Is Twitter Really the Best Place to Discover Music?

With Twitter's new music service reportedly coming out sometime this weekend, it's time to consider if we really want to go to our Twitter friends to find new tunes.

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With Twitter's new music service reportedly coming out sometime in the next week—only famous people will have access this Coachella weekend—it's time to consider if we really want to go to our Twitter friends to find new tunes. No, is the response that comes to mind when pondering that question. With all the other choices out there—Spotify, Pandora, Rdio—Twitter needs to build us something we want to pick over these other offerings. We've built up our Twitter followings without considering music. A lot of people on Twitter use the service to find news or follow specific personalities, like pundits, comedians, or celebrities—our followings don't always reflect our social lives nor a list of the "cool" people to follow for music recommendations. But, a look at how the service will likely look—based on this sourced report from CNET—the service sounds more organized than that.

The engine will recommend music, but according to CNET's sources it will do so "based on a variety of signals." That includes "accounts a user follows on Twitter" and the "#NowPlaying" brings in links to songs tweeted by people you follow. But it's not completely driven by our Twitter followers. Those other "signals" are based on your "graph," which tracks the artists a person is following and the artists that other people you follow are following. So, it's not all about what friends are listening to, but your taste in music. The app will also have "popular" and "emerging" artists tabs that let you discover music that way.

The discovery engine is still very much based on who you follow on Twitter, but it seems to take more than your friends's followings into account. Spotify allows people to follow artists, too. But it doesn't really recommend music based on that, it just surfaces the music those artists are listening to. This sounds more like Pandora's music genome project, predicting what you might like based on certain habits. It would take some effort to go through and find artists to follow, but because we are so accustomed to following and unfollowing people on the service, it feels like the natural place to do that.

Of course, despite how it decides what music we might want to hear, a better question might be: What music will be on the service? Due to leaks from the music service posted on The Verge, it doesn't look like Twitter will have any of its own content deals, instead partnering up with existing services. See the Rdio link there:

And it doesn't look like an exclusive deal with Rdio either. The other screen shot showed a link to Soundcloud, which is great because it means you don't have to leave your beloved, loyal streaming service, where perhaps you've already built up playlists of music you like.

Social music discovery has been a hard sell for a lot of services. iTunes Ping failed rather spectacularly. At first, Spotify hit a big backlash from people who didn't want all their friends knowing all the music they listen to in the privacy of their own earbuds. But, over time, we've figured out how to use these social networks to find artists without feeling bombarded by recommendations from people we don't want. I've found Spotify's social discovery tools super useful, even though I keep my listening on private most of the time. Now that it seems natural to care what friends and "friends" are listening to it might be easier to accept the Twitter version of this.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.