Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's Not the Music, It's the Social Interaction

A few weeks back I wrote a brief review of Spotify after playing with it for a short while. Since then I have had the opportunity to leverage more of its unique and useful features. As a result, I now have a slightly different, much higher opinion of this service..

Almost every day people who are in my circles on Google Plus, friends on Facebook or people I follow on Twitter share a song or a full playlist of songs. Simply clicking through enables me to obtain and listen to the music they have selected.

Now I have been a Slacker fan for a long time and, since it is similar, would probably like Pandora as well. These free services allow you to define a "channel" by selecting a particular artist, song or style of music to play. It will then continue on its own to select more songs of a similar genre for you. You can flag your favorites or skip songs you don't like, continuously adding to the data used to discern your preferences and improve the accuracy of its picks. It's a pretty good system.

As you may recall from my first article, Spotify is essentially a giant free jukebox in the sky. You put in a specific song or artist and it will show you all of the available versions. You can play it or add it to a play list. You can create as many play lists as you want, AND you can share them through all the popular networks.

This is where Spotify suddenly became more interesting. At first, I simply launched Spotify and chose a couple of songs. For instance, I recently attended a Mostly Mozart festival concert at Avery Fisher Hall. A few days before the performance I used Spotify to select some of the individual pieces on the program. It was extremely simple to locate recordings, choose a version and listen to it.

Unlike Slacker, though, this was active participation. With Slacker, it was set it and forget it. Once I defined a channel I could turn it on and go about my business while it made all the selections.

Then I started to notice my "friends" posting their Spotify choices and the situation changed. Every so often I would click through and found I would really enjoy the song or list of songs someone else had put together. Obviously, this is the heart of social networking. People who are my "friends" are often going to have similar tastes in music. Even if they don't, their choices will reflect their preferences and will be interesting to explore. The combination of the randomness of these suggested song collections and the social dynamic creates an attractive social experience.

When you are throwing a party, you can tune into a particular radio station to play music that might suit everyone, or you can allow your friends to take turns plugging their iPods into your sound system and create a truly unique and dynamic party experience. It is this kind of interactivity that sets Spotify apart from the other services.

I haven't had Slacker opened in a while. Perhaps you have a couple of songs or play lists you would like to tweet to me?

Captain Joe

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