First look: Aweditorium brings indie music discovery to iPad (the Flipboard of music)

Thanks to Rackspace (they pay me to roam the world looking for world-changing technologies and technologists). This video was developed for Rackspace’s building43, which has a shorter version of this video if you would like to check that out:

Ever since I got my first Elton John album back in something like 1976 I have loved discovering new music. But in the age of MP3s and iTunes it just isn’t that easy.

How can you sift through a bunch of new bands you haven’t heard of before and get emotionally committed to them? It’s tough.

One year I stuck around for SXSW’s music festival and listened to a bunch of bands I hadn’t heard before. That was magical. But it’s hard to have those experiences.

Don’t tell me to go off and listen to iTunes or Spotify, either. Those are great systems if you already are in love with a band or a musician. But how do you listen through hundreds of new bands, looking for one to fall in love with?

I didn’t have a good answer until I saw Aweditorium. It was yet another example of an app that was made for iPad. Made me feel like it was magical.

It presents a grid of new artists. I hadn’t heard of a single one. You use your hand to fly through the grid. Up, down, left, right. Then you touch a band’s picture. And the music plays.

Nice. But now, what else is going on?

First, there’s a really great full-sized, high-res photo of the musician. Second, details about the musician shows up as I listen.

Finally, if the band really gets my attention, like Lissie’s “Wedding Bells” did, you can click a little icon at the bottom of the screen and see a video interview stored on YouTube. But wait, there’s more! Click HD and a music video of the band will start playing. It all looks awesome and it is awesome.

Get bored and you can hit the grid icon at the bottom right, go back to the grid, and find someone else.

Anyway, this is an app you really should download on your iPad. It’s free. Or, just watch the video to get an idea of how well this experience has been thought out. Simple, huh? But that’s the point. The iPad has changed our expectations of what apps should do. This one is a winner and I hope to see more. I call it the Flipboard of music, but that’s really unfair. Flipboard is the Aweditorium of social news.

It makes sense that this is a great app, too, because founder James Miao was the developer of thesixtyone, which was a great website for music discovery. They took what they learned on that site and started over on the iPad. Here’s a video with James that I filmed where he shows off Aweditorium.

Some things this leaves me wanting for, though:

1. I’d +love+ to see if any of my friends on Facebook were liking any of the music in this app. Imagine if a little number on each tile changed everytime another friend of yours “liked” that artist?
2. I want to go see a lot more of these bands now. I’d love to ask this app to tell me when my favorite artist was in town, so I could go and see them.
3. I want more more more. I’d love to have all sorts of music in this app, not just indie music.

These are little nits, though. This is an app I haven’t been able to turn off for hours.

What’s next? If you’re developing a great iPad app, I want to see it. scobleizer@gmail.com

UPDATE: Read what the Next Web has to say about it: gorgeous, immersive, music discovery for the iPad. MacStories says “you have to try it.”

Published by

Robert Scoble

As Startup Liaison for Rackspace, the Open Cloud Computing Company, Scoble travels the world looking for what's happening on the bleeding edge of technology for Rackspace's startup program. He's interviewed thousands of executives and technology innovators and reports what he learns in books ("The Age of Context," a book coauthored with Forbes author Shel Israel, has been released at http://amzn.to/AgeOfContext ), YouTube, and many social media sites where he's followed by millions of people. Best place to watch me is on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Comments

  1. Just tried the app. It was annoying to use.

    Tap on a square, the music starts, but the screen goes black. Trying to tap to get something to look at results in random grid taps, and annoying new song starts. Turns out if screen brightness is not 100%, you don’t see anything. FAIL.

    Tried the icons at the bottom. Ok, but then I missed a tap, and another random song started. FAIL

    The overlay at the top left has moving, different colored dots – what do they mean? FAIL

    But in the end, what’s the point? I guess I’m not a “music lover”. I listen to Pandora all day, every day – with minimal training, it learned to give me a constant, hassle-free stream of music I like with no more action on my part except pause/play.. What more do you need?

    1. Hmm, that’s not the experience I have on my iPad. But, yes, it’s first release. I’m sure they’ll learn how to make it even better. This is much different from Pandora. Pandora is great for leaving on like a radio station. This is great for trying to discover some new musician that I’ve never heard of before.

      1. Yes, it is different, no doubt, and I like to see new developments in the iPad app space. I’m just saying, besides the UI glitches, that it is not “better”, for me, than Pandora. I also question its ultimate usefulness.

        Here’s the thing: if discovering new bands is the goal, Pandora does a better job at that too, because it will present them to you based on your stated musical taste. Aweditorioum presents you with random pictures that tell you nothing about the music, forcing you to do the work of discovery. You spent hours with it, presumably at the exclusion of all else. I entered one band name into Pandora and gave a few thumbs up and down over the course of a few of days, while I worked, had lunch, commuted, etc.

        My current Pandora stream is maybe 10% bands I knew about, while the rest are artists I had never heard of before. So: new bands discovered, easy peasy.

