Version Reviewed: 1.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
iPad Integration Rating:
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There's an ineffable, serendipitous moment when I "discover" a new band or even a new song. It doesn't happen often, or with any regularity whatsoever, but when it does it's as if I've known about them and heard their songs all along. Now, Discovr for the iPad attempts to "appify" this process and open multiple pathways to new music, bands and songs. The effort is a valid one, but there's still a lot of work to be done before this app even reaches something close to what Pandora already does.
What separates Discovr from Pandora and similar apps is that it is not a radio app, which might seem counterintuitive for a music app these days. Instead, Discovr focuses on a visual search. Users type in the name of a band or artist they are interested in, and Discovr generates a graphic chart with the band/artist as the hub of a wheel. Surrounding that hub are usually 6-7 bands/artists with similar qualities to the original one entered. In my case, typing in "Grizzly Bear" called up similar acts like Animal Collective, Bright Eyes and a few I've never heard of. Double clicking on any of these calls up an artist profile page, complete with a biography, a list of relevant blogs dedicated to that artist, and assorted YouTube clips of songs. You can choose to share this information with others through the usual social channels - email, Twitter, Facebook - or you can return to your search results and extend your music map by single clicking on any artist on the page, generating another interconnected set of bands and musicians. The search map page is very intuitive and interesting, and certainly does generate a fair number of unknown acts.
There are really only two primary issues I have with the Discovr app. The first is that the only songs you are able to hear from a band are those available on YouTube, and some of these results are inaccurate (more on that later). There is a link to purchase songs or albums available on iTunes or Amazon so you can listen to segments and even purchase them, but there is no way to even sample a comprehensive array of songs from within the app. Using Discovr as a gateway for purchasing new music is a great idea; I'd just like to see it further developed in the future.
The second problem brings us back to the YouTube search results. Some are inaccurate, and their inclusion clutters the entire experience of the app. Take, for instance, Bright Eyes. When I pulled up the information page for Bright Eyes, I got the usual bio (though it was painfully short) along with links to blogs, reviews and iTunes/Amazon, but some of the YouTube videos were odd. Art Garfunkle's song "Bright Eyes" was included, as was another song of the same title by a different artist. Tightening up these search results would result in a more effective, useful app.
I applaud Discovr for doing something different with music discovery. Perhaps if they could work in tandem with Pandora or Last.FM we could finally have the one music discovery service to rule them all. An app that combines visual search with full audio choices would be a heady success indeed.