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Pureplay of the Day: LoudCity

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 - 12:00pm

Today’s POTD spotlights pureplay aggregator LoudCity (www.loudcity.com), which, like larger players RadioTuna and Live365, enables and hosts personal Internet radio stations. LoudCity does an outstanding job creating a feeling of community and curation. Many LoudCity stations distribute their brands on separate websites. But the LoudCity experience is satisfying in its own right.

A genre directory helps you get your bearings. One of the platform’s best features is the Artists Playing Right Now module, which serves up thumbnails of musicians and bands. Click on any one to flip onto that station’s page and join the stream. Each station has. Facebook commenting embedded.

Although not a unique feature, we find the “right now” concept, as opposed to the artist/song search engine found at RadioTuna, to be fun and effective as both a music-discovery and station-discovery device.

There’s no pop-up player that we could find (our preference), but the embedded player at the top of the page worked flawlessly in our testing across all stations we sampled. So, if you’re willing to devote a full browser tab to pureplay listening, you’re in good hands here.

Bonus: Each station page lists the previous ten tracks programmed. That list provides a quick indicator of whether you’ll like the station going forward.

REMEMBER: Pureplay Buffet archives our Pureplay of the Day selections. It’s a listening feast! 

Pandora releases holiday listening metrics (while promoting Christmas stations)

Monday, November 18, 2013 - 11:55am

In a press release this morning that serves as an advertisement for its holiday music stations, Pandora revealed some Christmas-season listening statistics.

We’ve been tracking the early rollout of Christmas music on terrestrial, subscription, and pureplay platforms, noting that there seems to be significant demand for holiday music in early November. Commenters in iHeartMusic’s Christmas stations jubilantly greeted their appearance a couple of weeks ago.

According to Pandora, users search for holiday music with the service search function as early as October. In mid-November, according to the press release, 10 percent of Pandora listeners are listening to holiday stations.

There are regional listening data. Vermont and New Hampshire are the most musically celebrative states, with 40 percent of users tuned into Christmas music on Christmas day last year. During last year’s entire season, over 25-million Pandora users streamed 187-million hours of holiday music.

The most popular (thumbed-up) Christmas song in Pandora last year? “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Songza updates features and adds Songkick partnership

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:05pm

Streaming music service Songza updated its personalization features in a new iOS app which dropped into the Apple app store this week. Users can now see a list of their thumbs-up song votes, and play them as a playlist.

That might not seem like a big deal, but it is for Songza addicts. The update notes indicate that this feature was much requested, which is understandable. Songza does have a star system for marking favorites, but it applies to songza “concierge” playlists, not tracks. Most services that use thumb-up and thumb-down votes use those indicators to personalize the song recommendations over time, so the platform gets smarter about your taste. Songza does that, too … but now also gives the user a collection of favorite songs for on-demand playing.

On another note, Songza has reportedly inked a partnership with Songkick, the tour-info service. Songkick recently built a concert scheduling app for the Spotify system, and is making inroads to furnish live-concert info that enhances Internet radio listening.

Soundcloud celebrates five years; releases impressive stats

Thursday, November 14, 2013 - 1:10pm

SoundCloud, the audio upload site sometimes positioned as the audio version of YouTube, turns five years old this week. The company blog celebrates the milestone, and mentions a few eye-opening usage statistics.

Upload traffic is intense, with an average 12 hours of content posted by users every minute. Also impressively, 90 percent of uploaded tracks get a listen, and more than half of them get played in the first hour. (In Spotify, only 80 percent of available tracks ever get played.) 

That last metric points to SoundCloud’s effectiveness as a social network. Users who develop large groups of followers can use on-site notification mechanisms to drive attention to uploaded tracks. In our testing, these attention-grabbing tools can start the “play” turnstile ticking away within seconds of posting. 

Sharing of original audio was SoundCloud’s founding mandate. More recently the site has made design and usability changes that encourage pure listening as the main engagement focus. It has worked -- SoundCloud reportedly has 250-million monthly active listeners. (Pandora has about 70-million.) 

Pureplay of the Day: The Jazz Groove

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 - 12:40pm

One of the most professionally produced, and cleanly presented, indie pureplays, The Jazz Groove (www.thejazzgroove.com) crafts a listening experience of understated, elegant acoustic jazz. The station’s motto is lifted from a Miles Davis quote: “You don’t have to play a lot of notes. You just have to play the pretty ones.”

Think American Songbook standards, modern trio and quartet work, players like Dave Brubeck, George Shearing, Johnny Hodges, Bucky Pizzarelli, Diana Krall. This station doesn’t intrude or commandeer attention. Perhaps too cocktail lounge-y for some, this listening will be pleasingly nightclub-ish for others. Above all -- tasteful.

The Jazz Groove is listener-supported, but doesn’t get pathetic about it on the site. We have heard an audio promo for donations.

The website has a blog, a Facebook page, and an email address for suggestions, but otherwise does not create community space as some pureplay sites do. A pop-out streamer worked perfectly in our cross-platform testing, though it lacks a Play/Stop button; you end the stream by closing the pop-out window. Which we’re not going to do anytime soon.

(See other POTD selections here.)

Google Glass eases into mobile music

Tuesday, November 12, 2013 - 12:45pm

Google’s wearable Glass product, which clamps onto the user’s face like glasses and provides on-command field-of-vision computing, is reportedly stepping into music in a few ways.

First, predictably, Glass will interact with the Google Play Music service, enabling song, album, and playlist listening through voice command. This function is available now via a “sideloading” procedure which requires using Android Developer Tools -- beyond the ken of most users, but a clear indicator that the feature will get baked into Glass soon.

Glass would need some way to get the audio into the user’s ear, and USA Today reports that Google has designed ear buds for Glass.

In a related Glass update, Google has introduced sound search -- a feature wherein the user asks the device what music is playing within earshot, and the song is identified. That sort of music recognition intelligence is not new, Shazam being the most prominent application.

The mobile music trend is pointing toward moving its controls off the smartphone, onto smaller and more wearable devices. Directionally, this trend matches the thrust of streaming music services, which seek to deliver highly customized audio untethered from the geographic restriction of radio and the desktop restriction of traditional computing.

Smartwatches represent one product manifestation of the trend. The recently released Samsung Gear smartwatch is a wrist-worn controller for some Samsung Galaxy smartphones. The usage theory driving this sort of product is that the phone, pocketable though it be, is too clunky a device for easy music management on the go. (And management of some other smartphone functions.) Putting music control on the wrist is certainly convenient, and harkens back to strap-on MP3 players of several years ago.

Glass is the most high-profile example of a wearable computing device. The proximity of the thing to the user’s ears, and its native voice control, makes it natural as a music player. It doesn’t hurt that Glass is sitting right on the user’s ears, too.

Where does radio fit in? If our music systems will eventually move right onto our bodily accessories, radio should focus on distributing there as importantly as distributing into the car. The integration might happen most felicitously via aggregating apps like iHeartRadio, but we can also imagine AM/FM receiver technology adapting to Glass and other devices that will inevitably come to market, much as NextRadio is pushing enhanced radio into smartphones.

By the way, the next step in the mobile product evolution would be embeddable devices, in which our bodies become the devices. The “yuck factor” might make that scenario unimaginable … but technology does march on. What stream (or frequency) are you tuned to?

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