As a digital interface, music streaming has the opportunity to provide for non-linear song discovery, library structuring, and personalization of experience for music fans.
Research | Concept Development | UI/UX mock-ups
As an avid music fan, I am interested in the way music streaming applications direct music listening behavior and inform the conceptualization of music by listeners. I decided to mock-up a concept for a streaming service application that challenged conventional methods of structuring applications as a personal project.
Auto-ethnography | Investigation of Existing Products | Wireframing
Photoshop | Illustrator | PowerPoint
Users arrive to Spacecraft home page with what looks like the view out of the window of a spaceship. The goal of creating an immersive experience begins with considering how listeners feel when they open the app. Spacecraft is designed so that whatever feelings and intentions with which users enter the app can be acted upon in a way that is consistent with the outer space concept.
Spacecraft is designed for the experience of discovering new music to feel like arriving upon an unexplored planet somewhere in the vast universe of music. This experience begins with the selection of one of several different exploring options presented as galaxies. Shown here are a galaxy to explore Curated music from staff and publications, a galaxy of Popular music as defined by several different categories, a galaxy of New music that has arrived at the universe recently, and a galaxy of music that is Similar to music either currently on the user's home planet or found from a search.
One intuitive way to explore music is by checking out what other people are listening to the most. With Spacecraft's Popular galaxy, users have the ability to see the most streamed music based on several categories and measures. Users begin by defining the scope of the universe they wish to consider for what's popular. By designing this way, users can attach more meaning to the music with which they will be presented and can be more intentional about the specificity of the music for which they are searching.
With Similar, users select a song or album and can explore the music that is in its orbit. The orbit of songs and albums is constructed by algorithm, staff, and most importantly users of the app. This is demonstrated here in which the user has selected the song Down on my Luck by Vic Mensa and explored the song On My Mind by Jorja Smith in its orbit. There, the user can see that the song was connected by user John Page for the reason shared. The user can then play the song, add it to their queue, add it to their library, or share it.
On Spacecraft, the Return page is designed to provide the feeling music fans get when looking at their alphabetized bookcase of records through a visualization that challenges notions of ownership and allows the natural ways listeners associate songs to manifest. Here, users can return to the music they discovered as they navigated the universe of music in a variety of galaxies in a meaningful way.
Listeners often define certain music as their favorite and it is a source of identifying with music. Spacecraft considers the natural tendency of music fans to create the centerpiece of the user's personal library, the FAV50. Here, listeners can return to their 50 favorite artists, playlists, songs, and albums, each its own galaxy created and defined by the listener. While the FAV50 serves to define the identity of the user's define page, it also provides a reliable set of music for listeners to visit quickly.
Another important feature of the PERSONAL LIBRARY is the MY CATEGORIES page. Here, listeners can return to their music based on the way they categorize music. Instead of settling by putting songs into a clunky playlist, listeners can sort by the playlists, albums, artists, and songs that they associate with a given category. For example, some people associate certain music with being poolside, or whatever, “poolside,” means to the listener. In that category, the listener can store all the music they associate with poolside, be it 99.9% by Kaytranada, a Summer Hits 2003 playlist, or the discography of Led Zeppelin.
From the home page, users can connect with others who are exploring the music universe through the Engage page. The goal of the Engage page is to make exploring music feel less like an act done in isolation by allowing users to interact with and follow people they know and people who share similar tastes. Users can connect their Facebook contacts and find profiles within the app to create a network of tethers between listeners, akin to a friend in other social networks.
Preparing for Launch
At present, Spacecraft is the ideas and concepts presented here for how a music streaming service could be more than just a place to listen to music. If this were to be carried forward, there is a lot to be developed, including figuring out how to make a pun related to crate digging and a crater.
What music streaming services have done so far to breathe life back into the music industry says a lot about how well they meet the needs of consumers that had not been met before. The hope isn't necessarily for Spacecraft to be produced as a replacement for those platforms, but does beg the question of whether users should be treated as one uniform set of people. Perhaps among music fans there is a subset who is more passionate about how they discover their music, the community they form around it, and how they identify with it, for whom a service such as Spacecraft would better suit their needs. For a time, music streaming services competed based on whether they had exclusive content. It's possible that a streaming company could find a new lane by rejecting a 'one size fits all' approach and instead create a product line of various applications that have different features and are offered at different price points.
Ultimately, Spacecraft serves to help move the conversation forward about how those who design music streaming services might consider the possibilities to create a truly compelling experience. Given how much time and consideration an artist puts into their records to make it a meaningful experience to listeners, it's up to the streaming services to try to achieve the same in how they allow music fans to explore and listen to music.