It’s the celebrities we feel sorry for. Their window of opportunity for social media smugness at having the Twitter #music app before anyone else has slammed shut after a few days. We daresay they’ll cope.
Yes, Twitter’s much-anticipated music discovery app is here. Well, here on iPhone at least, with a website version also up and running, for users in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Other countries and an Android app will follow “over time” apparently.
Twitter is certainly talking the new app up: “a new service that will change the way people find music” according to its launch blog post.
“It uses Twitter activity, including Tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists. It also brings artists’ music-related Twitter activity front and center: go to their profiles to see which music artists they follow and listen to songs by those artists. And, of course, you can tweet songs right from the app.”
For now, Twitter #music (is it only us who thinks that hashtag / lower-case name is a bit awkward) integrates with Apple’s iTunes store and streaming services Spotify and Rdio. Despite recent rumours, there’s no sign of SoundCloud, Vevo and YouTube at this point.
All users will hear preview clips from iTunes when using the app, but if they’re a paying subscriber for Spotify or Rdio, they can listen to full tracks. “We will continue to explore and add other music service providers,” says Twitter.
So what’s it like? Twitter #music is the first fruit of Twitter’s acquisition of music discovery startup We Are Hunted, and anyone who used its website in the past will recognise the thumbnail-heavy design of the new app.
There are four main sections to Twitter #music: Popular, Emerging, Suggested and #NowPlaying. We’ll take them in turn.
Popular is a chart of “new music trending on Twitter”, displayed as a scrolling collection of thumbnail images of the artists (or their logos). Tap on one, and it expands with a button to play the trending track, follow the artist on Twitter or navigate to their profile.
There appear to be some teething problems this afternoon. Having signed in with Spotify, at the time of writing, the app tells me that the first, second, fourth, fifth and tenth most popular tracks are “no longer available”. Not even preview clips.
Strangely, it’s a different story for the Emerging chart, which is billed as “hidden talent found in the Tweets”. The entire top 10 there is currently playable.
Another section is #NowPlaying, which shows you tracks that have been tweeted by people you follow, again letting you play them or check out the artist’s profile – with an additional icon letting you know which friend / followee posted the original tweet.
Finally, there’s Suggested, which promises “artists you might like”. It’s a little unclear how this chart is being drawn up, although the fact that mine currently recommends Neil Diamond, Dixie Chicks, Travis Barker, John Legend, Ricky Martin and Slash doesn’t make a marvellous first impression.
(That said, I’ve only been using the app this afternoon, and past experience with music discovery services tells me day one’s not the best time to form a judgement on this score. Also, Ricky Martin has some good tunes, no? Oh.)
You can also bring up your own Twitter profile, complete with thumbnails of artists that you’re following on Twitter. Tap through – this applies to any artist thumbnail in the app – and you can see who THEY’RE following.
All the while, spinning artwork at the bottom-left of the screen lets you check what song you’re currently listening to, and tap and tap an icon to tweet about it (with preloaded #NowPlaying hashtag, song title, the artist’s Twitter handle and a link to whatever service you’re listening through).
The app looks good, and is very easy to use. Hats off to the We Are Hunted team, and the people within Twitter who were smart enough to snap them up.
The web version is equally slick – and it really does look like We Are Hunted’s existing service, which is a good thing. Again, you can sign in to Spotify or Rdio for full-length tracks, or settle for iTunes preview clips.
So how significant is Twitter #music really, in the grand scheme of things? One reason for caution is the idea of a music discovery app drawing from a single source – Twitter – rather than the many places where people may find, listen to and share music recommendations.
This app knows what music people on Twitter are tweeting about; it can tell you what people you’re following on Twitter are enjoying; and it suggests additional music based on the artists you follow on Twitter.
The italics make our point: for now, Twitter #music doesn’t appear to factor in what your Facebook friends are up to, the artists you’ve listened to most on Spotify or Rdio, the gigs you’ve marked as attending on Songkick, the songs that are trending off Twitter on music blogs…
It’s a single-source app, basically – or if it’s not, Twitter isn’t talking about it, which is possible. We Are Hunted certainly had the technology to draw on many more sources in its previous incarnation, so it’s possible this stuff is all under the surface in Twitter #music too.
Twitter has a certain scale – 200m active users – and there’s definitely lots of music activity happening on it. “Many of the most-followed accounts on Twitter are musicians, and half of all users follow at least one musician,” as the blog post explains.
There’s logic to a Twitter-fuelled music discovery app, in other words, albeit as just as one source of recommendations among others for keen music fans. Shuffler.fm, Hype Machine… there are other apps out there doing this, and while Twitter #music sits neatly alongside them, it’s not a game-changer. Yet.