Over the past few weeks, we've been getting hooked on This Is My Jam, a deceptively simple new website where you simply pick your jam – just one song – and keep it on your profile from anything from five minutes to a week.
Then you pick a new one. You can write a few words about it, if you like, and post it straight to your Twitter or Facebook account. Much like Twitter, you can follow other people and be followed back, rate, and comment on other people's songs.
We got in touch with Matthew Ogle, one of This Is My Jam's founders, to explain the site's devilish appeal, and to find out about their future plans.
And if you want to investigate for yourself, they've given us 1000 invite codes for NME readers - sign up here. If you're looking for a place to start, you can follow NME.COM Deputy Editor Tim Chester, NME Deputy Editor Mike Williams and me as well as Team TIMJ, who are essentially Matthew Ogle, Hannah Donovan,
Ralph Cowling and Andreas Jansson.
Can you sum up This Is My Jam in a nutshell?
Matthew Ogle: This Is My Jam is a new website to showcase your favourite song of the moment — the one you can't get out of your head. You get a customisable page where you post a single song, a sort of musical "current status." You can share it out to Twitter, Facebook, etc. Follow people whose music taste you’re into; hit play and you get an ever-changing playlist of jams curated by your friends.
Why should people use it instead of say, just tweeting about a new song they like? Or directing people to their last.fm?
Those services are great, but they're increasingly oriented towards fast, semi-automatic updates about everything from the song that just came on shuffle, the pub you're at, or the article you just read. Music gets lost in the deluge, and even when it's noticed, links out to Spotify or Youtube in a social feed can feel impersonal. It's hard to curate the experience, to say "this one really matters to me," or to add your own text or imagery to it. TIMJ offers a better music experience that still ends up on all your networks, much like Instagram does with photos. Plus: you can't play a Twitter feed!
Where and when did the idea for TIMJ originate? How do its creators know one another?
I was at Last.fm for almost six years; our designer, Hannah, was there for five. At Last.fm we had to solve a lot of hard problems: dealing with billions of scrobbles; algorithms connecting users based on music taste; trying to automate music discovery. Throughout all this, though, we knew that music was first and foremost a social phenomenon; the best music tips come from friends, not machines.
TIMJ grew out of a desire to try something that was the exact opposite of conventional tech wisdom; hand-curated instead of automated, slow instead of fast. I'm also very track-oriented, rather than an album listener, and when out with friends I'd usually ask "what's your favourite song right now?" But it's cumbersome to ask people that one by one, and I'd often forget their suggestions by the time I was home.
Last summer, I started to think about what a simple service built around that one question might look like. I pitched the idea to my current employer, The Echo Nest, and to my surprise they said "go build it and see!" So I came back to London, gathered a small but mighty team of music-loving techies, and the four of us got down to work. We've drawn inspiration from services like Instagram, About.me, Tumblr, and even golden-age Myspace (albeit without autoplay and animated backgrounds), but we feel like we're building something pretty unique in the music space.
How many users do you have now?
We passed the 10,000 users mark just after New Year's Day, which I think is pretty great given that we haven't really done much press yet and we're still in a semi-private beta stage. We're now prepping for a formal launch at the beginning of next month.
There's no advertising on the site – where is the funding coming from? Do you have plans to monetize the service?
It's very early days, and with the support of The Echo Nest we're figuring out what works and how the product ticks. We have plenty of ideas for monetization, though; popular requests include the ability to purchase music through the site and ways of getting artists, labels, and brands involved.
What is it about the site that you think has struck a chord with people?
I think there are we few different reasons, but the first has to do with constraints. Twitter has their 140 characters, and we have "one song per person," which leads to some interesting side-effects. The service is full of obscure gems, old favourites, guilty pleasures, and new earworms, and the way the service asks you to slow down and commit to something is a key part of that.
I also think there's tremendous value in creating a dedicated music graph (as opposed to a social network that also has music); it's in your best interest to follow (or unfollow!) someone regardless of whether you're strangers or best friends. It's all about the music you're going to get from that person in your playlist of jams.
Finally, it's a lot of fun customising your jam, watching your play count and likes go up, and knowing you're not alone in the music universe. Since the demise of MySpace, it's been harder to express your music identity online in a way that's personal and visual — TIMJ gives you a place to do that.
How many other devices does it work on?
We're web-only for now, and in addition to all the modern desktop browsers we also should play fine on iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.
How do you plan to develop the site over time? Will developers be able to use your API to integrate TIMJ into their own products?
We have a pretty ambitious roadmap with some cool features coming up, and we've had lots of requests for integration with services like BandCamp, Instagram, Spotify and we want to do those too. An API will probably come sooner rather than later, as it makes integrations a lot easier, plus we're excited to see what sort of things TIMJ users might build if given the chance!
What are your ambitions for TIMJ?
As music lovers ourselves, we've been having more fun sharing and discovering music on TIMJ than we have in years. There are millions of people like us out there, and we want to grow the service so they can enjoy it too, creating a dedicated music graph in the process. We believe TIMJ can become the best place to express your identity through music, in a slower, more considered, and more hand-picked way. TIMJ lets you curate the sounds that are most important to you right now, whenever the mood strikes.