Even before Facebook got all deep-integrated with music services like Spotify, the whole social recommendation thing was on the upswing. “Want something new to listen to?” the Web and various and sundry devices whispered, “Well, your friend so and so really digs this… Maybe you should check it out, too?” The latest entrant into that realm? A little Web service called Serendip.
When I first heard of Serendip, I thought it was another music lover’s dating service, like Tastebuds.fm or Fellody. The fact that it purports to help you find your “music soul mates” did little to dispel the misunderstanding. After actually looking at the site, I realized that Serendip doesn’t mean “soul mate” in the “get married had have scads of babies” way. Nope, it’s a social site that makes it easy to listen to music shared by your friends and other people who have the same musical taste as you — IE, those aforementioned “soul mates.”
When you first sign into the service — via Facebook and Twitter — you’re given a chance to define your musical tastes by typing in a list of your favorite bands. (This seems a little laborious, since if you’re signing in with Facebook, the service could — in theory — just pull in all your Likes). You can then add friends who are already using the service via Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and Yahoo. Choose who to follow and navigate back to the homescreen to let the music discovery begin.
At the top of your page, you’ll find a scrolling bar of songs that your friends (or DJs) have shared on their social networks or Serendip itself via services like YouTube, Bandcamp, Vimeo and SoundCloud. Click on a jam to listen, and if you like what you hear, you can give the DJ a “Rock On” (which recommends him/her to your followers), re-air the jam via your DJ account, and/or “reply” to the song (via tweet or Facebook, depending on how you know that friend).
The stream also features other users you might like to follow based on your musical tastes. (All users must agree to share music that they post via Facebook to Serendip in order for people who are not your friends to listen along.)
You can also click on an individual user’s DJ page to listen to all the songs that they have posted in the past, as well as to see their stats (follower counts, “Rock Ons” etc) and top artists. Unfortunately, you cannot click on follower count or “Rock On” count to view those specific details. The same holds true for your own DJ page. While you can see who your followers are by clicking “settings,” it seems as though locating the songs that you were given a “Rock On” for (yes, that term is really, really silly and gets more silly every time I type it) is impossible. Someone apparently “Rocked On” (past tense) one of my songs, and I have no idea which one. I’m guessing “Space Ducks,” because, you know, come on.
The site officially launched to the public this week, but was founded in 2011 and apparently already has 25 million registered users, which is a pretty solid base for discovery. Still, given that it had a year to percolate with a large userbase, we would have liked to see a little more innovation. For example, if I like a song one of my “DJs” spins, I should be able to bookmark it for later listening rather than just re-airing it on my own page for others to consume. The addition of a personal playlist of favorites would be a plus.
Also, clicking through a scrolling bar of several hundred DJs is a bit cumbersome (especially if your friends aren’t playing anything worth listening to). It would be nice if you could organize your DJs into lists or categories, so as to cut down on hunting and pecking.
Perhaps tweaks such these will crop up in version 2.0.
Social But To What End?
The inherently social network-esque nature of this service (followers, likes, comments, sharing) coupled with the lack of needed elements such as playlisting, etc, opens up an interesting discussion about its functionality, as well as the functionality of other social music services. Is Serendip meant to help us find music, or is it making us feel good about liking “good” music?
When it comes to music discovery nowadays, it seems as though we have a few different buckets to toss services into: 1). Services that use social to facilitate discovery, 2). Services that use discovery to facilitate social.
For an example of the first bucket, let’s look at Swarm.fm, the Spotify app that uses your social graph (as well as your own musical tastes) to recommend music. It works a little something like this: “Oh, look, so and so is listening to Peaking Lights! I’ll listen to Peaking Lights! Oh, wow, I like Peaking Lights! Lemme add Lucifer to my Spotify library and listen to it all day long.” Bam, you used your friend to find new tunes. Buy him a whiskey.
Apps that use discovery to facilitate social — like Serendip and This Is My Jam and myriad others — work thusly: “I really like this song. I’m going to post this song. Oh, yay, people liked this song that I posted. Oh, look, my friend likes this other song. I’m going to share this song that my friend likes. Oh, yay, someone liked this song that my friend shared that I liked and then shared. I should probably go buy that song later. Oh, look, someone liked this song that I posted.”
Both have value, sure — it’s fun to socialize around music — but how effective are these “discover to be social” services when it comes to actually adding bands to your favorites lists? Give Serendip a try and let us know in the comments.