New iPhone app Next offers music discovery inspired by online dating

Next app canvasDating app Tinder created a place where members could forge new personal connections based on snap judgements of attraction. Now, two of the app’s veterans have launched a new project that applies the same idea and mechanics to music.

Tinder co-founder Christopher Gulczynski and former design vice president Sarah Mick are the brains behind Next, which bills itself as a place for social music discovery. Artists record and upload videos between 10 seconds and 3 minutes long. The videos appear to users in a random feed as 30 second clips. As with Tinder, listeners then swipe left if they’re not into the music or swipe right if they are. The social element comes through the ability to follow artists whose work you really enjoy and to share specific clips by text, email, or Twitter.

We at RAIN tried out the iPhone app. The user base skews very young, which means lots of breathy, tuneless singing and lots of Top 40 covers. There are some strong voices and solid musicians mixed into the bunch, but they take some digging to find. When you’re done with the song roulette, you can check out the Top Talent list for a taste of the most-liked clips.

Next app 2The visual component means that on Next, a cleverly made video can sometimes make up for lackluster talent. After all, it only lasts for 30 seconds. As with the social network Vine, some aspiring acts have gotten creative with how they’re filming their snippets, playing with camera angles and staged takes. Others don’t display so much skill, either musically or visually.

Next looks good in terms of UI, especially considering how many functions it fits into each screen, but it’s a little janky on the technical side. Sometimes videos have problems loading, or switching between tabs causes a freeze.

Up-and-coming artists, especially ones who enjoy riding the digital and social waves of the industry, could find this to be a fun tool. It seems unlikely that any of the current members are hoping to leverage the network into a record deal. The point seems to be more about putting their abilities out into the open, with a fair chance for people to actually hear them. Just as Tinder users probably aren’t on the hunt for marriage material, Next’s artists seem to take things casually, to connect and share with low expectations.

The founders told Billboard that they’re looking into bringing formally produced material from small record labels and management companies into the service, but insisted that the ethos would stay firmly in the grassroots realm.

“If the ‘music industry’ wants to be a part of it, we’re going to force them to play nice,” Gulczynski said. “Next is always going to be a home for the person with a guitar sitting in their bedroom.”

The democratic approach to sharing the work of those homespun musicians does separate Next from YouTube, where ever getting seen is not a sure thing and the push for a subscription service is further alienating the indie scene. If the overall talent level goes up a little, then swiping through videos for some new listening could certainly have an appeal. It’s unclear how much longevity Next might have, but at the very least it’s an interesting take on how to fill the space between musicians and listeners in this digital age.

Anna Washenko