There's no shortage of social music discovery services billing themselves as "Twitter for music." A Google search for that exact phrase turns up over 78,000 results, and with good reason. If your friends on Twitter (and Facebook and email) like something, you might like it too.
That's no guarantee, of course, as a simple glance at the horrible music your friends are listening to on Facebook should reveal in seconds.
Into this somewhat crowded market - which also includes Facebook itself – comes Splash.fm, which launches to the public today after three months of private beta testing. During that time, according to Splash.fm, Billboard called it (what else?) "a Twitter for music discovery."
Yes, people have tried this before, but Splash.fm is a rather full-featured entrant. It scores you based on your activity from zero to 99, and includes lots of ways to find new people to follow - suggestions from your Facebook, Featured Splashers, Top Splashers, and search. And apparently, if you splash something that other people splash, it turns into a ripple, adding to your score.
In terms of the music, you can upload MP3s from your hard drive in order to share them, which is refreshing, and allows other users to download the MP3s. Or, you can enter the first few characters of a song, artist, or splasher to find stuff to splash if you don't have the MP3, in which case the "download" link goes to iTunes. So far, this approach has left rather large holes in the catalog, in that many songs are listed as 29-second samples, rather than full uploads, and there's no way to tell which ones are actual songs until you click on them.
"Some of the songs are 30-second samples while others play in full-length due to the way in which Splash streams its music under a two-tiered approach," said Splash.fm co-founder Alex Gatof. "The first tier is the iTunes layer, where we stream all licensed music in 30-second clips for our users. The second tier is the user-generated layer, which is totally composed of unique music uploaded by Splash users. This system allows us to respect those established artists who are looking to sell their music, while also allowing aspiring artists to promote their brand."
That makes sense from a copyright/business plan perspective, but in terms of using the service, limited song samples are a letdown when everything from Rdio to This Is My Jam to Facebook offers full length songs in a social setting without cutting off most songs just as they're starting to get going.
The search mechanism is also a bit wonky, when it comes to finding those 30-second samples. You can't just type in an artist name and hit return, but instead have to click View All Results after typing in the name, and then sorting through one big undifferentiated list of results for artist and track alike.
That said, these are still early days for Splash.fm. If you're friends with people who upload MP3s, you'll hear more full tracks, so there's that. Also, we haven't been using the service for very long; maybe it gets better once you start following lots of people. The thing is, with services like this, they sort of need to grab people right off the bat if they're ever going to get to that point. The site features an attractive design and nice social features, but we're not quite sold yet.
Perhaps most importantly, however, we did find some pretty decent full-length music on there. Most of it seems to be in the dance/electronic/remix genres, such as "Toro Y Moi - Fax Shadow (Shlohmo Remix)," courtesy of Allysson Prada, which we've linked to on YouTube (there's no way to link to songs on Splash.fm other than by sending them to your Splash.fm, Twitter and Facebook accounts).
Splash.fm says it plans to launch a mobile app within the next two months, as well as analytics with which artists can see who likes their stuff and exclusive perks for users, "all with the ability to monetize the Splash Score."