January 31, 2011 at 9:47 am

Location-Based Music Is Heating Up

Soundtrckr displays a list of nearby stations.

The increasingly-popular Soundtrckr app, for iPhone, Nokia smartphones, and Windows Phone 7, displays a list of nearby stations.

The connection between place and music may not be obvious, but it’s growing stronger. Listening apps that tie radio stations or songs to specific places are growing in popularity, as an increasing number of music fans use location to connect to music — and to each other.

Take Soundtrckr, for instance, which launched over a year ago. Since we wrote about it last month, the app has attracted hordes of new users, its founder Daniele Calabrese tells Evolver.fm.

“Soundtrckr has exploded,” he said. “Soundtrckr apps are climbing incredibly fast in the Apple App Store (number 17 music app [in the free category] ahead of Ticketmaster, Slacker, Last.fm, Mog, Rdio, Radio, AOL Radio, Tunewiki and many others); the Nokia Ovi Store (number two); and Windows Phone 7 market place (number five in the music and video category). This is awesome and we are incredibly excited.”

Like the Rdio on-demand music subscription service — or Twitter for that matter — Soundtrckr lets you follow people and have them follow you back, after which the two of you can listen to each other’s stations and chat within the app. However, Rdio lags at number 90, while Soundtrckr currently ranks 18th.

This is not an apples-to-apples comparison, because the services differ, but something must explain Soundtrckr’s relative success of late. Our theory: People need a reason to meet each other. On Rdio (and Soundtrckr), you can import existing friends from other services, but when it comes to meeting new people, place turns out to be a surprisingly helpful filter.

Tapping the Nearby Stations function in Soundtrckr brings up a list of the closest artist stations; tap on an artist you like, and suddenly, you’ve made a connection with someone in your area who has similar taste. Given the general anonymity of the internet, the addition of place to the social music experience gives us another reason to connect with each other. For instance, I don’t really like B.o.B., but the fact that Jonathan C., who created the station, is also located in Brooklyn makes the station slightly more interesting to me:

Soundtrckr is not alone in associating music with place. The Grammy Awards have blanketed the New York subway system with advertisements for their MusicMapper app, which mashes the Rdio social music service mentioned above with maps. This allows users to tag certain places with songs as part of their “musical journey.”

Unlike Soundtrckr’s artist-themed stations, MusicMapper (web version at MusicIsLifeIsMusic.com) allows users to include specific songs, which is arguably a more powerful way of associating music with place. However, one must subscribe to Rdio for full-track playback; otherwise, songs are capped at 30 seconds apiece.

While we’re on the topic, we have some complaints with Soundtrckr. The old map view, which let you see nearby stations graphically, is gone. Instead, you browse nearby stations on a list. In addition, the app mysteriously thinks I’m somewhere in Connecticut today, when I’m actually in New York. But those are minor hiccups, and normally, the app knows where I am.

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