Mobile app Soundwave answers the question “What are you listening to?”

Jun 28, 2013
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Music MapEarlier this month, Dublin-based Soundwave made a big splash when they launched their iPhone and Android app. With a launch event featuring Stephen Fry, the polished mobile app promises to change music discovery for the ages. A newsfeed that aggregates music that your friends listen to on popular music services like Spotify, Soundcloud, or YouTube, the service feels a bit like it’s pulled the Facebook tickerfeed out, stripped out the non-music updates, and put music at the forefront of your timeline.

“It’s a music product that fits my life so perfectly” – Steve Wozniak

I gave the application a try out – a quick installation, connection to Facebook, and your feed is already flowing. If you want to discover music by location, a nifty feature lets you draw a circle on a map and get a feed of the most popular music being listend to in the area. I drew a circle around all of France, and saw a combination of French reggae, pop, and classical music – certainly representative of the eclectic mix of music tastes in France. While novel, I haven’t taken to the habit of saying “What are people listening to in this location?”

Featured in the “editor’s choice” on the AppStore and on the headline banner of the Android store, the application has certainly achieved the marketing buzz it hoped to get.

After my initial test session with the app, I closed it and went about my day: my “chill” radio station on Spotify kept me company while I worked. Later that evening, a notification from Soundwave told me that someone had liked a song I had listened to – on Spotify. By pulling in the activities I’m already doing, Soundwave is able to generate activity and create potential interactions between users; however, I still haven’t taken to the habit of saying “what are my friends listening to?”

Where Spotify, Deezer, and Rdio have failed to get social recommendation right, Soundwave seems to suggest that there is still room for my friends around me, or at least, the social people to indicate good & bad music. On the app, I found myself most fascinated by the “Explore” tab, which pulls up three categories: most listened to, most liked, and most disliked. While Kanye West and Daft Punk lined the charts of the first two, Justin Bieber had managed to rack up the most disliked song with an acoustic cover of one of his pop songs. Funny, yes. Not sure I’d call it a discovery.

Having listened to Pandora for years, and having relied on my friends for recommendation of new bands for years, I am confident there is a way to get social music discovery right. Players in France like Whyd are working on it, but it seems that no one has managed to transcribe our real-world preferences for music discovery into a digital experience. At least not yet.