When the powerhouse social media platform Twitter arrived in 2006, we saw some clear potential for music. 120-character text limitations aside, it seemed the service was destined to become a powerful engine for music discovery given the real-time, rapidfire exchange it facilitated.
Music indeed became a part of the Twitter experience, if not always lawfully. As the service grew, it was common to see users tweeting and retweeting links to songs, using it as a kind of virtual DJ booth. People could share their own recordings posted on Bandcamp, Reverbnation, SoundCloud or any of the other platforms where you can post your music. Of course, it also became very common to see links to songs hosted at sites that might not have had the rights to that music in the first place.
Obviously, the relationship between promotional and economic activity around music can get a bit blurry. Today, Twitter has taken some steps to “unblur” things by launching #music — a way to listen to and/or purchase music from services that Twitter users are likely already familiar with. From the Twitter blog:
Today, we’re releasing Twitter #music, a new service that will change the way people find music, based on Twitter. It uses Twitter activity, including Tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists. It also brings artists’ music-related Twitter activity front and center: go to their profiles to see which music artists they follow and listen to songs by those artists. And, of course, you can tweet songs right from the app.
The songs on Twitter #music currently come from three sources: iTunes, Spotify or Rdio. By default, you will hear previews from iTunes when exploring music in the app. Subscribers to Rdio and Spotify can log in to their accounts to enjoy full tracks that are available in those respective catalogs. We will continue to explore and add other music service providers.
And yes, there’s also an app. Quite an elegant one, too, according to Time’s Matt Peckham:
And what a lovely app it turns out to be from a design standpoint, easily (and ironically) outclassing Twitter’s own native iOS client and web interface. The iOS version, in particular soars, letting you quickly swipe left or right between its four primary views, alternatively tapping a drop-down menu — the website’s sole navigation mechanic — if you’d rather shortcut-hop around.
User-ready categories include “Popular,” “Emerging” and “Suggested,” which seems to be an attempt to balance mainstream stuff with more indie fare. You can also easily listen to music tweeted by people you follow. Which means you also have another criteria for not following folks back…
Another cool thing about both the dedicated app and #music site is that it gives you a clean and easy way to listen to music by artists you follow. Right now, we’re digging on Nicole Atkins, with Erin McKeown on deck!
It’s important to note that the #music tag does not exclude links to music outside of the larger music services. And at this point we can probably call Soundcloud and Bandcamp “larger” services, especially for certain genres like EDM. So we ultimately think Twitter’s new jam will be a welcome addition to the digital music ecosystem. Being able to discover (and purchase/legally stream) music obviously helps musicians, but to fully benefit from the promotional power of the platform, artists will need to be on Twitter. But at this point, who isn’t?
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re gonna go listen to some #music.