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Twitter has long been a way for musicians to connect with their fans, but the standalone Twitter #Music app is something different: It's an opportunity for the social networking company to leverage its ubiquitous service to turn users onto new artists. The glossy iPhone and iPod touch offering pulls data from tweets and trends to build visual grids of artists in different categories, with iTunes audio samples just a couple of taps away. Twitter #Music looks the part, but while you might find some diamonds in the rough, it won't necessarily be due to the app's calculations.
Logging into the free app via your Twitter account reveals a stack of artists ranked by their current popularity on the service, and tapping a band or musician's icon expands it on the screen, smoothly shifting the other nearby images in the process. Doing so also reveals a play icon atop the larger image, which pulls up a 30-second clip from iTunes in an instant, plus you can follow the artist on Twitter with a tap or simply view their profile to see which other artists that account follows. Swiping right or using the drop down menu up top lets you swap to similar Emerging and Suggested artist screens, along with one that collects artists that people you follow use a #NowPlaying tag to tweet about – surprisingly few in our testing, at least.
Twitter #Music looks and sounds great, but so much of the functionality comes up shorter than expected for a discovery app of this sort. Full tracks can only be streamed by paid Spotify and Rdio users, and it's curious that there's no way whatsoever for others to hear more than clips. And the track selected for each artist isn't often ideal. It's the one chance to hook a potential new fan, so why are demos, covers, deep cuts, and compilation tracks used for many bands rather than the most recent or best-known single? It just feels very scattershot, as do the recommendations on the Suggested artists page.
Letting the app stream a succession of new artists' clips is a neat way to quickly sample what's hot or under the radar, and there's certainly room to grow with Twitter #Music, which is also accessible via the web. For now, though, it feels more like an adequate social networking tie-in than an essential resource for discovering tunes, but hopefully this initial offering doesn't represent the full extent of Twitter's aural ambitions.
The bottom line. Despite the impressive packaging, Twitter #Music isn't quite in tune with our music-discovering needs.
iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 6.0 or later
Great shifting grid design. iTunes clips load very quickly. Nice at-a-glance view of what's popular right now.
Only premium Spotify or Rdio users can stream full tracks. Selected songs for artists don't often seem well-considered. Artist recommendations are a bit scattershot.