Twitter #Music got its big public debut today, and at first blush the service is visually impressive, and well-designed with smart, opportunistic integrations. Those integrations, with Rdio and Spotify, completely change how the app works for users who have active accounts with either service, vs. those who don’t. And the biggest winners here might just be Rdio and Spotify, since the app experience reinforces just how strong they and other discovery services like Songza really are.
Consider that without Rdio and Spotify, you’re not going to be able to access full tracks through Twitter #Music, only 60-second iTunes previews. That means you can’t just set it to play for a certain category and leave it on the background, without having an extremely jarring experience. Instead, you need to actively monitor what you’re listening to, making it the opposite of a lean-back experience.
Second, you can use Twitter #Music without a Twitter account, but you’ll be limited in terms of what you see. That’s because your recommendations, when not culled from the general public data of top trending artists (the “Popular” tab) or up-and-comers (“Emerging”), is instead drawn from the pool of artists you follow on Twitter. It turns out I follow exactly zero artists on Twitter music, and that’s not surprising, given that I use it primarily for work. You can rectify that in-app, but only by following artists on Twitter through it; they’ll show up in your standard Twitter feed, too, and there’s no way to keep them separate or quiet that noise. If you’re not interested in Top 40, or in what Twitter IDs as “emerging” talent, you might find yourself at a loss as to what to do in the app.
Even if you have Spotify or Rdio access, and your music tastes agree with Twitter’s, or you follow a wide range of artists, you’d still probably be better served going straight to the source. Rdio and Spotify both offer their own charts, as well as recommendation tools like albums identified as in “heavy rotation” among your network, which is built separate from your network on either Twitter or Facebook, which means you can build it exclusively to reflect people with similar musical tastes, instead of for more general purposes. Plus, with those subscription streaming services, you can access playlists curated by others for nearly any genre, mood or topic you can imagine.
Going even further afield to something like Songza, which is pure recommendations, you find even better discovery tools. Being able to drill down by mood and genre makes it so that recommendations on Songza feel a lot more varied and spontaneous, but remain more focused on areas you’re likely to enjoy. It also features full tracks by default, and is available on iOS and Android, as well as desktop. 8tracks offers a similar experience, and is also available across all three platforms. New entrant Piki from Turntable’s creators is also a strong contender, with a social network also based solely on musical taste, where you can build your own network by selecting from users within your Facebook or Twitter networks, or outside of those within Piki itself.
Twitter #Music is great-looking, both on the web and on the desktop, and it works well enough once you have an active Rdio or Spotify account. In that regard, it’s very good for Rdio and Spotify, since it should funnel new users to those services. And it’s very good for Twitter, since it essentially becomes a big potential ad platform targeting music labels, which have money to spend. Plus, as I quickly found, it should drive users to follow new artists if it doesn’t annoy them into shutting down the app instead. But for the average user looking for a way to discover new music, the field is rich and Twitter #Music’s current capabilities are relatively paltry.