March 6, 2013
by Rip Empson
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EQuala Launches On iOS And Android To Bring More Context And Control To Social Music Discovery

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Over the last decade, the rise of mobile technology and the maturation of the Web as distribution and consumption channels has had a devastating effect on the music industry, among others. Yet, on the bright side, more recently these technologies have produced a litany of new ways to discover great music, empowering both fans and musicians in the process. While it seems that each day brings a new music app or product — a net positive for music fans — there’s also a lot of noise.

Many of these apps and music services are exploring the social side of music discovery, allowing users to find, download and listen to their friends’ favorite music fare. Spotify, Rdio, MOG and others have capitalized on the launch of Facebook Music, for example, which introduced millions of Facebook users to the experience of viewing their friend’s listening activity (and sharing their own) in realtime.

While music discovery via your friends and social graph has a lot of appeal conceptually, initially, it just added to the noise problem rather than channeling it. Social music experiences were exciting more as a novelty, seeming to provide more value as a feature or a layer, than as the core around which a successful music service could be built. Luckily, EQuala wants change that by giving users more control over the social music discovery experience — and the noise.

ListnPlay’s free Android and iOS app looks to go that extra distance toward creating a social radio station on the Web that you’ll actually want to use by giving users with their own social “equalizer,” and allowing them to create (and more importantly) curate and customize their social music streams. Launching today in the U.S. with over 23 million tunes in its catalog (and growing), EQuala allows music fans wants to help evolve the Facebook-integrated music experience, letting users create personalized streams from songs their friends are listening to and from those with similar music tastes.

After logging in through Facebook, EQuala developers comprehensive taste profiles based on the music you’ve listened to (and shared) through third-party services like Spotify, YouTube and Songza, among others. To decide whether or not your friends’ playlist is worthy of your standards, users can click on any friend in their search results to see what they’ve been listening to on these services and populate their social radio stream accordingly, listening to and sharing these friend-approved songs as they go.

While the experience itself is different from other familiar services, that’s still fairly standard to the social music discovery experience. The real key (and its ace in the hole) is what EQuala does after that. Using its “Friends EQualizer,” users can then customize and control their music stream, managing whose music plays more frequently, for example. The app allows you to see each selected friend on a sliding scale (or equalizer), adjusting those controls based on how much influence you want a particular friend to have in your stream.

Once customized, users can then click play to enjoy or at any time, delete friends from the list if and when they decide to go through a Creed phase. The app also enables users to communicate with one another through “love,” “shout,” and “re-shout” buttons, which send push notifications to alert you via your phone and allow you to quickly share tracks on social media.

Not unlike Pandora (and Echo Nest), EQuala’s tech gives each users his or her own “Music DNA,” which is essentially a breakdown of the genres and types of music you listen to the most — along with data integrated from your “shouts” and “loves,” etc. The more you listen, EQuala personalizes your music DNA and is able to more accurately match users with those in their network who share similar tastes. The app also shows a percentage match between one user and another to give users a sense of the degree of similarity.

The other selling point is that EQuala allows you to consume your friends’ music selections even if they’re not using the platform. As long as music is being shared (through Facebook), EQuala will let you tailor your social radio stream.

Based on early testing, EQuala stands up pretty well, giving much more social context to your daily music consumption. It also does a pretty good job of removing friction that stands in the way of getting music playing instantly, offers a sizable catalog at launch (which is impressive in and of itself) and by allowing you to add, delete and curate your friend-informed playlist and adjust influence, wins some value points.

If you’re open to the idea of social music discovery but haven’t found the right experience yet, EQuala may be what you’re looking for, giving you control over your social stream and finally putting the power to curate and customize social back into your hands.

For more, find EQuala at home here and on the App Store here.

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February 17, 2013
by Gregory Ferenstein
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Fresh Stats On Social Networks: Pinterest Catches Up With Twitter, Digital Divide Shrinks


I find statistics absolutely delicious. Pew research released fresh stats on what slice of Americans are addicted to all of the various social networks as of December 2012. There are a few big business and cultural implications.

Pinterest has practically caught up with Twitter, with 15 percent and 16 percent of adult U.S. Internet users on each network, respectively. Pinterest, which launched in 2009, has experienced explosive growth, especially with a white, female and affluent user base. Women are five times more likely to use Pinterest (5 percent vs. 25 percent) and almost twice as likely to be white and college-educated. It’s become a magnet for hip urbanites searching for the hottest wedding gowns and apartment decor. Twitter, however, gets a lot more attention, since neither presidential campaigns nor Middle Eastern activists are leveraging style catalogs to rearrange their countries’ political leadership.

There is no longer a minority gap in social media use. The surveyed groups (whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans) hover around 68 percent of total adults. Almost twice as many African-Americans (26 percent) use Twitter as whites (14 percent). The disproportionate African-American use of Twitter has fascinated culture commentators and scholars. One study found that African-Americans in celebrity news strongly predicted their Twitter use. Former web editor of the The Onion, Baratunde Thurston, hypothesized that “there’s a long oral dissing tradition in black communities,” explaining, “Twitter works very naturally with that call-and-response tradition — it’s so short, so economical, and you get an instant signal validating the quality of your contribution.”

Ironically, not using social media may be an elite thing. Those with a college degree are slightly less likely than those with some college to use social networks (69 percent vs. 65 percent). While the difference isn’t statistically significant, at least one study verified the trend among educated users to ditch Facebook for moral, political or cultural reasons. “Many Facebook refusers actually revel in their difference from the mainstream, seeing it as a mark of distinction, superior taste, and identification with an elite social stratum,” said New York University Professor Laura Portwood-Stacer.

Hipsters find it too mainstream and others find their privacy policies troublesome. In other words, not using social media is likely a product of more education, not a lack of access.

The full totals for each social network. Sixty-seven percent of online adults say they use Facebook, 15 percent of online adults say they use Pinterest, 13 percent of online adults say they use Instagram, 6 percent of online adults say they use Tumblr, 16 percent of online adults say they use Twitter (and 20 percent of online adults say they use LinkedIn as of August 2012). Below is a full table summarizing the results of the survey:

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