How many times has a song instantly reminded you of an experience from years ago buried in the back of your brain? Maybe it was the first time that band ever blew your mind, or something you listened to during your move to a new life in a new city. With SF-grown app Soundtracking, whatever songs impact moments of your life can now be broadcast to the world via your social nets.
Schematic Labs created Soundtracking's iPhone app (don't fear: Android version comes this summer, along with possible integration with Tumblr), which scooped up 250,000 users in its first 6 weeks and is still growing fast. "Music is inherently emotional and social," says co-founder Steve Jang. He spotted a niche for people who would be stoked on the ability to share the context of how they're feeling or what they're doing while they're listening to a song via photos, location, and commentary.
With just a tap on your touch screen, the world knows exactly what music's pumping into your brain. If it's a song your friends haven't picked up yet, they can grab it off iTunes with another finger tap. We caught up with Jang to talk about his personal life's soundtrack, how artists are using Soundtracking and the cultural zeitgeist revealed by his new app.
What inspired SoundTracking? Was it a particular concert you went to?
I started thinking about the idea of an app like SoundTracking while I was traveling through Europe a couple years ago. Even when walking along the canals in Amsterdam, hanging out in the Raval district of Barcelona, or just sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, I would have my iPhone headphones in and would be listening to music. Musical sounds were everywhere and I wanted to share the soundtrack to my travels.
I was using Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare to share my experiences and also to have a personal record of places I had discovered there. But I couldn't quite capture the music moments in a rich and vivid way using those services' apps. I kept thinking about how it would be cool to create an app that let you share a snippet of the song, a photo, a geo-location, and a personal caption, all in one easy, beautiful and expressive post. The metaphor I kept thinking about was a "musical postcard."
What songs have been showing up on the soundtrack to your life?
I've been playing a lot of music from Twin Shadow, Flying Lotus, Bon Iver, Gillian Welch, The Antlers and the new Beastie Boys album.
Would you describe yourself as a music junkie or a tech junkie first?
I'm both! I've been involved in both tech (day career) and music (night career) for over 10 years. On the music side, I started a DJ collective called Massive Selector in San Francisco about ten years ago, and have also co-produced music videos for the late hiphop artist, J Dilla, and The Strokes. I learned computer programming in junior high, taught a class on how to design and develop websites as an undergrad at UC Berkeley and have carried that love of the Internet to social software and mobile apps today.
Why should we broadcast what songs or artists are defining certain moments in our lives?
Sometimes, a song can capture how you feel in that moment or even trigger strong memories of the past. Sharing that music moment is not only worth more than a thousand words, it can create an immediate and direct connection with other people in so many different ways.
Can people bundle up tracked songs into mixes that serve as day-by-day soundtracks?
Each user has a public feed which shows their Soundtracking history along a timeline. Each location, whether a venue, neighborhood or city, also has a public Soundtracking history as well. This is something we're excited about since we think that neighborhoods and cities have a music personality and it's been awesome to watch the community post soundtracks from their neighborhood or city.
What sorts of musical trends are you seeing through the app?
Interestingly, we see a cultural zeitgeist that is reflected in what is trending in our community. Anything from new album releases, seasons, holidays, sports, fashion and current political topics are showing up in users' post on Soundtracking.
We've been also seeing that rather than just caring about new music, our community on Soundtracking loves talking about songs from their past. There is a ton of attention around their music memories and you see a lot of posts talking about childhood, high school, college, and ex-boyfriends & ex-girlfriends.
Are artists using it?
Artists have also started to join Soundtracking and are using it in really creative ways. Alicia Keys started using Soundtracking the other week and has been running a scavenger hunt with her fans for free tickets to her shows, but she's also been very open with her fans, and talking about her music memories and asking her fans to share their music moments related to her songs. It's been amazing to watch an artist like Alicia Keys actually use Soundtracking herself and reach out to fans in fun, creative ways like this.
If a band is working on a new song in the studio, could it upload snippets of its new material to be played or sampled from the site?
We definitely want artists to be able to post soundtracks of their new music and share this with the Soundtracking community. Right now, we utilize the iTunes music catalog, but in the future I think it would be great to have a feature that allowed any artist to release new songs and remixes through our apps to the Soundtracking community.