If you know what you want to hear, a sea of great apps helps you find new music based on the artists you already know, such as Discovr. Finding completely new music though, especially music by unestablished or even unsigned artists, can still be a daunting task made only more difficult as every band with an internet connection contributes to the din.
Finland-based Hitlantis has found a clean and engaging solution to this problem. Both the web-based and as-yet-unreleased Apple iOS versions of the service show registered bands and artists as planets, color-coded by genre, and orbiting the central Hitlantis sun. Popularity is measured by distance from this central point, and the larger the globe, the more content that band has uploaded.
Evolver.fm obtained advance access to the Hitlantis iOS app, which could still change a bit before its release, which is slated for later this month (the web version has been up since June). The apps emphasize independent, unsigned bands, which is a nice change of pace from the usual six million-plus songs on most other music services.
Pinching and sliding on the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch lets you navigate this cluster of artists, while touching any individual globe lets you explore that band. There, you can sample music, share it via social networks, read artist biographies, and (most importantly for the site) become a fan of the bands you like. This last option contributes to the rating, and therefore position, of each band in your customized version of this musical cosmos.
Meanwhile, a randomized music radio station in both versions of the application offers yet another way to stumble across new music.
“All of us had been completely fed up with the content discovery of the current services, where it is impossible to be found from the digital swamp,” Hitlantis co-founder Timo Poijärvi told Evolver.fm. “Hitlantis’ action map is something else; it’s as close to normal human behavior as possible, resembling the action of people going to the real record store on High Street and browsing products visually.”
The attractive Hitlantis interface gives users an intuitive sense of which music is rising from obscurity. Even more exciting, for me, was the way immersing myself in a new space like this made me feel that I wanted to take musical risks and jump into listening to something completely new.
Clicking on a few band spheres randomly revealed lots of great, interesting music, such as Swedish indie band Emmecosta, even though the service purports not to filter music on the basis of quality. Since Hitlantis is based in Scandinavia, many — though certainly not all — of the bands are European, added to our sense that the app was connecting us to a fresh, new music.
The beta version of the app that we tested ran with very few glitches, and actually seemed smoother and quicker to respond than its web-based counterpart, running on a 2 GHz MacBook Pro.
One difficulty for Hitlantis, as it continues to develop, will likely be managing an increasing number of bands, which can register themselves on the site for inclusion in the app for free. The map already seems a bit busy as things stand, so we wonder whether Hitlantis will be able to cope with, say, ten times that volume.
When we put this concern to Poijärvi, he responded that the platform “will easily handle practically unlimited amounts of content,” since “if you do not want to see [only] the most popular bands, just zoom in deeper and deeper and you see more new up-and-coming bands.”
Whether this system works as effectively once its catalog expands, the Hitlantis solution for widening one’s music knowledge is quite elegant already.