Friday, March 22

B-sides: Music app may be overwhelming


Vinyl albums are becoming quite the trendy things to buy (full disclosure: There are four hanging up on my wall). There are two sides to an album: the A-side and the B-side. The A-side is known to feature the more commercially accessible songs on a record. The B-side is thought of as holding those tracks in which the band does something a little bit different, which longtime fans of the band may be more likely to enjoy than those looking for the next radio hit.

For example, on the vinyl edition of Mumford and Sons’ “Sigh No More,” “The Cave” is on the A-side. We’ve all heard “The Cave” about a hundred times on local radio stations. But what about “Timshel,” a song that is just about as good as “The Cave” but not quite as catchy? Anyone? “Timshel” is a B-side song.

In this column, I’m going to be taking a look at one major piece of news in the music world each week and reacting to it. I’m hoping that my point of view will be one that you haven’t necessarily heard yet. I’m hoping that my opinions will be B-sides. With that in mind, I’ll get to it.

Facebook has the uncanny ability to make you feel like you’re the most technologically savvy person on the block and the most technologically illiterate person around, all in the span of about a half hour.

I’m referring, of course, to the big, blue online giant’s tendency to frequently and suddenly change features on its website. A couple days ago, I was on Facebook, checking my news feed when movement on the right-hand side of the screen caught my eye. I looked and saw the new scrolling ticker of news feed items, which keeps me up-to-date on just about everything any of my friends do at any given time, almost none of which I’m interested in. When I chose to collapse the sidebar the ticker was in, I saw the exact same ticker again at another location on the right side of my screen.

If changes like these throw you for a loop, watch out for Timeline, a brand new style of Facebook profile that was just announced Thursday at its F8 conference. The changes that Timeline will bring to your profile are many, but there is one in particular that I’d like to talk about: its music integration features.

It would appear that Facebook is planning to partner with several online streaming sites, including Rdio and Spotify ““ the free music streaming site which recently took the United States by storm ““ to make it easier to listen to friends’ music recommendations.

I’ll use Spotify as an example. If you and I were friends, and both of us had installed a Facebook Spotify application, you could see every single song I recommended and play it directly from Facebook.

If I wanted to, I could also make sure that only my close friends got my recommendations. In theory, it sounds like a very cool and relatively simple idea. Simply by scanning my Timeline, I could find new music to listen to and explore in greater detail, either through a streaming site like Spotify or through iTunes.

I’m reserving judgment for one reason: I’m worried about information overload. If multiple streaming services get on board with this change, the sheer amount of options may be overwhelming. I also definitely don’t want to be getting music recommendations nonstop from hundreds of people. Hopefully the latter concern will be correctable through a simple trip to the settings tab, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

I think these changes can only have a positive impact. If they work perfectly, then excellent; there’s one more easy way to share your love of music with others.

If they don’t work, if these changes turn into a bog of buttons, clicks and permission checks … hey, it is always going to be pretty easy to scroll down to my toolbar, open my Spotify application and listen to some music without the input of 500 of my closest friends.

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