Geotunes was a third-party app on Spotify created by the KUSC Interactive team. It enabled users to discover relationships between songs and the world around them through different ways. Using an interactive map, users could click on a city, state, or country and receive a combination of music and stories about those locations.
Through a combination of machine learning, crowdsourcing and investigative journalism, the app presented hidden stories behind songs from not-so-obvious locations. For example, did you know that the Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" is about Houston, Texas? Here's a quip:
“Although the lyrics could resonate with kids growing up in any suburb, Arcade Fire members Will and Win Butler said they were particularly inspired by their childhood when their family was transplanted from a small town to the suburbs of Houston. Instead of writing about escapism, they wanted to capture that setting. "A lot of my heroes from Bob Dylan to Joe Strummer were suburban kids who had to pretend they were train-hoppers their whole lives. Talking about an experience and not make-believe [is what we're doing on 'The Suburbs']," Win told NPR.
Geotunes banked on the idea of nostalgia for a particular time and space. It highlighted the personal significance held by geographical sound. The writing team worked alongside community contributors to tell the backstory to sites.
Beyond curating high-quality music and creating stories for music enthusiasts, the team also focused on building new tools and platforms that can promote music in an interactive new way. Through these avenues, the digital team began working on how to leverage broadband internet, social media, GPS and in-dash automobile technology (aka telematics) to deliver playlists of music based on a user’s current geographic location.
The team’s greatest challenge was to bring GeoTunes out of the infancy stage. Although it took three months to develop the app in 2012, it wasn’t launched until six months later because Spotify wanted the first 100 apps it hosted to be revolutionary. For context, an app takes two days to launch via Google, and roughly two weeks via Apple. The KUSC team strongly believed the six month gestation period was worthwhile because GeoTunes received 26,000 views in its first three days of launch. Moreover, the view count hit 2 million by the end of week two. The digital team's mission is to produce innovative platforms for dialogue and discovery for the global arts community.
“Americans for the first time report listening more to online-only outlets like Pandora or Slacker Radio than they do to streams from AM/FM stations. Perhaps even more ominously for traditional radio, online listening has even seeped into what the industry has seen as perhaps its safest (and most captive) audience – those listening in their cars. (pp. 2)”1
Our initial research showed early signs of independent developers working on a Geo-based musical app (see Appendix), but most projects were abandoned. Of those that continue, most showed clear limitations in their dataset, poor UIX, weak branding, feature creep, or lack of focus.
Secondly, most examples in our research were web-based, meaning that website owners would struggle to secure music rights. For this reason, we decided not to launch on a dedicated website instead of leveraging Spotify's third-party app platform. The true goal was to develop enough infrastructure to support mobile devices later. Hence, step one was to create brand awareness.
Upon launch, the team identified a few prospective users but later used insights and analytics to narrow the list further.
- Teaching tool for educators and students
- Roadtrip enthusiasts
- Performers on tour who want to connect with their audiences
- Hometown proud
- Music mavens
- Music supervisors for a film seeking songs with relevant context
- Digital scrapbookers
- Karaoke travelers
- Lyrics aficionados
- Cocktail party dude #5 who knows tons of trivia
- Discover music from (or about) your own hometown
- Share with your Facebook friends songs from around the world
- Plan your road trip by creating a playlist based on upcoming destinations
- Provide a tool for Taylor Swift to continue finding new songs to perform at each city • Provide educators with a supplemental musical map for teaching
I was inspired by Business Model Generation, a book for product visionaries, game-changers, and entrepreneurs seeking to defy outmoded business models and design the future’s enterprise. The work sowed the seed that germinated GeoTunes.
The diagram below shows the relationship Geotunes plays within the music industry ecosystem.
Situate your song
GeoTunes provided online users with fun, new ways to discover relationships between music and their geographical surroundings. GeoTunes banked on positively triggering nostalgia for a certain time and place. It aimed to unify memory with sensory perceptions. The goal of the app was to engage listeners to the extent that they would keep coming back.
Participation through time and space
Improvements in GPS technology, broadband wireless, and mobile technology offer new opportunities for musical storytelling which includes both geography and history. GeoTunes enriched people’s lives by providing a worldly appreciation of music. Music enthusiasts from all around could share how their neighborhood has made a musical impact on culture and society.
Users can better learn more about their world, their community, their surroundings, and themselves by experiencing the relationships between songs and geography. What made GeoTunes unique was that it was the product of the world’s largest index of songs and locations. It was created specially for the app, and it serves to unite memory and nostalgia with auditory experiences. This database is still active and was made free for use by the creators on GitHub. It is important to note that GeoTunes was not a catalogue of location facts that are not relevant to the songs themselves, nor did it give information about where the song premiered.
