Monday, 26 March 2012

Soundrop - a Spotify app review

A new Spotify app caught my attention today. And unlike some of the present apps, which merely encourage you to read mediocre reviews of mediocre albums and then (not) listen to them, Soundrop really makes the most of the social heart of Spotify.

Soundrop, which like several other progressive web music projects, is based in Norway, allows users to enter a 'room' and vote on tracks to be played. The founders describe it as being like a jukebox:
"Music was originally social; people had to go somewhere to hear it. Today music is often experienced individually. By combining the concept of the jukebox with the pervasiveness of the web, we can restore music to its social roots."
There are a number of genre-specific rooms already set up within the app, but users are also able to launch their own rooms to share music with friends. I haven't tried this, so this review will focus on the experience in the in-built rooms.

The interface presents a basic chatroom, above a list of the songs in the queue to be played. Users can then simply scroll down and 'vote up' the songs they want to hear first. Songs re-order themselves based on the number of votes they've received, so more popular songs get played first.

It's a great way of making the most of the social aspect of listening, and will only improve as more people start to use it. At the moment, despite popular rooms having around 150 listeners, the voting is often dominated by a couple of people. There's the potential for some great competition between users to get their favourites played first, with positions changing frequently, but this just isn't the case in many rooms at the moment that simply end up with a long list of songs with two votes each.

It is, however, a good way of discovering new music within a genre you already have some familiarity with, and this is clearly how many listeners choose to use the service. It's really easy to add a currently playing song to one of your own playlists by simply dragging and dropping, or you can even make a playlist of the whole queue with a simple click.

No listening experience is without its disadvantages, of course, the most notable being that other people obviously have less good taste than you do. You can't skip a bad song that's voted for by other people, as you would then fall out of sync with other users; similarly you can't pause a track. Where the system falls down slightly is when the community votes for a song unavailable in your region. When this then reaches the top of the queue, the music simply stops for the duration of that track. It spoils the atmosphere somewhat to have to sit in silence for four minutes, or leave the room to find something else to listen to.

Overall though, despite a couple of disadvantages, I do really quite like Soundrop, and will definitely continue to use it in the future. It's simple to use, very easy to get the hang of and is pretty low-maintenance. If you have particularly eclectic taste, it's probably not for you, but if you're just up for some background music in a specific genre, or are up for discovering some new tracks, give it a try!

Find Soundrop within Spotify's app finder. You will obviously need Spotify to use the app, and will have to link Soundrop to your Facebook account.

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