Entries in Discovery (6)
Musebin wants to do for the album review what Twitter has done for status message – raising the short paragraph to an addictive art form. Musebin allows you to easily create 140 character or less album reviews and allow other people to vote and comment on your review. What is truly amazing to see is the poignancy, humor and density of thought that a skilled writer can deliver within such a concise format.
Writing a review is simple enough – simply type the name of an artist or album. Musebin will provide you with suggestions that match to help find exactly what you are looking for. If you dont want to write your own review, you can copy an excerpt from an outside source and provide a link back to the original source. This is great for artists who wish to provide reviews of their work without relying on other people to do it for them. Once your review is published, it can be seen by the public. You also have the ability to link your Twitter account and have your review automagically show up in Twitter.
You have the ability to rate any review with a yea or nay and add your own comments. The combination of review plus rating provides a checks and balances system where the community can vote down overhyped albums and inflate albums with unjustified bad reviews. Album pages allow you to listen to the album through an embedded LaLa or 8tracks player. The sidebar also shows a customizable list of tons of music 2.0 services where you can either purchase, listen to or download the album.
Musebin is an engaging and entertaining experience but still lacks some features that will truly make it world class including the ability to follow other users and more robust discovery mechanisms (related artists, albums, etc). They also need simple tools that provide the ability to syndicate your own content on other web sites. It will be interesting to see how Musebin evolves as the industry is moving away from albums to singles, a trend well recognized and executed by a similar service, Blip.fm.
Twones, an Amsterdam-based startup, launched a beta of their new music activity aggregator/social network. The idea behind Twones is a solid one - there are so many music services out there and simply no way to get your friends to use the same one. This makes sharing music and seeing what your friends are listening to pretty difficult. In addition to tracking what you listen to on your media player (iTunes, Winamp, etc), Twones also allows you to track music you listen to on dozens of different music sites including Last.fm, iLike, YouTube, Finetune, MySpace, imeem, MOG, Seeqpod, Deezer, Hype Machine and many more. Your listening activity is then aggregated and presented on your Twones profile page. Friends can see what you are listening to and playback songs on their original source page or other services. When you find songs you like, you can bookmark them for later.
Lifestreaming services like Strands and Friendfeed require you to have accounts with specific services so they can access the RSS feeds of your listening activity. Twones, uses a Firefox plugin that basically tracks whatever you listen to on the web regardless of whether you have an account with a specific web service. This has the advantage of aggregating a much wider range of music activity. On the flipside, there is no way to globally block tracking on specific services aside from manually clicking the icon in the browser window to disable the tracker.
Like other social networks, you can find people to “follow”. When viewing the Music Activity tab, you can see your own activity, your friend’s activity and everyone’s activity. Its a good way to see what other people are listening to and discover new music.
Twones also lets you search for artists and songs. Search results and artist pages take a Foxytunes approach and are loaded with information including bios (Wikipedia), similar artists (Last.fm), concerts (Eventful), albums (Amazon), videos (YouTube), photos (Flickr), and recent chatter (Twitter).
There are some issues with the service. Your dashboard has a recommendations tab but that does not seem to be working yet or provide any explanation of what it is. The charts seems to be inoperable at this time as well. The UI attempts to be clean and concise but for some reason comes across as more clunky and cluttered. More attention to typography and better use of ajax for progressive disclosure of information would be a great help.
The Twones beta version is a promising start and clearly addresses a need with today’s multiple source model of digital music consumption.
I’ve been playing around with a new music community site called JamsBio. The site allows you to create and share your own music reviews and top five lists like the ones sprinkled throughout, “High Fidelity”.
Creating your own list is simple and fun. After you name your list, you can search for songs to add. Select your desired track from the results and add an optional comment. When you are done you can publish the list to the JamsBio community and send it to friends. People can hear 30-second samples of the tracks and purchase them on Amazon or iTunes. Once the list is published, other people can add their own list based on the same subject you posted. JamsBio calculates each members individual list to create a master “people’s choice list”.
Unfortunately, as of now, there is no way to grab your list and embed it on your blog or website - an unforgivable omission in this day and age. There is also no ability to listen to full-length tracks via a subscription service (such as rhapsody) or export the tracks as a playlist file.
