My Afternoon with Twitter #Music

on Thursday, Apr. 18th

I’m no Ryan Seacrest, so like the rest of us mere mortals I had to wait until Twitter’s new music app–dubbed Twitter #music–was released onto the iOS App Store to get a chance to play with it.

The wifi here at the office is notoriously spotty so I took my iPhone4, which hates just about every app built since 2011, out into the streets of Culver City to give the new app a shakedown cruise.

First impressions, after the jump.

I’ll say this much right out of the gate: I like how it looks. The Twitter #music app borrows some of the organizational vibe of the KCRW Music Mine and funnels out the unnecessary whimsy. The battle, after all, is to create the ultimate music discovery platform.

This is a space with a lot of competition: Rdio, Spotify, Pandora, Turntable.fm, the NewMyspace and Facebook just to name what’s off the top of my head. All of these services want to take up the mental space that top 40 radio does.

The app features music that has been tweeted out by artists on their own twitter feeds, and music that has been shared using the #NowPlaying hashtag.

Now this Twitter app is interesting in that it doesn’t have much in the way of power without linking in to another service. On its own #music only plays the iTunes previews of songs. Link the app to an Rdio or Spotify account and it will run the full song (if available). Clicking on a song in the app starts a Pandora-like radio feed, jumping from song to song using some mystical algorithm devised by prog-rock wizards.

I spent about an hour with the app, and it managed to do something none of these music apps have before: it didn’t annoy me with what they threw into my stream. If anything it taught me something I didn’t know: I really like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

The Spotify integration is far less annoying/intrusive than what happens on Facebook. There if I’m interested in a song suddenly I’m thrust into Spotify. Particularly annoying on my laptop, because everything seems to grind to a halt on my aging machine. Here the song just plays. Right in the #music interface.

That’s exactly the kind of design choices I like to see from these emerging media powerhouses. Twitter has built a human interface for a particularly lively vertical on the social media platform.

Okay, it was We Are Hunted that built the app and Twitter threw money at them. This is easily the best aqui-hire that Twitter has made since they picked up Loren Brichter of Tweetie fame. (Sorry, Vine.) However Brichter ultimately parted ways with Twitter and has now landed at Facebook. Hopefully whoever is doing the UI work on #music is going to be around TwitterHQ for a long while.

I’m having perfromance issues with my old iPhone4, however. The different views won’t load smoothly, and I can’t tell if it is spotty network coverage or some other kind of lag that causes the streams to hiccup. I’d love to play with this on a 5 in the center of some solid WiFi.

One thing I’m wary of: the app wants to leverage the musicians that I follow on Twitter and I don’t follow that many. I don’t really want to clog up my main newsfeed with a bunch of artists just to make music recommendations better. Yug.

At the steep price of FREE the new app is bound to get a lot of downloads. What intrigues me, however, is how much value this interface gives to Spotify and Rdio. I was thinking of dropping my Spotify account–again–since I’ve barely been using it of late. Now that there is this seamless integration with #music, I’m more apt to keep the app.

[Sorry, I work out of NPR West. We have a pun quota to meet.]


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