Have you ever seen the movie (or read the novel) High Fidelity? For a few years of my life, I was one of those guys in the record store. As far as discovering new music was concerned, this was the most fertile period of my life. Stu W. ran the store, and a bunch of us hung out there in the early evening, sharing our new records, and sampling those in the store. We all liked some of the same music, but our tastes diverged enough that there were always surprises.
At that time, in my early 20s, it was great to be able to discover so much music. Now, with digital downloads and streaming, there are lots ways to share music, from Spotify’s shared playlists to the dozens of apps that let you share music in different ways.
A friend recently showed me an iOS app called SoundShare. This free app lets you play music and, if you want, share it with your friends. You can follow people, as you would on Facebook or Twitter, and see what they’ve listened to, while sharing what you’ve heard.
When my friend—let’s call him Bob—showed me the app, it was interesting. Part of our conversation went like this:
Bob: So pick a song and search for it.
Me: How about Everything Merges with the Night?
Bob: You’re just saying random words…
Me: No, you don’t know that song? It’s great. Wait, let me find it…here.
Bob: Hey, that is cool. I don’t know much of Brian Eno’s music.
This was very similar to the way my friends and I, both in the record store and at each other’s homes, would turn each other on to new music. Bob and I were talking on Skype while doing this, each in a different country, and we were able to share music essentially in real time by adding songs to a shared playlist. Sure, you could tell someone to search for something in Apple Music or Spotify, but this is more immediate. Other users can also see what you’ve listened to, and you can see their listening history.
SoundShare piggybacks on YouTube, the world’s biggest music streaming service, so you can find lots of music. I consider this a bit of a gray area, as far as compensation is concerned, but it’s not the only music player that uses YouTube. One of the problems with YouTube is that the “music videos” uploaded may by mislabeled, or may be different versions of a specific song. If there is a video, as opposed to just a still frame with an album cover, you can watch that video on your iOS device while listening to the music.
Sometimes you get some random video by someone covering the song you searched for on an acoustic guitar, filmed in their bedroom, or you see a bootlegged concert video rather than a studio cut. This is a bit disconcerting, and there should be a way to flag such versions, or find correct versions when you stumble on videos you don’t want to see.
SoundShare is a great idea, and it’s frankly what’s missing in Apple Music. You can make playlists with Apple Music, and your friends can subscribe to them, but there’s no two-way sharing in Apple’s service. As with any social networking app, SoundShare will live or die according to the number of users it can attract. If your friends use it, then you’re likely to want to try it out. For now, there aren’t a lot of users, but perhaps that will change.