Creating your own reviews is also very simple. Search and find a song you wish to review and write your own review, memory, concert review or dedication. Unfortunately, there is no way to import my reviews into my blog or lifestream (though there is a embeddable widget)
JamsBio’s (a funny sounding name when written as a possessive) listing, reviewing and even games components are all well designed and engaging experiences in and of themselves. Even the captcha in the registration process was pretty cool. However when taken as a whole, these elements don’t gel together yet as a cohesive site experience. Its difficult to find like-minded people, the search feature is a bit disjointed, artist and tag detail pages are difficult to find and many of the internal promotions clutter the otherwise streamlined UI. Many of these issues can be easily worked out over time and i look forward to the day that they are.
Amazon recently released Windowshop Beta, an immersive user interface for exploring new releases and editors picks within books, music, movies and more. You use your arrow keys and spacebar to pan and zoom through the 3-D display of information. When you zoom in on an item - say an album, a song sample automatically plays. The same happens for movie trailers, audiobooks and even dead-tree editions. In fact, you don’t even need to use a mouse at all on the entire site except when you want to buy something (a “buy” keyboard command would be very nice). The next item automatically loads after the media sample for the current item ends. This is a nice touch because you can leave the window open, let it play while you do something else and come back when you hear something that sounds interesting.
Right now, the site is a pretty basic browsing experience, and a good one at that. If you want similar experience that actually allows you to search for specific items check out Cooliris.
Mufin provides song-based recommendations based on other songs. Unlike services such as Pandora which use human intervention to determine song characteristics, Mufin uses sound-based criteria such as such as rhythm, tempo, instrumentation and sound density to determine whether or not a song is similar to another song. After playing with the service for a while, i wish there was some human touch. Mufin’s recommendations aren’t terrible but they fall prey to the misunderstanding that I would like two songs simply because they sound alike. Measurable audio characteristics are important elements of a song’s construction, but without taking into account style, mood, and intent they are just loosely similar. Its like saying you would like two chairs because they are both black, leather, cushy, and swivel without taking into account the design, period and style.
You begin by typing in an artist or song name. Each result allows you to listen to a sample (when available) and view similar tracks directly inline. More often than not, many of the recommendations are the same song you are checking out or are not available to preview. If i cant hear a recommended song its useless to me and would prefer that you show me nothing at all. You can also add songs to a notepad (useful for remembering stuff you like) or a playlist. Why someone would want to create a playlist of 30 second samples is beyond me, but i suspect Mufin plans on providing some for of streaming playback sometime soon. Mufin also breaks the cardinal rule of multiple play button on a single page - when you click play on a different song, the original song does not stop. Try it out using “Row Row Row Your Boat”
There are some nice features though. Since they way you explore the site is to jump from song to song, Mufin keeps track of your clickstream history so you can easily go back and forth to previously viewed items. They also do some nice things with ajax in the UI to progressively disclose different types of information which makes for a pretty clean and uncluttered design.
Ever wish you could head your own record label? The Next Big Sound is a new music 2.0 site that lets you play music mogul - scout unsigned talent and sign the artists you think will make it to the big time.
Many sites such as Fairtilizer, use a Digg-style model where users vote for content they really like. The more votes an item gets, the higher the rank. TNBS takes a different approach. Your label can only sign 10 bands at any given time, so you must be very choosy about which ones you think will succeed - ensuring that only the best artists climb to the top.
There are a variety of ways find unsigned talent - search, charts and filtering your player by new artists and genres. There are also many ways to stumble upon random artists. Once you find a great band you can sign them to your label. Based on how many other labels sign your bands after you, you get mogul points - the more points you have, the higher your prestige and ranking in the charts. If you are the first label to sign a band and other people then sign the band, you get a big boost in mogul points.
You can track all of your label’s activity on your dashboard. There is an update area on the page that shows recent activity among your bands, new band announcements (sign them quick!), and moguls you follow. It even lets you know when another label that has a roster similar to yours signs a new band. There are also some cool visualizations that show your point breakdowns and timeline.
Overall, the site is slick, has an intuitive UI and is a lot of fun to play with. It would be great if there was an RSS feed of my updates so i don’t need to continually monitor the site for new bands and other news. It would also be nice to be able to download mp3s of the artists I sign. If I am helping them out by raising their visibility some free song downloads aren’t too much to ask for.