#nwplyng: Share, Discover, Play

As someone that loves music I’m often searching for new artists and songs to love, as well as new methods of accomplishing this task. Twitter #music, a new music discovery service released in April, had a lot of promise but ultimately fell out of the limelight rather quickly. As a recommendation service, I found Twitter #music to be lacking in terms of how recommendations were offered, as well as not giving users a means to offer recommendations.

By comparison, #nwplyng offers a full music sharing experience with one major caveat: Instead of piggybacking on a major social network, #nwplyng is it’s own social network. Between Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Vine and countless others to keep tabs of, is it plausible to find room for another social network in your life?

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Striking Up the Band

In order to gain access to #nwplyng you have to sign in with one of three social networks: Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. As an avid user of Twitter, which I’ll end up using to post my recommendations at times, I have no issue with this requirement. However, I know many people do not care for using these big name social media services, and will immediately dismiss this app. Since #nwplyng is a social network in and of itself, it seems rather peculiar that the developers would restrict users that wish to do nothing more than stay within the confines of the service.

No social network account, no entry.

No social network account, no entry.

Sharing & Discovering Tunes

Once logged in, you’re placed within the main view, which is designated by the #nwplyng header at the top. From here you can browse through posts submitted by those you follow, add comments or like a post. Tapping the play icon located next to the artist’s name and the song title will begin playback of an iTunes preview, or you can listen to a full-length version of the song via a YouTube video by tapping the banner located along the bottom of the album art/photo.

#nwplyng is beautifully designed and will fit in nicely when iOS 7 is released in the Fall.

#nwplyng is beautifully designed and will fit in nicely when iOS 7 is released in the Fall.

To share a song, begin by tapping the #nwplyng button in the upper-right corner. From here, you can enter the name of an artist or song in the search field, or tap the listen button in the upper-right to activate the music ID feature — similar to Shazam. When the results populate, you can scroll through and find the best match. When you’ve selected the desired song, your next step will be to enter a short blurb to provide some insight about the track, which is optional. Tap the Share button when you’re ready to post.

When you toggle a sharing social network sharing icon, it will remain on for future shares.

When you toggle a sharing social network sharing icon, it will remain on for future shares.

Since #nwplyng cannot post full-length tracks it provides a clever workaround by including a YouTube video of the song (as mentioned earlier), which you can customize by tapping the video’s banner. This utilization of YouTube certainly gets the job done, but it would be great if #nwplying integrated with Rdio and Spotify in some fashion, allowing users of these services to play full-length tracks. Utsav Agarwal, founder and CEO of #nwplyng’s development company, Nwplyng Private Limited, has stated that both services will be implemented within the following month, which should give users something to look forward to.

The designated YouTube video may not be a perfect choice, so make sure to verify it before sharing.

The designated YouTube video may not be a perfect choice, so make sure to verify it before sharing.

It’s a Game, Too

The most unique aspect of #nwplyng is the built-in gamification that rewards users for their posting activity. Each user is designated a status, starting with Rookie, which can be leveled up all the way to Headliner. Badges, a concept familiar to Foursquare users, can also be earned for performing specific actions (e.g. the Fan badge is earned by sharing eight songs from the same artist). Similar to a mayorship in Foursquare, users can became the manager of an artist by sharing their tracks up to a designated amount of times. If the artist has no manager, ten shares will earn you the spot, but if a manager is already in place you’ll have to post more shares to earn the role.

If you love badges and leveling up, #nwplyng will be right up your alley.

If you love badges and leveling up, #nwplyng will be right up your alley.

If you have ambitions of posting ten straight shares to become manager of your favorite band, you’ll find yourself limited by the rules of game. Designated as the 12-4-1 rule — 12 songs per day, 4 songs per artist per day and 1 unique song per day — you’ll never be limited by the number of songs you can share in a day, but only 12 of those shares will count towards the game. Likewise, only 4 shares of the same artist in same day will count towards your bid to become manager, and posting the same song twice in the same day won’t net you any bonus points.

Red tabs indicate that you're not playing by the rules.

Red tabs indicate that you’re not playing by the rules.

Gamifying #nwplyng makes the app more versatile by allowing users to enjoy are more self-serving experience that will drive them to share more songs; all in the hopes of unlocking a higher status level or earning all of the badges. The downside of this concept, however, is that it opens up to some users spamming their shares in a bid to achieve their goals. Granted, once a user submits their 12th share for the day they have little reason to share more. However, if you are following enough people that spam shares on a daily basis, you may want to reconsider who you’re following.

For the Sake of Comparison

Though my comparison to Twitter #music only seems appropriate because of its prominence, #nwplyng is in fact much more similar to Soundtracking, an app that’s been reviewed on AppStorm a couple of times. Both services allows users to share specific songs and artists, which are then published on a timeline that’s viewable to followers.

These fundamentals aside, both apps address the concept of sharing music with vastly different philosophies. Soundtracking sells itself on the concept of a user sharing a “soundtrack of their lives,” while #nwplyng gamifies the music sharing experience in manners previously discussed. Both services are good at what they set out to accomplish, so it’s up to you to decide which philosophy suits you best.

The Bottom Line

All things considered, #nwplyng is at the cusp of being a very good service, but it still has plenty of room to grow. The biggest issue with an app of this nature is finding individuals to follow that have similar tastes. Coming into the app cold, only one method of finding users that aren’t your friends on other social networks is offered, which is checking out the list of users following the #nwplyng account that you’re automatically following. Implementing a trending or popular view, which would showcase shares from other users, or being provided with following recommendations after you’ve shared a song would would be incredibly beneficial.

For a service geared towards music discovering, #nwplyng currently doesn’t provide follow-up steps when you find a song you like, such as downloading it from iTunes. Agarwal did state that this feature will be implemented in a future update, which will correct this issue nicely when paired with Rdio and Spotify integration. Users that rely on accessibility features, mainly VoiceOver, will be left disappointed with #nwplyng as the majority of buttons have not been properly labeled, which in turn makes them incomprehensible when tapped.

Whether or not you’ll use #nwplyng everyday is entirely up to you, but it has the potential of being a service you use frequently. Since it is a social network by nature you’re heavily relying on other users to provide quality recommendations, which can only happen if you’re able to find quality users to follow. All things considered, #nwplyng is definitely an app worthy of your time if you’re seeking the experience it has to offer.


Summary

Share your favorite songs, discover new music and collect some nifty badges along the way.

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