App of the Week: Twitter Music

Social media and music discovery never looked so good. But be careful who you follow

Topics: app of the week, Twitter Music, Twitter, Social Media, George Jones, Music, music discovery,

App of the Week: Twitter Music (Credit: silver tiger via Shutterstock/Salon)

“Last night I broke the seal on a Jim Beam decanter that looks like Elvis…”

I started writing my review of Twitter Music while listening to a George Jones country song I’d never heard before: “The King Is Gone (and so are you.)” I listened to a lot of George Jones on the day I learned he died. It seemed appropriate, if a bit macabre, to follow him on Twitter Music and see what sort of songs might pop up as a result.

I’m not going to list “The King Is Gone” in my top ten George Jones pantheon (frankly, any chorus with the words “yabba dabba doo” is right out) but I’m glad I heard it. I love being exposed to new music (even if, and sometimes especially if, it’s old music).

Twitter Music is all about the social discovery of new music. It suggests for your listening pleasure songs that are already popular on Twitter, songs that the people you follow are tweeting about and listening to, and songs from artists who are in mysterious ways connected to the musicians that you choose to follow. It’s confusing in a good, serendipitous, jumbled up kind of way. You’re never quite sure how exactly the algorithm works that is generating the tunes, but that’s OK. The whole point is discovery, hearing something new that you might like, generated through a fortuitous crunching of your social relationships. If you have a Spotify or Rdio premium account you can listen to the entirety of the songs; if you have iTunes you get a 30-second clip and the option to buy.

Sad to say, the “chart” of songs generated by the artists that whoever was operating George Jones’ verified Twitter account had chosen to follow did not do the man’s legacy any justice. Kid Rock? For that desecration, I almost spilled my whiskey and trashed my house in a drunken rage, like George Jones did so many times before. Even worse, Twitter Music’s “Suggested” category of artists that I might like was suddenly invaded by a pack of crappy modern country singers. Sorry Twitter, if I sign up for George Jones, I’d probably rather hear Hank Williams and Johnny Cash than Blake Shelton. To clean up the mess, I had to unfollow poor George. Just another heartbreak for the Ol’ Possum, I guess.

At Wired, Mat Honan explains that Twitter Music is a natural direction for Twitter to pursue, because Twitter users love to follow musicians and talk about music. Until today, however, your humble correspondent followed exactly zero musicians on Twitter. Oops.

But I’ve changed. The mark of a truly good app is that it doesn’t just allow you do something fun or more efficiently — it actually encourages you to change your behavior so as to get more out of your life. In between listening to George Jones sing about heartbreak and adultery and alcohol poisoning via the links that people were sharing on Twitter and Facebook, I started following a dozen or so of my favorite musicians on Twitter Music. At first I was just curious to see what would happen, but then I realized I was actually enjoying some of these songs. I started to engage, to feel some investment in the app.

The merging of social media and music is potent stuff. We learn this fact anew any time a beloved musician dies and our platforms of choice fill with tributes and recommendations and shared mourning and celebration. Whoever figures out how to bottle that juice on an everyday basis will deliver fantastic value for both listeners and artists.

I’m not prepared to say that Twitter Music completely nails it, yet. You can’t get the app to recommend songs that are stylistically like other songs, a la Pandora. The “Popular” and “Emerging” categories smell a little too strongly of recording studio promotion and lowest common denominator pop crap for my tastes — if I want to hear Rihanna’s latest hit, I can just turn on the car radio. The playlists generated by following artists also seem open to potential gaming by record labels.

But Twitter Music is slick, and fun to play around with, and I’ve heard a lot of new music since I started using it. I even heard some songs I like. I’m a little bummed today George Jones won’t be singing any new songs, himself, but there’s still a world of wonder (and more heartbreak) out there to find. Maybe Twitter can help me get there. Or some Jim Beam.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Rose Jay via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Labrador Retriever

    These guys are happy because their little brains literally can't grasp the concept of global warming.

    Hysteria via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    German Shepherd

    This momma is happy to bring her little guy into the world, because she doesn't know that one day they'll both be dead.

    Christian Mueller via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Golden Retriever

    I bet these guys wouldn't be having so much fun if they knew the sun was going to explode one day.

    WilleeCole Photography via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This dude thinks he's tough, but only because nobody ever told him about ISIS.

    Soloviova Liudmyla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    This little lady is dreaming about her next meal-- not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

    Labrador Photo Video via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    Yorkshire Terrier

    This trusting yorkie has never even heard the name "Bernie Madoff."

    Pavla via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    She is smiling so widely because she is too stupid to understand what the Holocaust was.

    Aneta Pics via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Sure, frolic now, man. One day you're going to be euthanized and so is everyone you love.

    Dezi via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America

    French Bulldog

    He's on a casual afternoon stroll because he is unfamiliar with the concept of eternity.

    Jagodka via Shutterstock

    Most popular dog breeds in America


    Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be this care-free? But we can't because we are basically all indirectly responsible for slavery.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>