        But you are right, Aweditorium is like Flipboard in that its great for browsing, not for using. Flipboard refuses to show my complete timeline, Aweditorium is too much work. I look forward to the updates, though, to keep abreast of iPad development (the same reason I keep Flipboard on my iPad, come to think of it).

        Thanks for the post, good job as always.

        1. Keep in mind I’m also the kind of guy who’ll keep trying eggplant because I hate eggplant and want to make sure I still hate it. :-) In other words, I’m looking for serendipity as part of what makes a great experience for me. I love satellite radio because it gives me what I want (more old-school rock and roll, usually) and Pandora, for the same reason (songs that are like the Beatles) but this brings serendipity into my life. Yeah, occassionally something I hate comes along, but I am finding so many gems and discovering a new musical taste because of it.

        2. Keep in mind I’m also the kind of guy who’ll keep trying eggplant because I hate eggplant and want to make sure I still hate it. :-) In other words, I’m looking for serendipity as part of what makes a great experience for me. I love satellite radio because it gives me what I want (more old-school rock and roll, usually) and Pandora, for the same reason (songs that are like the Beatles) but this brings serendipity into my life. Yeah, occassionally something I hate comes along, but I am finding so many gems and discovering a new musical taste because of it.

        3. Keep in mind I’m also the kind of guy who’ll keep trying eggplant because I hate eggplant and want to make sure I still hate it. :-) In other words, I’m looking for serendipity as part of what makes a great experience for me. I love satellite radio because it gives me what I want (more old-school rock and roll, usually) and Pandora, for the same reason (songs that are like the Beatles) but this brings serendipity into my life. Yeah, occassionally something I hate comes along, but I am finding so many gems and discovering a new musical taste because of it.

  2. @Scoble — Love thesixtyone and this app is awesome as well.

    hah. My first album was Elton John as well. I agree about the serendipity of finding new music, experiences haven’t caught up yet with new models of distribution. I used to rely on two indie record stores in Dallas growing up, they were great, always playing new scary and exciting stuff that I took home. I’m not certain an app will create the same thing … maybe? Loading an app still feels like a rarified experience rather than something I do frequently, and I listen to music at least half of my waking hours. Perhaps though it’s just a tool kit of various places which provide discovery, lastfm, pandora, http://www.thesixtyone.com/, track in the box, purchasing circles at itunes and amazon, etc… I do have a great local store in Portland (no, not that Portland), The Bull Moose which can provide some serendipity as well.

    @Holden, no, no it’s not!

  3. And for the cheery thought of the day… ;)

    Annoying beta-ish feeling ‘slick UI without any architecture’, short-attention-span hipster appish , for annoyingly pretentious hipster iPadders. Toss it in with the pile of insta-apps over there, and make some Facebook hooks, so your hipstering can be in tune with other hipsters. Dancing to your own beat, not advisable.

    They should do an eReader version of this, so you can look up and see that all your hipster friends are reading Johnathon Franzen, in between all the $5 a cup Starbucks 3 hour lunches.

  4. I am very happy to see this review exactly one day after I’ve found the61. I can’t say much about the iPad app since I don’t own an iPad (sad), but I love this idea a lot. New artists have always tried to push themselves forward using the Internet, but this website/app really makes the experience feel just right.
    I do like the web app approach, but I think that this should be done all the way. Yes, I own an iPhone, but who knows which phone I’ll use in a year, or two. Apps really should move to the web and not remain consolidated around one brand of a phone. I see Google heading to that direction, which is sort of nice.

    Anyway, for all of you who love to find new artists before they are known, this is the best and most enjoyable ways I’ve seen to do that. For those who tag along later on, when bands and singers get some recognition, well, you have to start somewhere, and it seems that this exposure is wonderful, it’s worldwide, not only for one continent and this really can boost up the really good ones.

    As for revenue, always important naturally, but with the strength in numbers for both artists and listeners, I believe you’ll see more and more revenue for sending the listeners to buy CDs (or the digital equivalent).

    I do hope that this will grow into something that will apply to more than just the new indie artists, however, in that case, there should be some sort of a separation, as its obvious the unknown won’t get as much recognition (through votes or however the app works) as the more acknowledged artists.

    Keep up the good work!

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  6. I’ve managed the PR of many bands in the past, and this app excites me. Although it does remind me of Zune (which I use through XBOX360) this signals the change in band marketing. In the past it was frowned upon writing ‘sound like,’ but as the business crumbles and consumers search for products it is ever more important to help them find what they are looking for. Although this is nothing new, it does symbolize the changing environment.

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  7. Call me old-fashioned, but I still like hearing about new music good old radio stations. Albeit online stations for the most part. However, this does seem pretty neat.

  8. I’m a HUGE fan of indie music and a friend showed me this app on his Ipad. LOVE this app big time. I like some others, don’t own an Ipad (want one..but $$$).

    Please port to the pc/mac/ipod touch :) !!