Note: I wrote this post 7 months ago while the recently acquired and shutdown Pownce was working on a music service. As a big web-based music service user (listening to The Hype Machine right now), I was interested in what Pownce had up their sleeve with this small project called Pownce.FM. Unfortunately, the public will never get to see this creation. Now that Pownce has been shutdown (see image below) I am publishing this review as a piece of web history.
When Pownce launched public file sharing last week, they had the future in mind. That future gets launched today and it's called Pownce.FM. It's a Pownce companion website allowing you to easily browse, play and create playlists with "music on the internets," specifically music files shared publicly on Pownce. Public music files are automatically loaded into a public songs area where Pownce users can freely browse, play and download songs.
Being a music site advocate myself and frequent user of TheSixtyOne, TheFeelGood, PureVolume and others, I definitely think that Pownce.FM is a worthy addition to that line up. I like the variety of stuff I can find. While those other sites seem to have a focus on indie artists or are just generally random, Pownce.FM seems to be more rewarding. I've bumped into songs I've heard of countless times but just couldn't put my finger on. Fortunately, the Pownce populace was able to share it and I was easily able to add it to my playlist and download it.
Audiophiles familiar with scrobbling songs to their Last.fm account will feel right at home with Pownce.FM's integration. That kind of Last.fm integration is something I wish I saw more often on the web-based music services I frequent, now more often than my own iTunes collection.
As for how Pownce will deal with copyright violations and takedown notices, they stated that they will comply with the law as necessary. Nothing surprising there as that seems to be the standard way for sites dealing user-submitted content to deal with such issues.
While I am more than impressed with the utility of the site, there are a few usability ideas I'd like to discuss. I would consider allowing songs to play on a double-click - the play icon is too small and far off to the side to work with effectively. Fitts's law supports this.
Readability is sacrificed a bit with the low contrast in the song lists, especially on the darker even rows. Perhaps the hover state could be a light green or have the colors invert similar to iTunes, along with pale zebra rows.
I also question the use of the add song to playlist popup pictured above. There is such minimal dialog that it makes more sense to implement such a thing in a smaller JS tooltip-like window docked next to each "+" icon. I had something in mind like the drop-down menu and arrows on Digg.
Many people write off Pownce as a Twitter clone with more features. That's simply not the case. Pownce and Twitter run in different directions. Twitter is about people saying what they're doing now and other stuff, while Pownce aligns more with people sharing events and media. With today's launch of Pownce.FM, the latter has really begun to shine.
Of course, feature-wise Pownce.FM is just a start. It's pretty hard to find a particular song at the moment - you can either scrolling and look for it yourself or use a rudimentary search. For it to compete with any dedicated music site it's going to need a much better way of browsing through thousands of songs. Organizing by genre is a way to start but I'd like to see the ability to share user-created playlists publicly, similar to what can be done with iTunes and Muxtape. I would also like to see a way to view songs by popularity/plays and recency, along with a shuffle mode available within playlists and genre views.
Is Pownce.FM something you might use? It seems like a good way to scoop up new Pownce users interested in sharing/listening to music. What web-based music services do you use?