The Twitter Music app provides a great way to see which music is generating interest on Twitter, but don't count on it to replace your current music player.
Just over a month after the app's existence was first reported by CNET, Twitter Music has arrived. As promised, it provides a way for you to discover tunes through artists and songs trending on Twitter, check out the artists who follow your favorite bands, and listen to and purchase music directly.
Sounds simple, right? Well, the reality is a bit more complex. First off, the app is a more of a music discovery tool rather than a music player. You won't be able to search for and play specific songs or create radio stations as other services do; rather, this app is more about finding music that people are talking about on Twitter. Is it useful to know what's the most popular song on Twitter? I'm not so sure. People follow artists and other users on Twitter for a lot of different reasons. You may follow an artist because you like her music or you because he's a fascinating social-media personality. Twitter Music won't know the difference.
You can get to the main navigation area of the app with a button at the top, where you'll find selections for Popular, Emerging, Suggested, and NowPlaying. The Popular section shows you what's currently trending; Emerging gives up-and-coming acts; Suggested shows you artists you might like based on your tweets and follows; and NowPlaying shows the songs that people you follow have mentioned recently. The interface is very well laid out for what the app does, with colorful pictures of artists that are fun to browse. But the thing I can't get past is that each of these lists is based on the Twitter world alone. I can get top 40 lists anywhere, so why would I want to get them just from Twitter users? Frankly, I couldn't quite think of a reason.
There is also a search function, but in my testing, it seemed only to be useful for looking up artist profiles. I did a few searches for popular songs, but got limited results.
Selecting an artist in the list brings up more options. From here you can play a 30-second clip of the song powered by iTunes, add the artist to people you follow on Twitter with a button in the upper right, or touch the artist's Twitter name at the bottom to bring up all the other artists who follow that artist.
While a song is playing, you can touch the spinning record icon at the bottom of the screen to bring up a window with a cool turntable animation where you can skip to different parts of the song by touching the edges of the turntable. You also have Pause and Play controls along with a volume slider on the bottom. In the upper right you can spread the word about an artist you like to people who follow you on Twitter with a premade tweet that's ready to share.
You can listen to full-length songs too, but only if you have either the Rdio Unlimited subscription or Spotify Premium, either of which will cost you $9.99 a month. I don't think it's worth it to sign up for either of these services just for use with the Twitter Music app, but if you're already a subscriber, listening to full songs in Twitter Music is a nice bonus. Remember, this app isn't your go-to music player; it's just a place to find new music.
What's the point?
So why did Twitter make this app? I couldn't tell you, but I would guess it is to add a new revenue stream in the hope of taking a piece of the music industry pie. It's a great-looking app with a very intuitive interface, but it doesn't let you choose your songs (like Spotify with a subscription), it doesn't let you create radio stations (like Pandora), and it doesn't let you create playlists of music. Really, it doesn't let you do much of anything beyond find music that is being talked about on Twitter so you can share or buy it.
Make no mistake, I think Twitter Music is a pretty good app for music discovery within the sphere of the Twitter audience, but its usefulness will depend on how serious you are about the social network. Certainly younger kids and hard-core Twitter users might enjoy knowing what music is trending, and they also might enjoy following the connections to other artists, but casual users probably won't see the value. The interface is easy to navigate and points you to the latest music that people are talking about on Twitter, but the app is not going to replace iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, Slacker Radio, or any other dedicated music player. In other words, I think it's great at what it does, but what it does isn't that great.