For the longest time, I've had ambiguous feelings about digital music. I'm lucky enough to have lived through many evolutions of music, from the cassette tape to the CD, the CD to iTunes, and iTunes to the the endless streaming era.
I remember throwing a cassette in a boombox (if you don't know what a boombox is, ask a thirty-something) and tuning to my favorite radio station, waiting endless hours for the DJ to play my favorite song so I could record it and then (wonders!) listen to it whenever I wanted. I remember the unadulterated pleasure of the mixtape, the sense of romantic power that came with calling the station to dedicate a song to a girl.
Back then, music was a social affair, mostly because I was in middle/ high school, and great tunes were the first order of business when we packed into the school halls on a Monday morning. Did you hear that new STP jam?!
I remember the joy of the CD (my first was Pearl Jam's Ten, and I bought it four times, after my little brother destroyed it on three separate occasions). I recall vividly the miracle of being able to immediately skip ahead to any song I wanted. The power was mine, and all with the press of a button.
These were, arguably, music's glory days. Along came Napster, and Kazaa, and eventually iTunes, and music would, as we know, forever be changed.
Now, we have Spotify and Rdio and Google Play Music. I started with Spotify, and when Lifehacker declared it the best music player they'd ever used, I was ecstatic. Finally, music had evolved: imagine streaming any song you want, whenever, wherever. It was liberating.
Then Spotify got big, they got commercial, and it felt entirely too much like a product, instead of the incidental result of a couple of people who really love music.
I tried Google Play Music, but it was mostly an attempt to make sure my existing music collection existed somewhere else, having learned my lesson after losing 20 gig of music to a faulty hard drive (and no backup). It didn't yet have the ability to stream music.
Then I tried Rdio, and I felt like I had found the sweet spot. These people obviously love music. Rdio felt like an app that its creators would have made even if nobody else used it, just for the pleasure of using it themselves.I handed over my money and never looked back (I tried out Google Play Music All Access when it debuted, and found it to be a bit too Google in thatit felt manufactured, not crafted).
And though my love for Rdio never waned, something was missing. I loved the music selection, the on-demand capabilities, the seamless syncing to my phone and tablet, the ability to remotely control any app from another, and even the ability to meet new people who shared my musical tastes.
The problem was discovery. Now, to be fair, this is one of the things Rdio is supposed to be great at. You can find friends from Gmail or Twitter or Facebook, add them as an Rdio friend, and see the music they're listening to. You can add that music to your own collection in a single click. You can even see a stream of every friend's activity: when they create or update a playlist, or when they add new music, or sync something to their mobile device (signifying a slightly higher importance).
So I knew what my Rdio friends were listening to... but it wasn't enough. Something was still missing.
I recall getting in my car at 16 or 17. I would turn on the radio and wait. The DJ would become the God of Music for the remainder of the trip, and I entrusted my ears to him. When new Soundgarden came through my speakers, or the DJ announced a new R. Kelly album, I fist-pumped nobody in particular. Inevitably, good music news translated to a good car ride, and if the DJ happened to play one of my jams, I was on cloud nine by the time I'd reached my destination.
This was how I kept up with music, and how it became more than music.
Flash forward to today. I work from home, so I don't listen to the car radio anymore. I don't go to high school anymore. I don't go to work (I work from home), though it would hardly matter- once you get past high school, no one talks about music with the frequency and the passion that they do in high school. So, on the music discovery front, I'm left to "friends" on Rdio.
Even that, of course, might be sufficient- except that hardly anyone I actually know uses Rdio. Most use Spotify, and, for reasons mentioned earlier, I simply prefer Rdio. So what am I to do? Where is my_ teenage-joy-ride-DJ-take-me-away_ music experience?
Oddly enough, Twitter gave it back to me.
When Twitter Music debuted, frankly, I didn't see the point. Some were more enthusiastic than me, but not many. I thought my disinterest was rightly placed when, just a few months later, I realized I hadn't heard a single mention of Twitter's music service in weeks. Was anyone using it? What would they even use it for?
Now I know.
Last week, Twitter debuted Twitter Music for Spotify and Rdio. The app (on Spotify) and the "person" (on Rdio) present playlists of music that's trending on Twitter, curated by genre. I can only attest to the Rdio experience, so I'll focus on that.
Follow Twitter #Music and you'll see the current "charts." Pop charts, rock charts, even "hunted" charts (whatever that is). Subscribe to a playlist and you can, as any other Rdio playlist, access it on your mobile device or desktop. Just hit the play button, and be transported to a time of '87 Ford Escorts, Boyz II Men skating parties, and Guns n' Roses dominance (or is that just me?).
This is what was missing. Rdio's "Heavy Rotation" feature is excellent for discovering music that extends beyond your typical music experience, but it does little for those of us whose friends have eschewed Rdio for Spotify (or vice versa). I assume that the Spotify app is largely the same experience, though I can't personally attest to that. Either way, I feel like the digital music experience has finally come together to create something as amazing as the history of music itself. On its own (read: as a standalone website), Twitter Music is, at least to me, pretty useless. As a seamless component of the never-ending music service I already know and love, it's evolution.
Bottom line: Twitter Music for Rdio is the best thing to happen to Rdio since Boil the Frog.