Discovr Music App

YouTube has been the mainstay of what I’ll term “music discovery” since before I entered college, overshadowing the much-maligned MySpace, but in the last several years new outlets have emerged to challenge YouTube’s primacy. The former is SoundCloud, a simple but fantastic site that one blogger recently predicted could become the “YouTube” for internet audio. As soon as the service improves its search engine capabilities, I definitely see that happening. SoundCloud touts a massive collection of original music and DJ remixes, and serves as the best option for up-and-coming artists to publish and share their music. Bandcamp is another viable option, offering the additional ability to sell your music and process such transactions. Last week I came across another category of music discovery engines: recommendation apps Discovr & Groovebug. Sadly I possess neither an iPhone nor iPad, thus Groovebug remains uninvestigated, but Discovr offers a Mac OS version, which I begrudgingly purchased from the App Store for $4.99

The Discovr interface is sublime. Upon searching for an artist – I used Dwele as an example – the app produces a floating avatar in the center of the window representing that artist. Double-clicking leads you to a profile page with the artist’s bio, discography, press, and (in the next update I’m told) that artist’s Twitter feed (Tweets are already integrated into the iOs version). Pretty awesome.

Backtracking to the main page and the app’s true crux, a single click on the artist’s avatar spawns five or six “spokes” connecting that artist to related acts. For example, from Dwele we are introduced to Jill Scott, Eric Roberson, Raheem DeVaughn, Bilal, Musiq, and Frank McComb. As far as I can tell, the program’s algorithms are not too advanced, as restarting the discovery process with the same artist yields the exact same connections each time. In essence, Discovr creates a virtual music map joining similar musicians together in a web of floating circles. It’s a profound project, but not without drawbacks.

For starters, the program struggles with what can become a limited screen size. Lacking any auto-resizing options, it quickly becomes difficult to fit the map of artists within the program’s display window. In other words, the program is practically maxed out after clicking on 5-10 different artists. I have only toyed around in Discovr for several days, but another downside seems to be the limited number of artists in the program’s database. When searching for artists with whom I was already familiar and engaging the program from there, I was rarely introduced to a musician previously unknown to me. I also wonder about the subjectivity of the musical relationships between artists. Is Dwele that similar to Jill Scott? A $4.99 price tag ($1.99 for the mobile app) serves as another barrier of entry, only because we as app consumers are accustomed to freebies. My main concern with the product rests on its playback ability. While Discovr directed me to Dwele’s music videos, albums, et al, I could only preview his tracks upon playback. If Discovr could somehow integrate full on-demand capability (perhaps via API integration from one of the many great on-demand music services), then I believe it could become an extremely popular app. As of right now, I can’t say how often I’ll use it. All of that said, Discovr Music is a very intriguing product in what could be a rewarding niche within the music app market.

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