeling the beat of the clip, thinking, "Yeah, maybe this is worth buying," boom, you're listening to the middle of a different song.

On the other hand, if you're a subscriber to Spotify or Rdio, which are integrated with #music, you should be able to play the entire song if it's available through those services.

Emerging Talent Found in the Tweets

The next panel of songs comes from musician members of Twitter that the social network has somehow found and decided to show off. If you're willing to tap around and explore, you could definitely find some rising stars or some potentially great songs.

If you're like me, you've found a few of these amazing songs from indie bands who then fell apart and disappeared from the world, leaving you with this one awesome but orphan sound. Perhaps social media will help these guys find their audience.

If you spend enough time tweeting and following, Twitter will show you another panel of artists you might like. Also, a panel called #NowPlaying consist of songs tweeted by people you follow. The value of these two panels will be reflected in your own personal Twitter activity and who you follow.

The last panel is a section that shows all the artists that you're following. Tap an artist and you can play a snippet of one of their songs -- which, by the way, I'm still not sure how exactly a particular song is associated with each artist's tile in #music.

Below the artist tile, you can tap their Twitter handle to go to the artist's Twitter page as it is rendered in #music. You can see the familiar number of tweets and followers, for example, but you can also see all the artists that your favorite artist follows. This feature might be the best in #music.

#music as a Twitter Tool?

While you can tweet out a song that you're listening to, why would anyone bother if all they're listening to is a snippet? That seems unlikely. Maybe Spotify or Rdio subscribers will, but I doubt it's going to be huge.

If you could play music from your own library -- even through the Music app on your iPhone and tweet that out -- I can see that, especially if you discovered a new band. However, there's no integration like that, just the selling integration. If you find a snippet you like, you can zip over to the iTunes store and buy it.

All in all, #music is almost a fantastic app. Its design is gorgeous, fast and fun, and it's pulling data out of one of the hottest social media ecosystems going. It's also hampered by the music industry itself and how it lets people discover and appreciate songs -- and eventually (you might hope) buy them.

It's like promising discovery with dead ends -- a hot but doomed relationship. If Twitter can improve these issues, #music could become a powerful app.


MacNewsWorld columnist Chris Maxcer has been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and he still remembers the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. While he enjoys elegant gear and sublime tech, there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. To catch him, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at WickedCoolBite.com.


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