In the past few years, the worlds of music and social networking have become increasingly intertwined. Whether its using the “Facebook” link from the iTunes store, using the popular #nowplaying hashtag on Twitter, or auto-detecting what’s playing on your computer as your IM status, there are an endless number of ways to broadcast your tunes to your followers and friends.
But now several start-ups are taking this relationship and turning it in the other direction, especially through the use of Twitter. By aggregating the collective mass of music-related tweets, algorithms can create a list of popular and emerging music that is hipper, indie-r, and more nuanced than the iTunes or Billboard Top 10s.
At the moment, no service been able to leverage the enormous amount of “informal” data available on Twitter (when users tweet about songs without a detectable link to the song). Nevertheless, the services offer an interesting new model of music discovery.
- The Hype Machine: “Hypem” primarily scours music blogs in order to find the hottest tracks, but recently the site launched an entire new section to Twitter, using an interesting new model.
While most services, including the two below, use a passive algorithm to monitor what users are already tweeting, Hypem formalizes the process with a transparent “leaderboard” system. Through the site, users can calculate their “Twitter score”: using their number of followers/followings, users see how many “points” would be added to a song on the leader board if they tweet it. My Twitter score, for example, is 12, so if I tweeted a new Vampire Weekend song through the Hypem interface, 12 points would be added to its “score” on the leaderboard.
The system relies more on authority than quantity, and perhaps as a result, the top songs on the leaderboard tend to be indie and remix heavy. Users can stream the songs straight from the leaderboard.
In its sleek interface, users can view the 99 hottest songs each day. Filters allow users to decide if they want “Emerging” songs or songs that have been most popular over the past week or past month. The more data you allow the site to use, the more it begins to resemble the iTunes Top 10 (with more of an indie rock kick).
Additionally, the site lets users choose to only use data from Twitter, which allows results in a much more mainstream selection of music — Owl City, Robin Thicke, Ke$ha, and Cobra Starship — than the overall selection. The site provides links to buy the music, but the streaming available is iffy. When I tried it, WAH could only play six of the nine top songs on Twitter today. Nevertheless, the interface is nifty, and you’ll find some cool new music here.
As music storage increasingly moves to the cloud — iTunes will soon move to the cloud, joining services like Spotify and Lala — the tools to measure popularity and sentiment will only become more and more sophisticated, as plays counts and ratings can be monitored more completely and instantly.
As Facebook continues its forays into music and Twitter allows its data to be mined in more creative ways, social networks should be able to help identify the best songs as soon as they emerge.
Until then, services like Hypem, WAH and Twisten will certainly help pass the time in Bass Cafe.