Socializing classical music apps

David P. Anderson
16 October 2023

Social apps

I call an app "social" if it has mechanisms by which:

  • A user has an identity; they log in to an account.
  • A user can add content to the site: comments, ratings, "likes", and so on.
  • A user can see other users, and the content those users have added.
  • A user can communicate with other users, either broadcast (like message boards) or one-to-one.

Examples of social apps include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, OKCupid, Stack Overflow, and Reddit.

Existing classical music apps aren't very social. For example, YouTube videos have comment sections. You can see the user name of the author of each comment, but you can't see their other comments or communicate with them.

I think that all music apps would benefit from adding social mechanisms.

What a social music app would look like

Depending on their function, music apps offer a hierarchy of "items" of various types. Items might include recordings, works, scores, composers, performers, genres, and so on.

When you look at an item (a work on IMSLP, a recording on Idagio, etc.) you should see

  • A list of users who have expressed interest in that item: by rating it high or low, by commenting on it, maybe just by listening to or downloading it.
  • A comments section (a message board for discussion of this item).
  • A list of items that are socially linked: e.g. people who liked item A tended to also like item B.

When you look at a user you should see

  • A list of items in which they have expressed interest;
  • A form for sending them a message.
  • A list of their "friends" (see below).

Such mechanisms can serve several functions:

  • People like a sense of community.
  • People like expressing their opinions and sharing their knowledge.
  • People may like reading the opinions and knowledge of others.
  • They enable the 'social linkage' approach to discovering music and musicians.
  • A social website is dynamic; there's always something new, and a reason to return.

Borrowing ideas from social sites

It's useful to survey the features of successful social sites, and think about which might be useful for music sites.

  • Most social sites have a notion of 'friend'; (both users have to agree to be friends) or 'follow' (unidirectional).
  • Many sites have a notion of 'news feed': a potentially unbounded sequence of notifications (see below) that you can scroll through.
  • LinkedIn has a notion of "recommendation": you can assert that another user has a particular job skill. A music site could let you attest that another user is good at a particular instrument.

Spam and moderation

Socialization has a cost: the app has to deal with

  • Spam: people post messages with links to porn sites and so on.
  • Flame wars: discussions turn into vitriol and insults.
  • Trolls: malicious people incite flame wars.
  • Harassment: a user bombards another user with unwanted messages.

Some ways to deal with these:

  • Validate email addresses on signup.
  • Use Recaptcha at various points.
  • Hire moderators or perhaps recruit volunteers.
  • Use a reputation system.
  • Let users block other users.
  • Maybe at some point AI will help.

Notifications and integration with other media

A socialized app can generate various types of "notifications":

  • You have a new private message.
  • Someone replied to your message-board post.
  • There's a new item or user you'll probably be interested in.
  • One of your friends posted a message or liked something.

... and so on.

These notifications can be delivered in various ways:

  • The user has to visit the app or website.
  • If the app has a smartphone interface, it can show the "notification" icon.
  • The app sends an email or text message. In this case it must balance between maintaining user engagement and looking like spam.