June 28, 2011 at 12:07 pm

TwitSpace Turns Twitter into MySpace for Social Music Discovery

TwitSpace FeedTwitter: where you can find 1,000 bands you’ve never heard of before, with nary a play button in sight.

Every day, a new name makes the rounds: Southern Shores. Action Bronson. Marlon Rando. Each time one of these catchy names catches  your eye, it’s the same routine: Open a new browser tab and search for whatever site will accurately and simply tell you what the band sounds like, and, maybe show you how they look.

If you’re anything like Soundcloud’s Tim Bormans and The Echo Nest’s Matthew Ogle (The Echo Nest publishes Evolver.fm), chances are you’ve grown weary of that routine.

The two collaborated at last week’s Music Hack Day Barcelona to create TwitSpace, a free Google Chrome extension that “brings a bit of that ol’ MySpace magic to any tweet that mentions a band/artist name.”

In layman’s terms, that means TwitSpace plays an audio sample (usually between 30-seconds and one minute) of any band mentioned in any tweet you click on within a Google Chrome browser window with the extension enabled. Ogle and Bormans dovetailed the extension with Last.fm’s artist images API for a nice bonus: tiling the background of the resulting web page with images of the band or artist on mention — just like on MySpace.

It’s a fun little hack; we just wish it would work better so we could use it more often. Our testing uncovered three minor issues:

1. Once installed, the extension finds a band name in nearly any tweet you click on –including tweets aren’t about music: In this tweet from comedian Rob Delaney, for example, TwitSpace extracted the rapper TI from “toilet,” which is either hilarious or unfair, depending on your perception of southern rap.

2. It sometimes picks one band over another, when two are included in the same tweet. Music critic Christopher R. Weingarten spent part of his day celebrating the return of mid-’90s New York City hip-hop troupe Company Flow, at one point comparing their imminent return to Pavement’s of last summer. Clicking that tweet with TwitSpace enabled launched a Pavement song. Re-clicking it launched another Pavement song. Another click, another Pavement song. (Other times, TwitSpace did recognize Company Flow; this other Weingarten tweet spawned a preview of 1997′s “Help Wanted”.)

3. TwitSpace doesn’t recognize everything, especially when a tweet mentions multiple artists. It skipped right over Youssou N’Dour in this tweet from Austin Chronicle music editor Raoul Hernandez, opting instead for Bob Marley. Likewise, The Village Voice‘s music blog Sound of the City tweeted about the Beirut and Sharon Van Etten shows from Sunday night, but “Live” — the first word mentioned in the tweet — was what ended up getting picked up by TwitSpace.

None of these concerns are worth complaining about too much, of course; Music Hack Days are designed to encourage experimentation and risk taking, and besides, people only have 24 hours to build stuff. That said, TwitSpace could be a really effective extension for music fans who use Twitter. Perhaps users could highlight the words (and, in turn, artists) they want to hear through TwitSpace, to get around the auto-recognition issue. That way, we won’t get stuck listening to Down when what we’re after is Yuck.