Specify music style, mood, tempo and "age" of the music you want to listen to and Musicovery does the rest for you. Musicovery, is a new completely visual streaming web radio that allows you to precisely customize the genre and style of music you want to listen to and then it streams it for you through your browser, PDA or smartphone. Free in low-quality audio or at $2/month for CD-quality sound, this is the most advanced and easiest to use web-based music personalization system available today.
After six months in stealth mode, Frederic Vavrille (the guy behind the premiere music search engine MusicPlasma (today LivePlasma) Liveplasma) and Vincent Castaignet, have done it again, by launching an innovative music search engine that doubles up as a truly unique web-based custom streaming music radio, capable of satisfying the music taste and mood of just about anyone.
Musicovery is a streaming music web station allowing extensive personalization of the type of music you may want to listen to.
Musicovery is the ONLY online music service that I know of that allows to select the music you want to listen to by a) historical period, b) music mood (from calm to energetic and from dark to positive), tempo (from calm to dance with a choice of tempo) and music genre (look here below to see how many genres are listed).
You get to select also whether the music tracks you will listen to are "commercial hits", "non-hits" and whether to allow-in some really unknown music authors ("discovery"). In between these three categories you can easily mix and choose whatever you prefer: All three? Just hits? Whatever your preference Musicovery will not complain.
Musicovery can be listened to for free without any need to sign-up or register for anything. The down side is that if you want to listen to that music stream on a pair of good speakers or high quality headphones you are going to be pretty disappointed. The "free" lo-fi streaming is good only when heard through the tiny speakers of your laptop or with unpretentious earphones. Musicovery lo-fi is very much like listening to music via a little portable radio. To me that level of quality is more than acceptable when I need just some background music to support or inspire the work I am doing. So I was not particularly disappointed with this option.
On the other hand if you are willing to shell out $2.10 a month, you can listen to Musicovery music streaming library for as much as you want and at the best quality level possible.
To start the Musicovery custom music radio just click somewhere inside the matrix. Calm - energetic and dark - positive are continuums and each point in the matrix corresponds to a specific mood profile.
To get music that is good for dancing select the "Dance" tab and click toward the right center side of the matrix. The more to the right you click, the more the music will be danceable to.
Once you have selected your preferred music genres, types, mood and tempo Musicovery will display a visual music trail of artists/songs that match your specifications.
At once Musicovery will start playing the songs in the trail until it has played all of them. While you can't pause, or listen back to any one song, you can easily jump ahead to any track you want to listen immediately or reconfigure your matrix of preferences.
Musicovery plays a supermix of music tracks that include each and every music genres you have selected to include while paying respect to your specific "mood" and "dance" requirements as well.
If instead you want to listen to just a specific music genre, you need only to hover your mouse on one of the coloured music genre labels and select on the small pop-up that immediately displays the specific mood/tempo you want. Musicovery plays then for you only tracks from that music style.
Musicovery provides further personalization of the music channel you can create by offering the ability to select a specific decade or time-range from which you want your music to be selected from. Want only music from the '70s? Everything from the 90's on? You can have it.
Looking for music you have not heard before? Even there Musicovery comes to the rescue by providing selective access to "non-hit" and "discovery" titles, providing a stream of tracks that offer novelty and opportunity for discovering something new while maintaining intact the musical traits and specifications you have originally set.
All of the above can be done without limits of time or number of songs listened to for as long as you are OK with listening to Musicovery in Lo-fi mode (32 Kbps). In this low-quality audio modality there are no restrictions and you can listen to the music you like for as long as you want.
But how does the Musicovery system work?
Musicovery music delivery service is based on a music description system in which the idea is to provide a intuitive visual interface that matches people's own natural ways to perceive, find and organize their music tastes.
The Musicovery mood and dance matrices provide indeed one of the most natural way to start a musical experience (the authors reported to me that ethnologic research id give them evidence of that), and the matrix dark/positive and energy low/high is the most natural way to represent psychological states (again here they suggested having being inspired by psychology research data).
For each music track stored inside the Musicovery music library Frederic and Vincent attribute manually 30 descriptors with around 10 values each; values are ordered and then projected for each track on a 2D matrix, using the appropriate descriptors and a complete hierarchy for them. This generates a map of dynamic graphics that represents objects related by similarity or proximity attributes. This in turn enables a navigation by proximity in a multi-dimension space (not pseudo 3D) and it does not require to externalise or verbalise the attributes on which each object is referenced.
Likely, the smart guys behind Musicovery will be preparing more alternatives to this initial set of music-matching visual interfaces as they are the true key characterizing innovation and benefit that Musicovery really brings to the table.
Musicovery differentiates itself from similar services by not providing a taste prediction tool. Musicovery claims to consider each artist as a very specific entity, and particularly the artist voice, which Musicovery considers a unique idiosyncratic signature. In the words of its authors: Musicovery "provides landmarks that are useful and intuitively understandable to conduct a musical experience."
