Outloud.fm, one of 2011′s outbreak of group listening apps, lets people set up quick chat rooms to play MP3s for each other. You won’t see any cute avatars like the ones on Turntable.fm and Rolling.fm there. Nonetheless, listeners who prefer a feed-like interface, familiar from social networks, might prefer Outloud.fm’s approach, which also democratizes the DJ function by letting anyone add a track to the queue, not just the cool kids on the stage.
Outloud.fm added support for the SoundCloud music sharing service this week, so in addition to dragging your MP3s onto a shared Outloud.fm room, you can add tracks to the queue from SoundCloud. Deep track integration lets you search SoundCloud from within Outloud.fm as you listen for tracks to add, so there’s no need to open up another browser window to find the track.
Going in the other direction, if you want to learn more about a track someone else played from SoundCloud, you can click through to the song’s page on the service. And anyone with a web browser can use it for free, logging in with a Facebook or Twitter account.
SoundCloud started as a way for the music-making community to share music with each other — a classic example being an artist submitting a pre-release track to friends and workmates privately. But uploaders can also set tracks to be playable or embeddable by anyone, anywhere, which gives Outloud.fm users a lot to choose from, in addition to whatever’s on their hard drives.
Anyone can set up a new Outloud.fm room, and at this point, they’re all private, so you can only join if you know the URL. Alternatively, you can just join the main room. Anyone can add tracks to the queue, but you can’t vote them up or down. There are no points, and no surprises in terms of what’s going to play next, but you can favorite stuff to check up on it (or even buy it) later.
We asked Outloud.fm co-founders Steven Huynh and Mike O’Brien a few questions via email. They told us in an earlier interview that the idea for the service came from trying to build a better mousetrap around the action of instant messaging YouTube music to each other.
Eliot Van Buskirk, Evolver.fm: What advantages do you see in Outloud.fm’s text feed approach versus Turntable.fm’s and Rolling.fm’s avatar-based approach?
Steven Huynh, Outloud.fm: The chat box is front and center because we think that interesting things happen when you get together with your friends and listen to music. I think Outloud.fm is very community oriented and is more about discovering music you maybe wouldn’t listen to elsewhere. The avatars are cute, and work for some people, but we don’t want to take any focus away from the music. The ‘feed’ approach also allows us to inject cool things into it. We pretty recently started showing Favorite-ing in the feed, and are planning on showing much more.
Mike O’Brien, Outloud.fm: Haha, the story behind ‘dirtybeaches’ is that it was the first real room created on Outloud. An early prototype of the site didn’t let you create any rooms. Once we got room creation working, ‘dirtybeaches’ was made just because we had both been listening to that guy’s stuff (check him out here).
We wanted to encourage people to create their own rooms, and the idea of the public room was to show you what the site is all about. We found that a lot of people are passive listeners, and just want to go into a room and listen to whatever’s being played. So, next up for us is exposing some of these awesome rooms to the public to allow for more discoverability on the site.
Evolver.fm: What advantage do you see in letting anyone in the room DJ a song as opposed to limiting the number of DJs?
Huynh, Outloud.fm: I think that Outloud is less about ‘DJ’ing’, and more about sharing and discovering music. DJ-ing has implications of being a performance, and we’re much more interested in exposing people to something they may have never heard before. We chose to integrate with SoundCloud because its community is filled with such great offbeat, creative stuff, which fits in perfectly with our vision. Turning listening to music into a game works for Turntable.fm, but it just doesn’t interest us as much, though it will probably influence how our site evolves.
See all interviews.