PartyStrands — Music + Mobiles = Social

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I’ve been following MusicStrands for a while now, and I think they’re doing some pretty cool stuff in what I guess you could call the social music space. They take a recommendation and discovery service like last.fm, but jazz it up a bit by throwing in some social aspects, with an eye to using music as a way to connect people. Their latest project is PartyStrands, which takes the MusicStrands idea and applies it to a bar or a club. I’ve been playing around with the software this weekend, and it’s pretty cool.

It’s fairly straightforward: PartyStrands is software that works with iTunes or Windows Media Player; a bar owner could run it on a PC that’s loaded with music tracks, and by using one artist as a starting point, it keeps churning out related tunes from the music library. It gets much more interesting, though — as users come in, they can “join the party” by sending an SMS in with an alias, and their favorite artist. As more users join, the playlist gets influenced by their collective taste in music. If you’re already a MusicStrands user, you can join with your username, and it will take your entire profile into account. PartyStrands is designed to run on a video projector or other large screen, so it can show the current track that’s playing and album art, while users can also send text messages to be displayed, and eventually pictures as well (some photos of it in action).

Partystrands got a bit of coverage a couple of weeks ago when it was launched, and a lot of it asked an obvious question: why would people interact with a computer system instead of other people in a bar? The question may be fair, but it’s not completely accurate. PartyStrands isn’t a jukebox system that lets users control they music they hear. It’s a system that lets users influence what they hear. Instead of hearing the same 30 songs from the jukebox at the bar, PartyStrands builds on what’s popular in the crowd, adjusting its output as aggregate tastes change, and playing music it thinks people will like. In many ways, that’s a lot cooler than a jukebox — you’re getting exposed to new music, catered to your taste and preferences. So instead of the talk being “oh, not this song again?”, its “Wow, this is good, who is this?” and so on. The base level of interaction with the system is minimal; but it’s created to drive more interaction among people. In the same way, the point of sending messages or photos into PartyStrands isn’t for the sake of the message, it’s to broadcast it to the party. Again, driving interaction by using the mobile and the application.

I’m pretty impressed with PartyStrands; it took about 10 minutes of playing around, but once it clicked, it became really cool. All too often, music’s just background noise; PartyStrands serves to make music social. Beyond getting it in bars and so on, I’ve got no idea what the company’s got planned, but this could be great for even small parties, by taking something like iTunes’ party shuffle and making it a hell of a lot smarter and much more interactive. PartyStrands will be rolling out shortly across Europe and the US, and our friend Rudy de Waele’s got the scoop on a big launch party this Thursday (Sept. 14) in Madrid, so if you’re in that part of the world, scoot on over to Rudy’s blog and find out how to get on the list.

[tags]mobile, mobile music, partystrands, mystrands, musicstrands[/tags]

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