You're already soundtracking your life, whether or not you use SoundTracking. You're blaring Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day" in your minivan on the way to pick up the kids from soccer or sharing Psy's new single "Right Now" on Spotify via Facebook or Twitter. Point is, you're using music to broadcast your mood and your story to friends.
If you're attaching files to emails or even hashtagging updates about what you're listening to, where, and why, you're probably going through a bunch of steps to do so, hoping the people on the other end follow you down some rock 'n' roll rabbit hole. Today, SoundTracking, the popular iOS App that lets you discover and share music it calls "the soundtrack of your life," launches updates that eliminate the friction between serendipitous musical moments and your social network.
"Not everyone is witty. Not everyone is a great photographer or great with words. I think songs not only capture your emotion, they can more vividly express how you feel," SoundTracking and Schematic Labs cofounder and CEO Steve Jang tells Fast Company. "We want people to believe that when they are going about their daily life—they're at work, they're on a train, they're at a restaurant—they're able to tag songs and share them."
When it launched in March 2011, SoundTracking introduced a service that automatically picked up on your location and let you easily attach an image, robust social comments (more than mere "likes"), and snippets of songs from iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, and others to that place and time—then share the moment on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and other services. It's built up an audience of about 3 million users, Jang says, with an average 8 million daily impressions across all of its social media partners.
Today the service launches an even faster music identification tool for figuring out what's playing around you and sharing your feelings about it. Plus, it's debuting a new search engine for finding songs others are SoundTracking, a new visual music timeline that shows the songs and images other users broadcast, and even a way to tag and push-notify people you associate with songs you're playing. Also, a neat Twitter card integration launched about a month ago that lets you play SoundTracked songs right in a tweet, the same way you'd view a Twitpic or a Viddy—Jang says it's resulted in a massive new stream of traffic.
A self-professed music geek who's DJ'ed his whole life and produced music videos for the likes of The Strokes and J Dilla, Jang is one of a growing number of entrepreneurs and creators who see sound as an untapped frontier in social expression. Plenty of people noted the tech around the first iteration of SoundTracking 1.0—mostly how it married music and location. But today's SoundTracking updates are designed to draw users into the experience then get the tech out of the way.
The newly speedy, Shazaam-like music ID tool snares even elusive artists and titles to let you share the song snippet with your social networks. (Unlike Jang's last business, imeem, SoundTracking doesn't have deals with music labels and doesn't share full songs.) SoundTracking's ID tool picked up on Smog's "Cold Blooded Old Times," added the LOLCats-style album cover and SoundTracked the tune for me in seconds this morning.
And the new song dedications and tagging function is the modern, digital, social answer to making a mix tape for someone. "When I had a crush on a girl, I'd make her a playlist. I could't talk to her," Jang says. SoundTracking now lets you tag friends or objects of affection; they'll get a push notification, and then you can let Miguel, Frank Ocean, or R. Kelly do the talking.
Enhanced discovery features let you see what music is trending in your vicinity and find SoundTrackers nearby with similar tastes—a tool that could only have been inspired by the idea of casual encounters set to sexytime jams.
The newly designed visual timeline makes you want to make more musical moments, the same way Facebook makes you want to populate your Timeline or Instagram makes you want to take more photos. "It's not just a matter of building the rich features," Jang says. "It's about making it feel right. It makes people feel a little more attached to it." He says he started out thinking about SoundTracking as a way to share musical moments as they occurred. "I'm in a cafe in Paris. It's autumn. Leaves are turning brown. The sky is turning gray. And then Charlotte Gainsbourg comes on. This is too perfect. But there are times when the song's not playing, but it actually captures how you feel." In the last two years, Jang says, "the surprise was that people were thinking…that this song totally captures what I'm feeling or what I'm looking at."
When Whitney Houston died in February 2012 at the age of 48, for example, SoundTrackers playing Whitney songs with RIP messages and images represented 10% of all activity on the service for three days. When hip-hop pioneer Adam Yauch died at the age of 47 in May 2012, Jang says SoundTrackers posting Beastie Boys songs, images, and messages were 15% of traffic—"the most I've seen from one artist," Jang says.
Part of today's updates, he says, is about letting users "express context with a visual, with a caption, and let people give others a sense of what they're going through"—before the moment and all of its genuine emotions pass. And broadly speaking, he's hoping to inspire interest in music as a primary form of social expression. "If people are discovering more about you as a person, then we've created a unique community."
Jang, who's also an investor in and advisor to car service Uber and investor in WillCall and BlackJet, says SoundTracking makes a bit of money from referrals when people subscribe to its streaming partners, but like so many of his Silicon Valley brethren, he's focused on experience now and a steadier revenue stream and monetary value later, he says.
"Sometimes songs can be worth more than 1,000 words."
[Image: Flickr user >>haley]