One of my favorite movies when I was a teen was Pump Up The Volume, starring Christian Slater as an awkward kid who starts a pirate radio station. So when I heard of an app called Stationhead, and saw that they were comparing their app to this movie, I couldn’t resist. It’s technically not a pirate radio station, but it’s about as close as most of us will get, letting you play and say whatever you want, live, to other app users.
The ease of obtaining music, from the early days of Napster and other digital piracy methods, to today’s ubiquitous streaming has ironically made sharing the experience of music a little harder. We all have been able to retreat into solitary niches and mostly rely on algorithms for guided discovery. This has been an ongoing concern for true music lovers and there have been attempts at using platforms such as curated playlists, podcasts and internet radio shows to bring back the human element. But for the most part, those are not live experiences, so the disconnect remains. At one point we had the insanely addictive, but now defunct, turntable.fm where users could take turns DJing in what was essentially a chat room, but it wasn’t ideal if you listened on the move. The time is right for what Stationhead is promising.
Once you download the app and create your account by naming your station, you link it to your Spotify Premium account. Yes, it must be Premium, which honestly makes perfect sense for a multitude of reasons. Then you start adding content to your station by selecting any song available on Spotify and your station is live, 24/7, just like that. As the songs play, you can jump in at any time, by hitting the On button, and talk to your audience about whatever you want. You can announce when you are going live on Twitter and Facebook and constantly change up what you play. It’s really quite simple and intuitive. I’ve been playing with it for about a week now and I like the potential. With this still technically being in beta, though, there are some bugs, but overall it works as advertised.
There are a few improvements I’d like to see, which I’m sure are coming as the app rolls out the next phase. The most obvious is more platforms. Right now it’s only on iOS with Android coming soon. I’m hoping a desktop version is on the horizon as well. Also, some of the menus could use some tweaking. There’s no way to add or remove batches of songs to and from your station, for example. A more robust user profile and a better way to share a link to your station, maybe letting you embed it, would also be good. But ultimately I’m hoping users are more open to listening to each other. It’s a great platform for artists to connect with their fans and I’d like to see that work. But I can also see this being a situation where everyone creates a station but only listen to their own, which would defeat the purpose. It’s really on users to be willing to explore and create stations worth listening to.
Go check out Stationhead if you have an iOS device. If not, get on the waiting list for Android. You’ll need an invite code, so here’s mine: SOUNDAFFECTS925F.
Check out my station @SOUNDAFFECTS where right now I’m playing a lot of mostly instrumental funky tunes, but who knows what else I’ll add.