I’m a huge fan of the SNS-ification of music. Sharing playlists and niche music forums, in addition to intelligent music recommendation services such as Itune’s Genius, have colorized my life by providing channels to expand my otherwise flavorless music library.
Xiami‘s taken this SNS-ification one step further with the introduction of its Loop service, reminiscent of Turntable.fm. Users congregate in virtual rooms where up to 5 people act as DJs, called Loopers, who take turns playing tracks. Listeners interact by rating music and fan-friending Loopers, who collect Experience Points.
The question of whether Loop can truly facilitate music sharing is still up in the air. For the average Chinese internet user, demand for music in China is still relatively generic. There may not exist enough variety for users to truly appreciate the value of music sharing.
However, this may be a step forward. The race to be the leading online music provider has 3 major contenders — Xiami, Douban, and Baidu. Douban is more like the IMDB of Chinese music, with a heavier emphasis on reviews and discussion, though they also recently launched their Douban.fm service with licensed music from major labels like Warner, Universal, SONY, EMI and so on. Baidu, on the other hand, has amassed this huge database of links to external music sources, classified them into various playlists. And it also launched ting.baidu.com to socialize its music effort.
Xiami’s move into interactive music sharing could connect users not just with shared music taste, but also those with common interests (there are virtual rooms that specifically welcome designers, computer scientists, etc). These factors, when mixed together, may incite subconscious conformation analogous to musical stereotypes found in the US — e.g. Goth kids like emo, valley girls like pop, fashionistas like trance, minorities like hip hop, and so on and so forth.
If subdivided social networks each adopted their own musical personalities via services such as Loop, this could very well revolutionize the entire Chinese music industry.
Monetization strategy currently suggests virtual goods, including clothing and accessories for avatars. For now, the selection of virtual costumes increases only as you accumulate Experience Points, though I’ll put good money these services will be offered for real money real soon.
It’s currently 9 PM in China, and there approximately 600 users currently using the Xiami service.
These past few days I’ve been tuning into the “Listen while Coding, Code while Listening” room. Frankly, it makes me warm and fuzzy inside knowing there are other programmers up at 3 or 4 in the morning slaving away together.
One last comment about Loop. The music’s mostly decent, though sometimes I wish they could introduce a “boo” button, in addition to its “mute current song” button.