Soundtrckr gets Apple praise as “Staff Favorite” at the top of list in the iPhone App Store. Congrats to Soundtrckr’s Founder and CEO, Daniele Calabrese and his team and the work they have put into optimizing their unique geo location music application. With Sounddrckr you can discover the music your friends and colleagues are listening to and comment on your friends or nearby stations. It also includes the ability to create your own radio stations and share them via Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare.
The future is cloud for your music catalog! Creating a service that gives consumers the option to store their music in a web locker or server somewhere on the Internet aka cloud along side a music store has been discussed by many. Amazon’s new service this week is the latest entrant into the digital music landscape. The new Amazon Cloud Player gives you the ability to listen to your music on demand from a web browser and/or Android application. This new service works in combination with Amazon’s Cloud Drive build on top of Amazon S3 storage.
Viewing how your music files are organized is done with Cloud Drive. By default Cloud Drive comes with 5 GB of free storage so you can store over 500 of your favorite tracks right away. However if that is not enough space there are optional Cloud Drive upgrade packages that cost $1.00 GB/year in a number of increments (20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000). The 50 GB level costs less than $4.25 / month and is comparable in price to a music streaming subscription service however you would have had to already purchase over 50,000 tracks to fill it.
My experience playing music with Cloud Player and Internet Explorer simply worked with no issues. For a first release Amazon got the 1.0 features right. They have a long way to go to catchup with MP3Tunes my personal favorite that I’ve used for years.
There is nothing better than using your own product to really understand the challenges a customer may come across. This week I decided to write about my experience using MediaNet Web Components. Some may ask what is a Web Component? In this case it is small web application that you can place on your website some refer to these as widgets. With the current MediaNet Web Component (WC) library it makes selling music easy and with little effort. As a customer using the WCs you can also present to consumers your own branding while adding engaging content to your web site and keeping visitors on your site to purchase music. To start I went through the process just like any new customer. I signed up at www.mndigital.com logged in to the customer portal and pulled down my web component identifiers or IDs and then got to work creating a music store. Before I could create the store I first needed a domain name and company to host it. In this case I choose www.1and1.com and decided to use Linux/apache hosting. Next was the domain name. For this I used the management and purchase tools from www.1and1.com and purchased www.tunesniper.com. With the hosting and the site name selection complete I needed to select the web development tool. For this I decided on Dreamweaver to build the site.
To get up and running quickly I started with the Store web component. This WC is a simple and complete MP3 music download store including search, song of the day and some automated content programming Buzz based on transactional and popularity data driven through our platform. It also includes navigation in the form of bread crumbs when you navigate away to other pages within the WC or other WCs. The store WC can be hosted basically anywhere and didn’t require any additional complex server side scripting. This WC is by far the fastest way to quickly create a music store. You can find the web component store example at www.tunesniper.com.
Next, I created another store building a mash up using a number of different web components from the web component library mashup. This example isn’t perhaps best use of MediaNet WCs but it does provide an interesting view on how to use a number of web components together. On this site I used a number of WCs including Song of the Day, Search, Charts, Cart, Media selector and Media Explorer. This site did require a small amount of PHP to deal with the server side scripting requirements for the Search WC. The other WCs I used don’t require server side scripting. All of the documentation for the web components is available on Web Component Documentation. So there you have it a simple MP3 Music store. Both examples don’t take advantage of the web component customization features I’ll cover that later in a future blog entry. The source code for both sites is available for download below.
I can say my experience out of the box is exactly what I expected and with MediaNet Web Components creating a MP3 music download store didn’t require a significant amount of time or effort to put together.
A new music service launched this month recently released as an invite only preview. I subscribed and took a deep look at this new entrant into online music. The service offers an initial free three day trial and subscription options include a $4.99 web or a $9.99 unlimited offer. The web offer gives you on-demand streaming to all music on the Rdio service from a web browser only. The unlimited offer gives you the web features plus music on your mobile phone while connected or unconnected to the service. The mobile device list includes iPhone or Blackberry, there was no mention of iTouch and iPad. Android is in the works. There are three ways you can access the service via browser, mobile device or desktop application.
The Web application user interface is nicely designed; searching for music is fast and the playlist editing features work well. In addition to the audio streaming, community and social features include integration with Facebook and Twitter as well as last.fm. I was able to successfully Tweet a new playlist and share it with others on Twitter. I really liked the share playlist feature and the ability to allow others from the network to collaborate on the shared playlist. The only thing I didn’t like about the playlist features was how many clicks it took to add a track to a playlist. There is no option to add an album easly. Usability in this area needs to be addressed. They have also really overloaded the menu.
On the iPhone the service is similar to the web experience for searching and playing your playlist. I did notice I could play from the web and iPhone at the same time. Something they will likely need to fix. They also have a sync option called offline mode which is interesting. This can be turned on/off by users. When in offline mode there is an orange bar across the top of the application. This could be a useful feature for those that want to save on data charges in the future. Finding the make available offline selection wasn’t initially obvious. You need to first select the playlist for offline and then go to a separate area in the application to Sync. Syncing didn’t take long and the application provides a nice progress bar. Playback over WiFi was flawless and I easily synced a playlist while playing it at the same time. There is a bug in the current iPhone version where it looks like you loose your collection, playlist and ability to search and sync. I found restarting the application would fix this.
Rdio desktop needs work and the limitations around login require you to first open a browser window to login, then login and then start the desktop application. I would expect or hope they fix this quickly because it really detracts from the hard work they put into the rest of the service making it simple with mass marketing appeal. The desktop application features are really limited, basically allowing you to download your purchased MP3 tracks and albums and launch it with one playlist. The only potential benefit to installing the Rdio desktop application is the match collection feature that on the surface seems like a great idea but I was not able to get it to work. It’s an open bug on their support site. Rdio is using Adobe AIR for their desktop application and streaming using Adobe streaming servers in the desktop and web application.
The catalog looked complete from a Major label perspective and they provide 30 second clips when the album or track is only available for purchase and not streaming. The licensed catalog includes WMG, EMI, UMG, Sony, The Orchard and INGroves. My rough estimate would put their catalog at around 3-4 million tracks.
Over all for a beta they have done a nice job and I look forward to the launch.