The Musicovery business model is simple : small and unintrusive on-page advertisement for the low-quality service (32 kbps), and subscriptions (2 euros/month, depending essentially on the cost of telecom) for a reasonable-quality sound (128 kbps).
When I first talked to Frederic Vavrille and Vincent Castaignet in May of this year, they did also mention their desire to integrate the subscription costs into pre-packaged offers from telecom access providers which would definitely help as no-one better than them acts as a gate-keeper of customers pockets (see mobile operators).
Interestingly enough the two guys behind Musicovery also shared with me that their largest cost is not copyrights but indeed telecom costs.
One month-long access code to Musicovery costs EU 2 or about $ 2.10. To get it, you need to click the Login button and proceed to pay via Web / phone / SMS the amount required. Once done you get an email with a special code that you can use to login into the Hi-Fi Musicovery music streams.
Compared to Pandora's 12 months of unlimited use for $36, this is about $12 less a year. But considering that you can listen to some very great music for nothing at all on listened-supported web stations like the new Mercora system, or on my highly recommended SomaFm, or on any of the hundreds of stations populating Shoutcast.com, these 2 monthly dollars really pay only for the fancy of having a few extra cool controls and the ability to "personalize" to your own taste the music you want to listen to without needing to know the name or style of the music or band that may make your day.
Pros and Cons
As could be expected for a product that has just launched and that is still in Beta, a few bugs and idiosyncrasies are to be expected. Here is my initial list of areas for improvement for Musicovery along with a list of the great things this new tool has to offer.
- There is no better way to define the style and tempo of music you want to listen to and to start listening to it instantaneously.
- Cost is so negligible that it does not represent anymore a significant barrier to entry for new customers that have a positive user experience.
- Payment formats make it further easy to sign-up rapidly in a number of different ways (web, phone, SMS).
- Accessibility and ease of use are among the best among tools in this category.
- Find your music without knowing the names of the bands, authors or songs you may want to listen to. Just set your preferences and let Musicovery do the rest for you.
- With the micro interface Musicovery is sporting, the jump to effective mobile access via PDAs and smartphones is something power users on the go will find a no-brainer.
- Quality of Hi-Fi paid service is good, but if you are listening through your laptop speakers or some other low-cost audio device the lo-fi free version of Musicovery could be already more than enough for you.
- There is no "pause" button to stop temporarily the music.
- As a new user when you click to Login you are offered to purchase an access code, but no information is provided as to "what" this access code provides and for how long.
- No Musicovery in-line help. There is no way to find out what the "Discovery" setting exactly does or the exact terms of the paid option.
- Even after having made a payment, you do not know exactly what the terms of the contract are and what you have paid for. An email confirmation notifies you of the successfully completed transaction but does not inform you about what access rights you have bought into and what you can do with the music you can now listen to.
- The access code you receive back is good and valid only for 30 days after the purchase.
- The Login button only allows you to pay for Musicovery service and to access the Hi-Fi stream. There is no username or password allowing you to access your specific account and to save settings or other preferences for future use.
- Each time you return to Musicovery all your settings need to be reconfigured. There is no way to save one of your "presets" or music style configuration. Next time you go to Musicovery you will need to reset all your favourite genres and tempo.
- Musicovery defaults to a French language interface everytime you use it. You need to manually switch it to English each time you want to use it.
- It is not easy to exclude / uncheck a specific music genre if that is the very music genre you are playing at that moment. To unselect music genres that will not be easily turned off you need to temporarily select another music genre.
- Music trails are not infinite. They are made up of a specified number of songs. Once they have all been played the music stops and you need to make a new selection to start it again. A Musicovery music trail can have typically about 20 songs.
- The breadth of the Musicovery music collection has still lots of margin for improvement. I have tested Musicovery for over 10 hours with different music genre combinations and way too many times I have seen the same authors and songs come up.
- Music tracks cannot be bookmarked, nor there is any link to license / purchase / download any music track you may particularly like.
- (Maybe because it just launched and demand to see it may be very high) Musicovery may prove to be not always very responsive. Sometimes reaction time to one click can take as much as 10" or more even on a high-bandwidth connection.
I like Musicovery from the first moment I saw it in May of this year. I like it because I think that allowing to find the music they like without requiring them to know the titles, band names or style buzzwords that fill our music universe is a tremendous step forward in making music much more accessible to everyone who is not already an expert music fan.
Discovering and enjoying music based on your specifications of style, age, popularity, mood and tempo in a visual fashion is a great way to facilitate and greatly simplify music exploration and discovery.
Musicovery may also pose as an interesting channel for new independent artists and musicians willing to get greater exposure and visibility online. By allowing independent artists to submit their license-free tracks Musicovery could attract even greater interest while providing a great venue to those looking for it.
I would expect most people to find Musicovery a great new addition to the growing arsenal of customizable music listening tools available today on the web.