Between Spotify, which has an immense depth of content but not much in the way of recommendation or discovery, and LastFM, the accuracy and usefulness of whose recommendations seem to be diminishing as its user base expands, there’s still a gap in the market for a site that combines music streaming with social networking in a slick and intuitive way.
Thesixtyone, which launched last year and is now attracting 100,000 unique users a month, doesn’t have enough big artists in its catalogue to compete with those two – but the potential is certainly there.
Like Digg, it’s a recommendation engine that pushes the most highly-rated tracks to the top, while resisting abuse by vested interests. A band couldn’t bump their own track to the top, for example, because users only have a certain amount of recommendation points, or ‘hearts’ to distribute.
But the really clever bit is that the site rewards the ‘I heard them first’ one-upmanship indulged in by denizens of the indie blogosphere. If you ‘heart’ a song early, before it becomes popular, you’re rewarded with reputation points – which in turn means you’re given more hearts to dole out.
It’s also similar to Sell-A-Band and People’s Music Store, in that it feels as much like a game as a music recommendation service – part of the fun is experiencing some of the opinion-forming/career-making ‘power’ that record label A&Rs and music journalists once enjoyed.
The only downside is that it’s a little too indie at present. Like a lot of music start-ups, it requires the involvement of major labels to give it the back catalogue it needs. But as an experiment, and a possible predictor of the next generation of music sites, it’s laudable.