Test Drive: Cymbal struggles to stand out in social music apps

Cymbal appEven a cursory glance at the music industry headlines and market research will show that mobile is the wave of the future. We communicate, we entertain ourselves, everything happens on smartphones. In response, we’ve been seeing a surge of startups and programmers exploring just what the mobile music space might look like. This morning I explored an entry into the field of mobile apps for social music. This one is called Cymbal.

With this app, you share the one song that you’re digging on most at a given moment; that’s your ‘cymbal.’ Your profile lists all of your cymbal selections, while your feed shows a list of the tracks chosen by people you follow. Just tap to listen and it’ll start playing through all of the tunes like a traditional playlist.

The interface is clean and simple, no clutter, all intuitive design. Your feed shows large icons of album art with discreet buttons to comment or like the track. It’s a smart presentation that’s easy to use.

You can search songs by title, artist, or hashtag. Cymbal pulls from the libraries of Spotify and SoundCloud, offering a reasonably comprehensive set of choices to users. In order to hear complete songs, Cymbal has to link up with a Spotify Premium account.

As with any program focused on interpersonal connections, the trick to make it feel right is for lots of people to be using it. I linked up my Twitter account, but none of my connections are using the app. Since I couldn’t find my IRL friends, I turned to Cymbal’s suggested accounts to follow. The app has are some verified accounts from the industry, with a handful artists, labels, and music publications already on board. I poked around and added a few folks who seemed interesting, but there was nobody whose name I recognized that made me say “Ooh, I want to follow THEM!”

With so few participants at this stage, it’s hard to assess Cymbal’s odds for success. The song-of-the-moment approach also makes the app a pretty direct competitor to tools like This Is My Jam or BOOMiO. It might be challenging to build a big enouch audience when the product is so similar to existing tools. At this point, the biggest hook for Cymbal might be its creators. The app is made by a trio of recent college grads who managed to secure more than $1 million in funding for the fledgling company in the midst of their finals week. It’s a great story, but not necessarily as useful in the long run as a good business model or a more forward-thinking view for social music. Despite Cymbal’s solid presentation, it may not be unique enough to become more than a fun toy to try out a few times.

Anna Washenko