Having worked in music for almost two decades now, I have thrown my fair share of listening parties. 🎉 One of my earliest memories involved tossing up an embeddable SoundCloud player on Sonic Youth’s website in 2004 to stream their latest, Sonic Nurse. The most recent listening party campaign, which I developed for Future Islands and their new album As Long As You Are, was named the Best Listening Party of last year by Music Ally. Clearly, I love this problem. Over the holiday break, I took stock of my work and decided I wanted to develop a web platform which helps artists and podcast creators throw listening parties for their fans.
Read on to learn a bit about my product design approach.
Three Key Features
To me, a good digital listening party provides an accessible synced stream, a means for listeners to converse, and links to whatever else the artist or podcast creator is trying to promote. Bonus points if all three of those features exist within the same responsive interface. Let’s break down each of these components.
You can’t really have a listening party without something to listen to and that stream of audio should be as accessible as possible. The beta version of Listening Party takes this to the extreme and streams directly to users from a custom MP3 player. There’s no need to login to anything. They only need to click play and it works great from any device. This harkens back to the days where an artist could simply send a single url and be confident all visitors could listen. Crazy thought!
By taking into account the time at which the party began, Listening Party is able to start the stream at the appropriate point depending on what moment a user arrives. This keeps all users in sync so they can discuss the release together as it is revealed.
What about Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, or Limewire? Check out the FAQ for info on streaming services.
Chat rooms have always been a key form of communication on the web and I believe it is crucial to include one of these so that listeners may converse. The beta version of Listening Party includes a Twitter powered chat room. Users must login with Twitter to participate in the chat but their messages will not be sent out as tweets. I decided to go with Twitter initially because it is a popular identity on the web and one I associate most with live content reactions. I also think it is one of the best identities for artists and podcast creators. I plan on differentiating the artist or podcast creator in the chat so their commentary doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Note: Users do not need to login with Twitter to listen to the stream.
There’s a lot of value in simply getting listeners to consume a piece of content together but most campaigns have other aspects worth promoting. The simplest way to draw attention to these valuable locations is by linking to them. As such, the beta version of Listening Party includes the ability to link to your online store, album pre-order, podcast mailing list, new music video, or whatever else you think listeners may be interested in. These links are featured prominently right below the player.
Where Can I Find More Info?
I have put together an evolving FAQ which covers a lot of topics about the platform in development. Since I’m building this alongside my freelance work, the rollout of the app will likely be unconventional and consist of me manually setting up a select few of these over the next few months for testing and product research. Do you have a song, album, or podcast dropping soon? Please get in touch directly and we can discuss whether or not it is a good fit for the beta (and the costs involved.)
Where Can I Send My Feedback?
All feedback, questions, and critiques are very much appreciated. In fact, they are insanely valuable as I build through this. You can email me directly or message me on Twitter. Here’s a few questions I’d love answers to:
- How have you hosted listening parties in the past?
- Where do you try to drive the most traffic online?
- Is your artist or podcast on Twitter?
- Do you ever engage with your fans in a chat room?
- Do you ever host any streaming yourself?
Thanks in advance!
How Else Can I Host A Listening Party?
While I am trying to bring together as many best practices while developing Listening Party, clearly there are many other ways to do this! It is not my ambition to own this problem, the platform simply gives me the opportunity to innovate on it. 🙏🏻
One of my favorite solutions involves creating a single video of the entire record or podcast with some sort of looped visual and then streaming that content on YouTube. This is how we handled the album playback moments of the Bob Marley 4/20 stream. Another popular lo-fi method, employed by Tim, simply involves telling your fans to press play at the same moment in time and then discussing the record on a social platform of your choosing. Of course, I’d be remiss not to say that you could also hire me or another apt music developer to build you a custom listening experience.