Without a doubt my favorite internet music service ever is This is my jam (aka TIMJ), a self styled “slow music” site where you get to choose one song only for your friends to hear. The song expires in seven days if you don’t change it. That’s it.
It’s been out for about six months and it’s doing great; these guys do not need my publicity help and I doubt anyone reading this on my blog needs to hear about it again. And all four that built it are dear friends & there is a tenuous relationship between my company and theirs.1 You may think there’s a lot of bias here. But I am not the kind of person to blindly like something because I was involved, in fact, for me it usually means they have to work even harder to get over my inner critic. And even worse for them, I tend to hate almost every music social network. I grew up with music as the most personal and private thing in my life. I normally refuse to answer the “what music do you like” question, and Spotify’s recent “social listening” features really put me off the service. I also (naturally) hate most attempts of a computer trying to tell me what to listen to.
But TIMJ has somehow won a place in my heart. I “follow” three times more people there than Twitter, and I spend roughly two hours on the site a day, listening to my friend’s jams and sometimes updating mine. What TIMJ does so well I think comes down to three things:
They make you look good
This is My Jam looks great, and the hallmark of a great social experience is that it also makes you look good without much effort. The jam selection is very visual, almost forcing the choice of a “cover image” (square) and background (widescreen.)
I doubt I am not the only TIMJ member with this folder on their desktop:
Hannah (TIMJ’s lead designer) deserves a huge shout-out for her amazing work on the site. I happened to be in London with them the day they began work on the concept in earnest, and the first thing she did was go in another room (where I happened to be peeling a mango) and draw three pages full of circles. I’m a computer person forever, but I know when someone has put care and serious thought into something and you easily get the feeling that every pixel and click has been thought through.
They’ve been the first to really do “frictionless” right
For many years myself and my remote brain The Echo Nest have been harping hard on the music platform — the idea that the provider of audio can be decoupled from the music experience itself. This was a pipe dream only a few years ago, but now we’ve got Spotify apps, Soundcloud embeds and Rdio APIs. And TIMJ is truly the first site I’ve seen that makes real use of these. When you want to create a new jam, you don’t need to futz with local files on your computer or figuring out what service to use. The jam search seamlessly shows you two lists: one of just audio (you provide your own image) or one of video with audio. Obviously, backing that is APIs from Soundcloud, YouTube, Hype Machine, and Echo Nest but no one needs to know or care about that.
And of course, as of today, TIMJ has a new Spotify app:
I’ve been playing with the Spotify app for a while because I had access to their GitHub repository2 and the playlists it creates of your likes (and friend’s jams & likes) have become my main source of new music on Spotify. Team Jam made a great decision to use Spotify as the archive read-only mode of TIMJ, the place where you go when now is too much to deal with. In practice, Spotify seems to match a large majority of jams already in its database.
Slow and steady wins the race
There is nothing to stop you or your friends from posting new jams every three minutes, but there are quiet hints throughout the site to keep it slow, mostly ambient clues like the lack of a “stream” auto-updating view and the relatively many-click process of updating your jam, or the fact that you can’t easily do it from mobile or SMS or other networks. I don’t know the actual numbers but I’m guessing the average “jam length” (the amount of time a users’ jam stays active) is about 2-4 days. This maps well to my musical brain. I can’t stand Spotify/Facebook’s incessant scroller of activity, music deserves a lot more care than that. And hinting the speed makes your friends care about what they post and only surfaces the best stuff.
Another great (surely frustrating at first) hint is the focus on “now” versus the always tempting archival nostalgia past. Only the current jam per person is listen-able on the site, and only the past 5 are even shown. All comments, likes and plays disappear when a new jam shows up. It’s the opposite instinct that every other social experience tries to have and it works great for (the very temporal and fiddly) music.
Congrats to Team Jam on the Spotify app release and for the stunning growth and for making my favorite music site ever. And make sure to follow me on TIMJ, I have the best taste in music ever.
Simply put, Echo Nest currently ‘sponsors’ it but it’s an independent entity; in exchange for the domain name I bought in 2007 for something totally different, they have to let me sit in their office in London sometime. ↩