Until now, my problem with social music services has been this: Following friends doesnít really turn up much music I actually want to hear. We didnít become friends because we share musical tastes, and too few of them are using the services Iím trying out.
Twitterís new music service solves this problem. It helps that itís free. Iím able to sneak a peek into the musical interests of the artists I like. For example, I discovered that Gotye likes the Divine Fits, a Los Angeles band Iíd never heard of until now, because he follows them on Twitter.
With a tap on the colorful photo representing the band, I can listen to a 30-second preview of the new song of theirs that is being tweeted about the most. For the Divine Fits, thatís Like Ice Cream. It was catchy enough for me to want to hear more.
After listening to a preview, I can tap a button to buy the track on iTunes or listen to the full song through a $10-a-month subscription from Spotify or Rdio. I can also find other songs from the artists through those outside services.
As a discovery tool, Twitterís #music service provides a convenient, visually pleasing way to filter through the deluge of music thatís out there.
Sure, I could have replicated this feature by digging through Gotyeís Twitter profile and individually going into the profiles of people heís following to determine if theyíre artists. Then I could search elsewhere for their songs or music videos. But thatís more work than Iím ready to put into this.
The #music service highlights the artists for you and features the song preview right there.
The service also has a tab for emerging artists that it somehow digs out from tweets. Iím not sure how theyíre selected, but random poking around this page is how I found the music of Skylar Grey.
Finding new music can be tough. Itís easy to get hit over the head by the chart-toppers, who are everywhere. Thereís also a ďpopularĒ tab in #music for a rundown of which artists are trending on Twitter.
Itís way more difficult to find music you like if you never knew a band existed. This provides a way.
For now, #music is available as an iPhone app and on the Web at https://music.twitter.com. Twitter says an Android version is coming, but it didnít say when.
Beyond its usefulness for music discovery, the Twitter #music app is fun to play with. It is far more engaging than Twitterís regular app, and swiping around makes the squares representing artists bounce around. Tapping to play a song clip generates a spinning icon with album-cover art that harkens back to the heyday of vinyl records.
True, this is a marketing tool and I was skeptical to start. And #music is not perfect for listening. Artists have only one song apiece on their profiles, so if you want to hear more, youíve got to go elsewhere.
And even if you buy a song from iTunes after discovering it here, tapping the play button on the artistís square again will still play the 30-second preview. I discovered this after buying Skylar Greyís Final Warning for 69 cents. To hear the full version, I had to go back to the iPhoneís music player.
It also didnít track the #NowPlaying tag very well, despite putting it in all my tweets from the service. There was a considerable lag in showing these tweets from people I follow compared with my normal Twitter feed.
For full song plays within the service, you have to sign up for a premium subscription to Spotify or Rdio, each of which costs $10 a month.
This made using #music much better, although I discovered more artists by listening to just 30 seconds, making a quick decision and moving on ó kind of like speed dating for music. The clips will play back-to-back, which can make for a jarring listening experience. But you also can focus your time on quick music discovery and go elsewhere to learn more.
Connecting the service to my Rdio account helped because the songs I played through #music showed up on the Rdio appís history list. That way, I could switch to Rdio to listen to the whole album.
Thanks to #music, I discovered that I like the Divine Fits and Skylar Grey within, say, a half-hour of fiddling with the service. That makes it worth downloading, in my view. Iíll go back to it when Iím on the hunt again for music I didnít know was there.