Social music: Introducing rrrrradio

Some of my best memories from college involve just listening to music with friends; Live’s The Distance to Here with my neighbor Dan DeBruyn, Fiona Apple’s Tidal with my roommate Andrew Draper, driving to the Taco Bell in Muncie with Matt Guilford, listening to the Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack or Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind. Many conversations were had set to music and to this day, more than a decade later, I can listen to any one of these albums and I’m instantly taken back to those moments and I can remember exactly what it was like.

Music has always been an intensely social thing, and as music has evolved away from physical media into the digital age of direct downloads and personal MP3 players, I kind of feel like it’s lost a bit of that interconnectedness. Music has slowly become a more personal, introspective thing and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing I do miss the social byproduct of listening to good music with friends. As we get older and our lives get more hectic, it gets harder to get together for the “less important” things like just sitting around listening to music.

rrrrradio_desktop

rrrrradio is a little something I built to help bring the social aspect of listening to music to the 21st century.  Here’s how it works: You’re sitting at your desk, getting ready to start on your day’s work, but you want a little music to get you started. From any web browser, you can navigate to http://rrrrradio.com and, after logging in, click the play button to get a steady stream of music. When a friend logs in to the site to listen, they will hear the exact same thing you’re listening to. If there is a song in particular you want to listen to, you can search for it and add it to the upcoming queue, jukebox-style, and everyone who is logged on will be able to listen to it. Listeners can even “dedicate” their songs to specific people, who will be notified via email of the upcoming song.

Building rrrrradio really is the culmination of a decade of experiments in this area, and I think what we have here is just about the best implementation of social listening that I’m aware of, outside of actual album release parties. The site has been live in a sort of low-profile mode for the past two months and has been running incredibly smoothly. It’s fun for as few as two listeners and has even had it’s mettle tested with upwards of 30 simultaneous listeners.

But the music doesn’t have to stop when you leave your computer. With today’s public announcement of rrrrradio’s web version, I also want to introduce the mobile version of rrrrradio: the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch app. Fresh from Apple’s approval process, the app is available for immediate download. Listen in your car, on a run, while mowing the lawn, or anywhere else you have an Internet connection.

Now for the fine-print: Powering this application is Rdio’s third-party API, which provides access to the streaming music itself. The upside to this is that the music itself and all the licensing that goes with it is handled directly by them; Without going into too much detail, they deal with the record labels, lawyers, and provide the necessary bandwidth so that developers don’t have to worry about it. It’s really a great deal for developers who want to integrate music into their applications, and we’re taking full advantage of it here. The cost associated with it is, in my opinion, insanely reasonable: In order to listen to the web-based version of rrrrradio, you will need to be subscribed to the $4.99 “Rdio Web” subscription, and if you want to use the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch app you will need the $9.99 “Rdio Unlimited” plan. This monthly subscription not only enables access to the rrrrradio experience, but gives you acces to their entire library of 10 million songs, on demand, whenever you want through their web site, desktop applications, or mobile apps.  I’ve been a subscriber for the past four months and it’s changed the way I listen to music.

If you’re interested but not quite sure you want to plunk down that monthly price, take advantage of their freel 7-day trial. You’ll be able to listen to their entire catalog of music and experience both the desktop and mobile versions of rrrrradio for a full week. I think you’ll enjoy it. Sign up, join in, start listening, and let me know what you think!

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