At first blush, the new Twitter #music app has everything a musichead could possibly want: a slick, intuitive interface and no shortage of songs to get into. But what the app boasts in style, it lacks in savvy recommendations, which could be the very thing that turns users away.
When you first launch Twitter #music, you're led across four pages: Popular, Emerging, Suggested and #NowPlaying. From there, you can swipe to each one, with the option of signing into Facebook, Rdio or Spotify to enrich the experience.
The grid interface of artists and songs is pretty, and there's no denying the charm of seeing an old-school vinyl record pop onscreen when a song starts to play. A lot of time and care went into Twitter #music, but the app and the Suggested page in particular—designed to show artists you might like based on what bands you follow and who they happen to be following—leaves a lot to be desired in terms of music discovery, pivotal for any streaming service these days.
Hear me out: There's nothing wrong with Twitter #music on a functional level. You can scroll across artists and songs with ease, and even jumping from a song to an artist's back music feels intuitive. But once you get to Suggested, it's like New Music Purgatory: If you don't follow bands, or the ones you do follow only follow bands you already know, then you're totally stuck.
I encountered this issue when I realized I knew all the bands on the page. The Pixies? Of course. Jay Reatard. Clearly. So why wasn't anything new on display? When I closed out the app or went to refresh it, I still was confronting the same old artists, none of whom I was tempted to play. (Perhaps this is where Emerging comes in, though those artists felt too obscure.)
And I'm not the only one. Several #music users voiced their complaints, including investor Paul Kedrosky:
Played with Twitter Music app. Apparently not following bands and not following anyone who follows any bands means I get recommended Pink.— Paul Kedrosky (@pkedrosky) April 18, 2013
Mashable business reporter Seth Fiegerman shared a similar gripe:
One pet peeve with Twitter #music: You can't follow an artist in the app without also following them on Twitter.— Seth Fiegerman (@sfiegerman) April 18, 2013
Fiegerman admits there's nothing wrong with engaging artists beyond the app, but "what I really want is the option to build Twitter music from a Twitter list," he says. This, too, would offer users another path toward music discovery, especially if we could spy on friends and build lists using their songs. The problem is, we still aren't there yet.
If music discovery is the crux of Twitter #music, then surely the site will work with third-party partners like Rdio and Spotify to improve. The app itself is a joy to use, and far more immersive than my old standby, Spotify. But until I see these changes, I'll be sticking with Popular, #NowPlaying and probably Pitchfork.