App review: Discovr for iPad

The whole music recommendation thing has been going on for years, all the way from last.fm to Apple’s own new Ping. Now there’s an app in the iOS app store that has a whole new approach to this, and it’s pretty neat.

It couldn’t be easier to get started with Discovr. Unlike last.fm/Ping/etc, you don’t need to listen to music in order for the app to get an overview of what you like. Instead you just type in the name of an artist you like and go from there. You then get what is best described as a mind map with your artist in the center and branches out from it to other, related artists. You can then single tap a new artist to continue branching out or double tap to view info. The former puts the artist you tap at the center of a new part of the mind map, with new branches popping out to more related artist. You can keep going seemingly forever and create bigger and bigger “artist maps” with any links between artists magically appearing (so that if two artists who are otherwise “distant cousins” share the same related artist, a connection will pop up between them that way). You can play with the artist blobs and drag them around to “organize them” (read:play with them) and help see the connections better. They’ll float around on their own if you just leave them Zooming and panning is also present for those giant maps you’re bound to end up with.

The other option, double tapping an artist, brings you to a screen with some information about the artist, YouTube videos, albums with song previews, blog posts, reviews. etc. In other words like a portal for the artist, which is great when you’re probably checking out the artist for the first time.You can also favorite artists, and those will then appear in a small thumbnail view at the bottom of the screen when in “mapping mode”. I’m pretty sure that all the information is collected using existing services and only aggregated to this app, which means that you shouldn’t have any trouble finding an artist. You might run into some issues with duplicated though, if artists have played with other artists on an album, e.g both artist X, artist Y and artist “X and Y” shows up. Not a big deal though.

What makes Discovr stand out from the other music recommendation services (aside from not requiring access to what you listen to like last.fm and Ping) is that it gives you a better idea of how artists are connected on a larger scale. If you get recommendations on other services they’re often based off just one or a couple of artists you listen to and that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit with the rest, but Discovr lets you theoretically put 1000 artists on the map and see how they are all connected with one another. This would have been 100 time more useful though if they had allowed you to make a list of your favorite artists and plot them all out in relation to one another- instead of starting with one artist and going from there. This would have allowed you to put, say, 10 artists on the map and see if any related artists had connections to all (or many) of them. Hopefully this feature will be added in the future.

Until then, Discovr is still a nice and fun tool to find new music. It’s an app you might sit down with to relax and just let it take you wherever it wants to find new music to like. The app is a universal app (both iPhone and iPad optimized in a single app) that will run you $2.99 in the app store.

[Thanks to iPhone Life magazine for showing me this app]

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Andreas Ødegård

Andreas Ødegård is more interested in aftermarket (and user created) software and hardware than chasing the latest gadgets. His day job as a teacher keeps him interested in education tech and takes up most of his time.