Music Discovery is hard stuff. Take this example: I just discovered that Kenny Burrell, a legendary guitarist that I love, recently released a solo guitar album so grabbed it immediately. Then I realize it has already been out for three months! I scan blogs, track release charts and so on … and this one slipped by! I chastised Twitter for keeping me in the dark! But once I had discovered the release, I quickly tried to disseminate that knowledge so that everyone who trusts me for music recommendations can grab this gorgeous album.
And that premise – that the best source of new music is from those you trust – is the basis behind.
Splash.FM offers a simple and social way to discover new music based on “who you know” mechanics versus a “what it sounds like” algorithm. Unlike most music streaming services, the Splash.FM platform began by building a dedicated social layer first, and music streaming capabilities second. The co-founders believe that the highest form of reference for music is when it comes straight from someone whose musical tastes you trust. “Nothing beats friend-based recommendations. It’s true with many categories—clothes, television shows, movies—but especially true with music,” says Fiedler, “There is something about the social nature of it; music just sounds better on Splash.FM.”
In addition to the social layer, Splash.FM improves discovery with game mechanics. Users are assigned a “Splash Score,” which is a ranking (from 0 – 99) that measures the influence of their music taste. The Splash Score is determined by how often they splash, how influential the users that follow them are, and most importantly, the number of “Ripples” (i.e. Re-Splashes) they receive. A user’s “Splash Score” is publicly displayed next to his or her profile photo, and there is also a chart for the “Top Splashers,” so that a user can see where he or she stacks up amongst her friends, as well as the site as a whole.
And here are their goals for the site:
Splash.FM will be a fast, social and rewarding way to discover new music, using friend-sourced recommendations
Splash.FM will allow users to search for, stream, and “Splash” their favorite songs (including all songs in the iTunes library)
Splash.FM will allow users to follow their friends and other influencers, and discover new music based on “who you know” mechanics versus a “what it sounds like” algorithm
Splash.FM will assign users with their own “Splash Score”–a ranking system that visibly rewards users for discovering good music early
Splash.FM will create “Billboard”-like charts of what songs are trending among the friends you follow and on the site overall
Splash.FM will allow artists & labels access to analytics including heat maps of where a song was first played, and geographically, where certain songs are most popular
Anyone who has read my stuff here knows that I take music very seriously; I am a voracious consumer, I love discovering new stuff, and on and on. In theory that should make me an ideal person to join Splash.FM … but the reality is very different.
The Splash Score really dominates everything on the site, and it encourages you to check out the stuff others recommend and re-splash if it is of interest. By adding music (i.e. splashing) and re-splashing, you increase your score. Does this sound like music discovery or a video game to you? For me, it felt much like earning achievements on iOS, XBOX or Steam games … where sometimes you will see people for whom getting that ’1000′ on an XBOX game is more important than the game itself.
How does this manifest itself? Well, when you look at the… you see Kanye West, Rihanna, Jay-Z, Skrillex, Drake, Eminem, Adele, Wiz Khalifa, and … well, you get the picture. You get the same stuff that you would hear on pop radio where <2% of music drives >90% of sales (a 2011 stat). Yes, you avoid the Beiber, Perry and Gaga … but not much else.
There are a few exceptions, including a few ‘mashup’ remix recordings that someone uploaded. And to me THAT was the exception which proves the rule: if I have to fight hard to find 5 songs out of 120 that wouldn’t be in heavy rotation on the ‘Top Hits’ channel on Slacker anyway … what is the point? Songs like “Vamos A Los Levels”, which brings together Loona’s “Vamos A La Playa” with Avicii’s “Levels”, are about as far from the mainstream as you will find in the top … well, I scanned 500 songs and found nothing particularly surprising.
You can listen to samples of songs and either purchase or download tracks directly from the interface. The samples are 30 seconds long, unlike the 90 seconds you get on iTunes, so that can be somewhat limiting in terms of checking things out. But I understand the need to balance offering value to users and maintaining relationships with rights holders. And if you’ll recall, the music publishers actually balked when iTunes wanted to offer ANY form of preview capability!
But the reality is … this site is just not for me, nor do I see it being useful for fans of indie rock, or folk, or death metal, or classical … or pretty much anything but hip-hop tinged pop music and some dubstep-pop songs. For those of us outside of the mainstream of pop music, the site looks like a video game we are losing, filled with music we don’t want to hear and that already makes us stay away from the radio.
Given that the thrust is supposed to be about socially engaged music discovery, having difficulty telling the difference between the ‘top splash’ and Ryan Seacrest’s ‘AT40′ tells me that the service has a long way to go. But again, it is in beta now, and hopefully it will find a way to help those who have no interest in the very stuff the labels are already stuffing down our throats at every turn.
If it manages that – if it can find a way for an abstract jazz lover like myself to find like-minded individuals and share rare musical treats … I could see Splash.FM as a great alternative to other sites. If we continue to see Rihanna at the top of the splash charts with no option to make all the pop noise go away … it will fail.
As for myself, the complete and total inability to find a SINGLE SONG of interest has led me to see visiting as a struggle for now … which is not the way it should feel.
Head tofor more details.