After months of rumor and speculation, Twitter officially unveiled #music, the company’s foray into the music space. Twitter #music (pronounced Twitter Music), however, isn’t like any other iPhone music app on the market. Twitter #music leverages your social circle to serve up music recommendations and song samples. In this regard, Twitter #music is fairly effective, but it asks you to jump through some rather bizarre hoops to receive those personalized recommendations or listen to full tracks—hoops that will likely turn away many people expecting a true streaming music service. Note: This review covers the iPhone app, but Twitter #music exists as a website as well.
Twitter #music’s iPhone app, by default, takes you to the panel-driven homescreen which displays the 140 most popular songs currently trending on the 140-character social network. If you’d like to bypass the most popular artists, a drop-down menu in the top-center of the screen lets you check artists who are Emerging (described as “the hidden talent found in the Tweets”), Suggested (recommended tracks based on musicians you follow), Now Playing (music “Tweeted by people you follow”), and the ones you follow, called Me in the menu. You can also navigate through these sections by swiping left or right.
An artist panel features an artist’s photo and Twitter handle, but tapping a square reveals more information. A highlighted panel increases in size to stand out from the others and reveals the artist’s name, a Twitter follow icon, an “Explicit” label when appropriate, and a play button which streams a crisp iTunes song snippet when clicked (you can also purchase the song from iTunes). This is easily Twitter Music’s most disappointing and frustrating aspect as you need to use other services—namely Rdio or Spotify—to listen to tracks in their entirety. Existing Rdio and Spotify subscribers may see the integration as a nice touch, but those who don’t subscribe to those streaming music services (or use a non-supported service like Slacker Radio) may feel left out in the cold.
Music Discovery, Not Music Listening
Tapping either the Rdio or Spotify icon causes Twitter #music to request permission to access either music service. I logged into my $9.99 per month Spotify Premium account—an account I set up exclusively to test the Twitter #music website.
I dove into the music catalog by playing the #1 most popular song on Twitter—Maroon 5′s “Love Somebody.” It was, as one would expect from crowded sourced recommendations, typical pop music fare. At least the audio streamed smoothly and sounded good. As a song streams, a metallic-looking record icon spins in the lower-left portion of the screen. Tapping that opens a nearly full-screen player that lets you forward- and backward-swipe between songs. It also serves up a single track from an artist at a time—there’s no way to see, for example, an album’s track listing from within Twitter #music. You can, however, click on the Rdio or Spotify icon to visit the external artist pages on those sites if you’d like more information.
Twitter #music also gives you the option to Tweet what you’re listening to at the moment. My immediate thought was that if the service caught on, my Timeline would be filled with these annoying shout outs and links to Rdio and Spotify. I could happily do without it.
That said, Twitter #music may serve music artists well. No matter where you are in the app, an artist is staring back at you. The sheer number encourages exploration, but that may not result in finding music you like. In my case, the Popular section meant nothing to me—it was mainly pop swill. Now Playing, the music tweeted by my Twitter buds, didn’t help much either (at least on launch day). There were nine recommendations and none moved me. The Emerging section was a mixed bag of potential Vice-worthy indie darlings, but certainly a step up from Popular. The Suggested section proved the most helpful as it recommended songs based on the two musicians I follow: Chuck D and Talib Kweli. Naturally, there were a lot of hip hop-heavy songs from the likes of Q-tip, Pharoahe Monch, and Bumpy Knuckles. I would have preferred if my actual tweets influenced the suggested artists, too, as I tweet about all types of music. In order to get a more varied suggestion range, I would have to follow more artists—and I don’t want to do that. I prefer a clean Twitter feed.
There’s also a search button, but it doesn’t return song results—it returns user names. Type in “Walk This Way” and you’ll get zilch unless that name is actually a Twitter handle. In this instance, Twitter #music felt even less like a music service and simply a tool to drive up artist’s engagement numbers.
Room For Improvement
The comingling of music and social network in the manner presented here is troublesome. I like, for example, John Mayer’s music, but do I really want to follow his Twitter account in order to receive Mayer-like recommendations? No. Plus, I don’t want to clutter my Twitter stream with a slew of artists just to help sculpt personalized suggestion results.
The Twitter brand has given this service a lot of buzz, but I predict that the hype will quickly fade when the limitations arise. By requiring users to sign up for a premium Rdio or Spotify account and follow musicians to receive personalized music recommendations, Twitter #music has erected roadblocks for those who simply want to hear a quick song or two. That’s not to say that Twitter #music doesn’t have room for improvement. Should Twitter #music implement album info and create a way to get personalized recommendations without the need for users to follow artists it could be worth consideration. For now? Pass unless you’re a Twitter diehard.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc