Surely no one was surprised when Twitter formally announced the launch of its #Music service this morning (save, perhaps, from the fact that the company used Good Morning America, of all places, to share the big news). Frankly, we're just glad to finally get our hands on the promised big announcement, which rolled out in both browser-based and iOS formats this morning. We've played around with both versions, listening to Taylor Swift, so you don't have to. Check out our impressions after the break.
The layout of the browser app is about as simple as you'll find, and that's likely by design. Log in to music.twitter.com, and you're greeted with album covers defaulting to the most popular tracks. If you've spent any time looking at trending topics on the Twitter side bar, you'll know what you're in for: Psy, Taylor Swift -- the usual pop stuff. The list, cheekily enough, goes up to 140. Beneath each cover, you'll find the artist's name, in the form of their hashtag, and below that, the name of the track. There's also a handy number in the upper corner of each, so you know how things rank. Surely you wouldn't be caught dead listening to anything with a number higher than 20, right? (Sorry, Basement Jaxx.)
Hover over the artwork and you'll trigger a play icon. Click that and a dynamic, bantam player will pop up in the lower left-hand corner. The track defaults to an iTunes preview -- the length is limited to whatever the rights holders have negotiated with Apple. From the player, you can advance to the next track on the list, buy the song on iTunes or tell the world what you've been listening to. If you happen to be a Spotify or Rdio user, go up to the upper right-hand corner of the screen, click Play Full Tracks, and you'll get the option for logging in to do just that. Twitter promises that integration with more services are inbound, but for now, MOG and Rhapsody loyalists are left out in the proverbial cold.
To the left of that button is a link to the settings, where you can filter out explicit tracks and use the search feature. The results appear on a clean, well-organized page, with the top entry arriving in the form of that artist's Twitter head. You'll also get tracks that you can play directly on the page, including the artist that another artist follows (The Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood in the case of the Hold Steady -- go figure). Click the Music hashtag on the header, and you'll go back to that Popular Page.
In the upper-right corner, you'll find a drop-down with further discovery pages, letting you find "Emerging," the artists you follow, #NowPlaying (what your friends are listening to) and suggestions for you. The latter three populate once you've logged in, of course. At present, at least, the suggestion option isn't quite working -- or maybe Twitter just knows that we hate everything.
Currently only available on iOS, the mobile app functions in much the same fashion, though it's a bit more squished. We downloaded it on our iPhone, which tiles artists three across, while the Popular / Emerging / Suggested / #NowPlaying drop-down has been moved to the center. Adorably, when you're not logged in, your icon defaults to an egg wearing a Devo hat -- well played, Twitter. From this drop-down, you can also log into Spotify and Rdio for some full track listening. You can also toggle between playlists by swiping to the side.
The player looks much the same, in the bottom-right corner of the screen, though it's out by default. Click it and it will begin working its way through the playlist. Tap on an album cover, meanwhile, and the artwork will expand, taking up two rows and offering the track name, which is not available by default. In the upper corner of the art, you'll find an option for following that artist on Twitter.
The company has clearly gone the simple-is-better route on its #Music app, a decision that's ultimately for the best. After all, it won't be replacing Spotify or Rdio anytime soon -- especially considering that those apps are essential to its operation. And while we can't see it becoming a key part of our lives until it offers something genuinely innovative that we're not getting in the music services we're already using (Rdio and Spotify both offer compelling peer discovery), revenue share from those third-party apps should offer up an extra source for that ever-elusive Twitter revenue stream.