Owners of the Apple iPad have a new way to listen to their own music and find new tunes to listen to: Groovebug, which appeared in the iTunes app store on Thursday.
The free Groovebug iPad app offers three ways to play music. First, you can listen to the music already stored on your iPad — except with the benefit of a slideshow with photos of that artist and biographies from Last.fm, both of which are missing from the regular iPod app. So even if you just use it as a player for your own stuff, Groovebug is worth a try (as mentioned, it’s free).
Things get more interesting with the app’s discovery mechanisms, which rely on genre collections created by Groovebug staff. First, the app decides which collections you should see based on how similar they are to the music on your iPad. (To match you to those collections, Groovebug uses technology from The Echo Nest, publisher of Evolver.fm.) The app matched us up with a collections that were indeed of interest, including a collection of bands from the Austin City Limits music festival, which included the festival schedule and a way to buy tickets, which is a nice touch.
For listening to the artists you’re learning about, Groovebug includes 30-second samples from iTunes, with an option to buy. Or, to hear full versions of songs from any listed artist for free, you can tap over to the next screen to play them on YouTube, with the opportunity to share those tracks via Facebook, Twitter, or StumbleUpon.
“YouTube is perfect for sampling an artist’s discography and uncovering live footage,” said Groovebug CEO and co-founder Jeremiah Seraphine, an integrated marketing communications master’s degree candidate at Northwestern University. “It is a great way to get to know an artist before taking a deep dive into their iTunes offerings. You can’t find every song from a given artist, but you will find enough to get a feel for them.”
Indeed, the one-two punch of iTunes and YouTube covers the bases pretty well — however, we didn’t notice a way to play any of this stuff over AirPlay. If you want to listen on headphones or speakers as the app’s splash screen recommends, you’ll need to use a wired connection for the latter.
Overall, we found that Groovebug succeeded in letting us play our own music with a richer interface than the iPad otherwise provides, and introducing us to new music with handy learning tools, with a nice design that takes advantage of the iPad’s big screen without making things too complicated.