As promised, here is another blog post about the exciting new Follow page. The goal of this page is to finally make use of the data we collect in ListenBrainz and expose a new feature designed to let our users discover more music.
To use this new feature, you’ll need to link your Spotify account to ListenBrainz. Ideally you should give permission to record your listens and to play Spotify content. But if you’re not ready to dive into recording your listens, start with playback first. N.B. In order to really take advantage of this new feature, you’ll need a premium Spotify account.
Then head over to the recent listens page and hover over the tracks that are listed there. If the user listened on Spotify, then a play button will appear and you can listen to the track. Please note that playing from this page will interrupt whatever you’re already playing on Spotify. If you find that a user is listening to interesting music and you’d like to follow the user, head to the follow page and use the Follow Users section to add this user to your follow list.
When a user in your follow list finishes listening to a track, that track will appear as a line in the Playlist. In theory, you’ll be able to keep listening to what your followed users are playing: the player will attempt to play as many tracks as it can play and to keep the music going. The player also has a previous and next track button that allows you to easily skip tracks that you don’t like. Our team has found this feature exciting and to some extent even has started DJing for each other!
We’re pushing into new territory trying to offer music discovery features and trying out new features that we’ve not seen before. Expect bugs, missing features, and reactions of “why didn’t they do X?”. To be honest, we’re not entirely happy with it and we know that there are features missing. But we felt it important to push this out in order to start getting feedback from you — and we are also excited about the Spotify integration! That said, please continue reading and if you feel that we screwed something up, please open a ticket!
Also, keep in mind that we’re pushing against the tide of the music industry. Established players want to keep everything closed, controlled and in their silo (Apple Music, Tidal, etc). Spotify is slightly more open and allows us to record user’s histories and music playback from web pages, so we focused on working on Spotify first.
This has the unfortunate side-effect of making these new features useful only if you have a premium Spotify account, and following users who are not on Spotify is useless: we don’t know how to play this content. This blows — we know it and we hate it ourselves. But we needed to start with something to show what we’re trying to do and to generate some interest. If people are interested, we can start working in supporting more services and making more of the music in our pages playable.
Finally, the recording user’s listens API endpoint at Spotify has an annoying tendency to fall behind sometimes, which means that the flow of listens from Spotify slows or stops altogether, which is… less than ideal. We’re prodding Spotify to keep the bits flowing if at all possible, but know that all of this is a work in progress.
In fact, the release has already generated a flurry of fixes that we’ll push live before too long. A lot of these sorts of fixes are for problems that you can only see when real-live data flows through the data pipelines: these are tricky features to debug!
Please play with the follow feature and tell us what you think! If you know other services that we can use to play music from the data we have available, please comment! If you find bugs or have suggestions for how we make these features better, please open a ticket!
Have fun and discover some new music,
The ListenBrainz Team