Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You control the music - a test run on the new 97X App

Posted By on Wed, Feb 6, 2013 at 2:45 PM

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The innovators at 97X have done it. The Tampa Bay radio station has produced the first interactive app allowing listeners to determine just what's played on air — and because it's free, there's nothing stopping you from casting your vote. But beware — battling other app users to hear your favorite song can become extremely addictive.

The interactive app draws from an archive of more than 1,800 songs that encompasses artists not formerly part of the alt rock station's format, which means there's likely something for everyone. An "Open Mic" option gives you the chance to record a 10-second voice message stating your name, where you're from, and what song you voted on. If your song wins and your message is selected, 97X sends you a text alerting you as to when both will be on air. You can also vote on whether you love or hate a track that's playing at any given point by clicking the "Play More" or "Play Less" buttons located on the home screen. And no worries if you don't have access to the app — all these features are also available on 97X's website.

Based on my experiences using the app, voting on a song that isn't among the top 10 of the "What's Next" section can be frustrating, and generally ends in failure. Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" was second to last when I cast my vote, and just when I thought I'd managed to bump it up to the top spot, I hit refresh and found it right back down at the bottom. I tried this same tactic a couple more times with the same results before deciding to attempt voting on a song that was higher in the rankings.

My first attempt at using the "Play More" or "Play Less" buttons happened during "Should I Stay or Should I Go" by The Clash. I like the song, voted on it to be played more often, and watched the tallies for either side grow. While it was neck and neck for a while, by the song's end, the majority of listeners were on my side - all of us were cool with hearing that particular song again. I figured our votes would bring the track back to the "What's Next" section for voting, but it didn't, which made me wonder where our votes went and how they factored into the greater scheme of what's played on air.

Skimming through the 30 songs I had to choose from at any given point and realizing any votes for songs 10 through 30 were probably a waste, I focused on those songs with higher ratings, among them, Paramore's "Now," Muse's "Uprising," "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" by Cage The Elephant and "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers. I voted for Cage The Elephant, and while it was a close race for the number one position, my vote helped beat out Paramore. When I returned to the app's home screen to see the results, I discovered my name and photo at the bottom of the screen along with several others who'd voted on Cage The Elephant and won. "These people got this song to play" read the message above our images.

The only feature that's a little glitchy and not-so-easy to use is "Find a Song." I was searching for Paramore's "Only Exception" and "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrissette popped up as an option. I think once the functionality is worked out, the app will be even more useful, allowing you the ability to add new and different songs to the "What's Next" rotation instead of returning to the same 30 and simply adding in a new one after the number one song has been played.

I don't think it'll be long before other stations follow suit and create similar apps. It keeps you engaged, which is hard to do with so many different ways to listen to music these days. So, great job 97X — you've knocked it out of the park with this one.

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