“Remember the first Sony Walkmans?” asks Philipp Eibach, the founder and CEO of Berlin-based wahwah.fm, a free mobile app set to launch in June. “They had two audio jacks, so you could plug in two headphones at once and listen to music together on the go. It wasn’t very convenient because the wires restricted the movements, but the idea behind it was pretty cool: sharing music while staying mobile.”
Wahwah.fm duplicates that concept in wireless form, with an app that allows for multiple users to listen to the same personalized radio stations from wherever they are. To create a station, you’ll simply choose some songs stored on your iPhone to create a station playlist and start listening/broadcasting. Eibach says the app is designed to help people connect with each other by listening to the same music at the same time in a Walkman-like portable setting, with a text chat function that lets them talk about the music. In addition, you can listen by location.
“People listen to other music in Austin than they do in Berlin or New York,” he says. “You can check in and discover music that way by tapping into a city’s tastes. There’s a sort of serendipity that comes from patterns of movement, and who’s listening to what where.”
To keep things simple, wahwah.fm plans to limit station sharing to your friend list, or the twenty other listeners nearest your location. That way, Eibach says, users will be more likely to have real interactions around the music they’re listening to.
“Wahwah is about music recommendation,” he explained. “If you like a song that you hear on someone else’s station, you can bookmark it and use the wahwah.fm website to purchase the song or album it’s on. [That feature] is sort of like a diary: a shelf for all the stuff that you collect during the day.”
In addition to building a network with your friends and following other wahwah.fm users in your area, you can also tune into a random station by clicking on a “Listen Now” button. This takes you to a nearby user’s station with the musical taste most similar to your own.
The app has a web-based doppelgänger in Songza, which also touts itself as a personalized, sharable radio station, and shares the ability to listen to people’s stations based on their location with the mobile app Soundtrckr. The main difference here is that users on wahwah.fm listen to stations at the same time, sort of like traditional radio.
This means means no song skipping, but for Eiback, the trade-off is worth it. Listening synchronicity means that when wahwah.fm users text each other within the app, they can talk about what they’re listening to at that moment. Users can also recommend stations to each other.
“It’s this feeling of togetherness and feeling connected to somebody else musically that we’re trying to bring to our users,” Eibach says. “We’re don’t want to reinvent social networking, but [it] is an effective means of discovering new music.”
We saw wahwah.fm in action, and it was operational, although the app won’t be ready for official release until June.