A few of us here at Fast Company have been tucking into Twitter‘s new music service for web and iOS, which began rolling out to users today. Already it’s making a lot of us change both the way we use Twitter and the way we find music. It’s also made us think about how Twitter and our followers perceive us as listeners. (Yikes!)
Once you sign into the music service with your Twitter login, you can listen to 60-second song samples from popular artists, emerging talent, suggested picks, and artists you already follow. You can sync Twitter #Music to your Spotify or Rdio account to stream full tracks. (As of press time, Twitter #Music’s Spotify sync feature was experiencing errors for some of us.)
The most surprising thing we’ve noticed about #Music? We’re actually using it. A lot.
At least initially, the site seems to succeed for the same reasons Vine has: It knows exactly what you come looking for, and it delivers exactly that experience–in this case, it’s music discovery. And it’s fun, not homework. It doesn’t bog down the core Twitter mission with this discovery experience as an add-on. It might not pack any more social features than the music services it depends on (Spotify, Rdio). But the fact that Twitter has continued with its strategy and launched #Music as a standalone app means it offers a purer experience than, say, Spotify, which draws you in with a massive catalog that’s guaranteed to deliver the song you came looking for, but then it also tries to sell you a social discovery experience with your Facebook friends on the side.
Here are five other ways Twitter #Music is changing the way we listen:
When I opened up the “Artists You Follow” tab, I discovered I follow exactly 23 artists and bands on Twitter. As an avid music listener who spends most days disappearing behind a pair of headphones, that number was wholly surprising–and a little embarrassing. Twitter #Music makes it incredibly easy to follow artists as you listen, which provides them with a nice engagement boost. Whether or not following more artists will be good for users, however, depends on the value those artists can provide. Twitter #Music creates a new baseline for that value: the music. Even if the artists suck at tweeting, you can just let their music do the talking. Still, as a side effect, perhaps Twitter #Music will make artists to start tweeting more interesting content.
Here’s some simple logic: Artists you like probably follow other artists you’d like on Twitter. Which is why one of Twitter #Music’s most useful features shows you exactly that: Click on any artist’s Twitter handle and you’ll see a grid of all the musicians they follow. Dream pop duo Beach House serves up Wye Oak, Dirty Projectors, and Grizzly Bear; Ghostface Killah favors The Pharcyde, Jill Scott, Raphael Saadiq, and Adele. Too lazy to compile your own playlists? Go to your favorite artist’s Twitter page and start playing a song–Twitter #Music will play straight through songs of the artists they follow, too.
Most of us can point to Psy or Carly Rae Jepsen as examples of viral music at its worst, but unless you regularly keep tabs on the Billboard Hot 100 or iTunes’ best-sellers, you probably don’t have a holistic sense of the current pulse of pop music. Twitter #Music does that for you, replete with visuals, and the result is, if not stomach-wrenching, at least slightly depressing.
Twitter #Music’s “Suggested” tab will be one of the most interesting features to track as it gets smarter. Mine is actually fairly good–I’ve been pleasantly surprised by a couple of new artists. However, I’m confused as to why it’s so good, if I only follow 23 artists. (Look for the answer to that in a follow-up story.) But, at least anecdotally, “Suggested” isn’t quite working out for everyone yet. A coworker, upon discovering Twitter #Music thought she enjoyed Pink and Katy Perry, despaired, “It thinks I am a middle-aged woman who shops at Forever 21.”
Twitter #Music’s “Emerging” feature, which surfaces underground artists from the chaff, is like a version of Twitter’s existing “Discovery” tab that, through the lens of music, is incredibly useful for finding artists you might never have encountered otherwise.
6. We’re seeing artists as more human than ever–and the gap between us is growing smaller than ever. (Also, Cher’s profile pic is bananas!)
As Twitter increasingly becomes a mainstay platform for artists to share new information about upcoming tours, concert tickets, new tracks, and album release dates, Twitter #Music reminds us of the faces behind the streams. Artists–they’re just like us!
[Image: Twitter Music]