I’ve been a big fan of the Spotify music platform since it launched in the U.S. last year. Spotify hosts a massive online archive of music available for streaming. Wikipedia states that Spotify’s catalog comprised 15-million tracks in July, 2011. According the Spotify website, there is over 80-years worth of HD music in their catalog currently and they’re adding 10K new tracks per day. So a lot of music.
If you’re casually into music, it’s worth checking out as large portions of the catalog are available for free streaming at an acceptably high bit-rate. However, if you’re a recovering collector of physical CD’s like me, a $10/month premium level subscription to Spotify is a must.
In particular, the Soundrop application has really captured my attention since I started using it two months ago. Soundrop is an instance of an embedded HTML5 application as mentioned above that allows Spotify users to enter into collaborative listening ‘rooms’. In many respects this is similar conceptually to ‘rooms’ on turntable.fm. But there are some important differences.
Turntable.fm, all the rage a year or two ago, is still an awesome browser-based music application in my opinion. The basic idea of turntable is that you can enter into a ‘room’ and listen to a number of virtual DJ’s who take turns round-robin queuing tracks. Listeners and DJ’s can vote thumbs-up or down on the current track and depending on the policy set by the room’s creator, if enough people dislike the track it gets skipped. DJ’s get points for queuing tracks that are widely liked making it rather fun little game to DJ in a turntable.fm room.
Turntable.fm allows you to upload content from your local collection (so any MP3’s you have lying around) if you’re DJ’ing which is cool because there’s still many artists and tracks that are not available on Spotify. Hear something you like? Turntable.fm’s browser-based interface provides you with convenient links to iTunes, Amazon.com, last.fm and of course Spotify. This is really cool stuff and it’s a lot of fun but if you just want to passively listen (i.e. you’re not DJ’ing in a turntable.fm room) then the mix quality is hit-or-miss in my experience. Enter Soundrop on Spotify.
Soundrop, like turntable.fm, has ‘rooms’. There are 20-30 main rooms that are specific to different music genres (e.g. Classic Rock, Progressive Metal, Electronica…). Enter Soundrop, select a room, and you’re tuned into the stream with often hundreds of other music fans around the globe. Unlike turntable.fm however there are no DJ’s. Instead Soundrop is much more democratic allowing anyone to queue tracks available on Spotify, and vote on the tracks they like. The track with the highest vote tally in the queue shared by all room listeners gets played next.
This is really cool because you can drop into a Soundrop room, passively listen while you work, and occasionally focus the window to queue tracks, vote, or chat with other listeners. Integration with Spotify’s playlist facilities as well as deep integration with Facebook for sharing tracks and playlists makes the combination of Soundrop on Spotify a nearly perfect digital radio. But it gets cooler.
The other day I felt like listening to Reggae because it was sunny outside (one of the first really nice days in Puget Sound since last summer). What to listen to? Something new I think. I drop into the Reggae room in Soundrop and see that there about 200 people listening. What’s more the tracks at the top of the play queue have 7+ votes which is typically a good indication that the tracks are widely considered awesome by the room listeners. But I just want a couple of new tracks to check out and sync to my iPhone. Enter Soundrop ‘Save to playlist…’
One really great feature of Soundrop is the ability to capture the current play queue of any room to a Spotify playlist that you can later browse, preview, or raid for your own playlists offline. I’ve found hundreds of new artists and tracks this way in the two months I’ve been using Soundrop.
Recently I was in a bar and I didn’t like the music. This got me thinking and I came up with an idea: why not just connect a computer to the house PA, and create a Soundrop room for the entire bar? Then everyone with a smart phone can walk in, queue and vote, and enjoy the music. I hadn’t tried this out until last night while hanging out at my friend’s house.
My friend has his computer connected to his surround sound receiver (of course) and recently installed Spotify at my suggestion. We installed Soundrop inside of Spotify and then created a private room. I then pulled up the Soundrop application on my iPhone and because him and I are connected as friends on Facebook, his room got enumerated and displayed on my iPhone. I joined his room from my phone and we went back to eating pizza and talking about music.
“Oh I know… You’ve gotta hear this…” Couple swipes on my phone and it’s playing in his living room. That’s so cool! From now on, whenever I entertain the house will be rocking my Soundrop room effectively turning every smart phone in the house into a remote control.
Try it yourself and enjoy!