The design process consists of three main parts; a mood board, wireframe, and UIX. Grant Kindrick is a design genius responsible for the entire visual concept.
Type & Watermark
All three versions of the design are available on Geotunes Github.
All of the featured stories have been open sourced and are available on Github.
Three techniques were used to create the Geotunes dataset:
We used data crawlers to develop the world’s largest dataset then used machine learning techniques in data cleansing to build a clean, comprehensive repository of Spotify URI’s. This dataset is free for use and was made public by the creators on GitHub.
We hired musicologists and journalists to apply techniques in investigative journalism to uncover hidden stories about well-known songs.
Upon launch, the open web community began posting song contributions through our web form.
Michele Catalone of Forbes breaks down which team to support for the 2013 Super Bowl by using GeoTunes (hosted by Spotify) to list out songs relating to finalists Baltimore and San Francisco.
USC News reviews GeoTunes, highlighting the hidden stories behind the songs, and the world map feature as a unique way to access music across the globe.
The Product Hunt feature of GeoTunes as an app to take note of.
We partnered with Five Seven Music to create a pilot project called Tour Odyssey. It was a promotional partnership that blended touring bands with the exact music their audience wanted to hear them play. Tour Odyssey’s audience could fill out a form recommending songs about places to bands while they travel to perform at venues near these participants.
Upon launch, the app was a success with nearly 2M visits by its second week. The Google Analytics below shows a hockey stick-type trajectory.
Geotunes was recognized for design, creativity, and innovation on the internet by AWWWards.
Geotunes was recognized by SXSW Interactive in 2014.
Appendix - Related Links
- Geotunes on Forbes
- How Brands Use Digital Storytelling To Engage Their Customers + Video
- Listening Around the World with Spotify's New Geotunes
- Geotunes on USC News
- Quora answer to Best songs about San Francisco
- Quora answer to "What are the best songs about traveling by car?"
- Quora answer to "What are some of the best songs about prostitutes?"
- Quora answer to "What are some popular songs about particular cities?"
- Quora answer to "What are the best protest songs ever?"
- Songs about New York City
Appendix: Competitive Analysis
- http://citysounds.fm + iOS app
- The New York Music Project - They are trying to discover, uncover, and map every single song lyric that name-checks a location, business, corner, monument, etc., in the city of New York.
- Grammy's - Music is Life is Music Map
- Global Billboard
- Anton Corbijn is one of the world's leading music video directors, and over the last 25 years he has worked with many of the greatest rock bands
- Marker Music
- Grüvr is your global live music maps mashup!
- Google Maps Makes Beautiful Music
- The Geography of Music on Google Maps
- MappaMusica: "a mashup to discover music"
- Mapping the Gangsta Terrain of the Planet, Rap Genius plots important locations in rap history and those mentioned in popular lyrics. It's a rap-tacular jaunt through rap trivia.
- Music Map - Regional music events guide that uses google maps, youtube videos, Flickr photos, last.fm pictures and text, Facebook connect and make a fusion of technology to produce a new kind of user experience.
- Musical Map of Columbia
- Music Map of London
- Metro Times online initiative to map all of Detroit's Music Venues for Posterity
- Raaga Catalog Presented in a map form
http://geomusic.owl-hollow.net - Requires Last.FM Account
- Last.fm Music Map
- Musical Pilgrimages
- Asking random New Yorkers with headphones on what song they are listening to
- GeoEvent Finder - Mashup allows us to locate musical events around the world using interactive tools on the screen as searching by artist name, city name or selecting an area over the map.
- Nerd Day Trip - A giant, inclusive, user-generated nerd map of nerdy Funtime destinations
- Blink 182 Neighborhoods - Listen to the new Blink-182 album with fans from your neighborhood
- http://www.jammap.com - Listen to creative commons music from Jamendo through map navigation. Drag the map marker to a country (or double click it) and select an album.
- http://www.tubalr.com - Not a music map but an excellent way to present playlists
- http://www.thecloudplayer.com LastGGM: Search Last.fm users and see their location on a map. Music.FavMap.com: A map of the favorite music of Last.fm listeners. Circles to the right of the map have more plays per listener. The Y-axis shows chronology, with the oldest tracks at the top of the chart. The larger the circle, the more plays the artist has received.
- Last on AM/FM: Visualizes what's currently playing on your radio station and maps the artists to their residence or origin. You can also add your last.fm recently played tracks.
- Live Streaming from Japan: Live video streaming from Japan, including news, TV, radio, and radiation measurements from locations in Japan. http://www.ayo-cari.com/japanlive
- Follow the Nookie http://followthenookie.com - A collection of YouTube videos following Limp Bizkit's European tours.