A new music discovery site called Wonder.fm is proving the problem of music discovery, an emphasis of streaming sites in recent years, is far from solved.
Wonder.fm was created by We Are Hunted co-founder Stephen Phillips. We Are Hunted was acquired by Twitter in April 2013 and morphed into the short-lived and unpopular Twitter Music app that was shut down a year later.
Not surprisingly, Phillips’ new, data-driven discovery service is much like his previous one. Wonder.fm, using songs available at music streaming service SoundCloud, creates a playlist of 99 popular tracks and lays them out in a tile-like fashion on a single web page. The listener simply clicks on a track — an image of the artist in this case– to listen, or can listen to the playlist in its entirety. The listener can also filter songs by genre (there are currently 8 of them), time period and other variables. Overall, it’s a simple and elegant product.
And like We Are Hunted, Wonder.fm searches outside the mainstream. “My hope is that music fans seeking cool sounds outside the top 40 might find it a really fun app,” Phillips told Giga Om, adding that he hopes to build apps for iOS and Android devices.
The fact that Phillips has created a successor to We Are Hunted isn’t the only notable thing about Wonder.fm. What should stand out is that music discovery continues to be a problem worth fixing.
In recent years, on-demand streaming and Internet radio services have gone to great lengths to improve the ways listeners discover music. Take Spotify, for example. Spotify has made two acquisitions — Tunigo in 2013 and music intelligence company Echo Nest in March — to improve the ways listeners discover music. Because of these and other endeavors, Spotify has become a much more enjoyable place to browse for music since it launched in the United States in 2011.
Pandora has also bolstered its music discovery credentials beyond what already takes place in routine listening. One example is Pandora Premieres, a collection of pre-release album streams similar to NPR’s First Listen. Currently, Pandora users can listen to Big & Rich’s “Gravity” and Dev’s “Bittersweet July,” both to be released September 23rd. Pandora Premieres tends to lack the big pre-releases — those often go to iTunes — but it add values to the product.
In spite of these improvements, music discovery is still messy. People find new music through a variety of channels, from social media and blogs to old-fashioned word of mouth. Outside of YouTube, a service with easy navigation and good recommendations, and the Hype Machine, a site that culls popular music posted at music blogs, music discovery often requires an unreasonable investment of time.
It’s no surprise that radio is by far Americans’ favored source of music discovery, according to Nielsen. The average consumer won’t invest much time in finding new artists and songs. Online services need to better reflect this reality.