Listening to music can be an intensely private experience. Nobody else hears a song the same way you do. But on the other hand, when was the last time you went to a party without music?
We've seen a slew of new inventions that allow people to listen to the same music at the same time online, chatting about it and deciding what to play next, from Turntable.fm to Wahwah.fm. These apps take the social experience of recommending, discussing, and arguing about music from the offline to the online world, leaving the "party" aspect intact.
Even Google has gotten in on the action. A neat feature in Google+ Hangouts lets anyone set up a listening party and invite friends (or strangers) to join, listen, chat, and pick the next song. The system draws its music from YouTube, which might be considered the world's biggest legal music sharing service.
If you thought embedding YouTube videos on Facebook was neat, just wait until you see how Google+ lets people throw group listening parties. To give it a try, follow these simple steps:
1. Start a Google+ Hangout. To get the party started, go to click the Start a Hangout button on the right side of the main Google+ page, like so:
2. Think about muting audio and video. Before anyone shows up, we recommend muting your audio and video for a "traditional" group listening experience that's all about the music, with text chat to accompany it. However, you can leave video enabled if you want everyone to see you, and audio enabled if you want to be able to "push to talk" in order to introduce songs or shout out a request:
3. Invite people. You have a few options for inviting people to your party: individual people, one or more of your Circles, or Public, and we recommend casting the net as wide as you're comfortable with, because people need to be around now in order to join, and most of your friends probably won't be around:
4. Play that funky music. To play a new video in your listening party, use the embedded search box. NOTE: You can't queue songs up, so wait for the previous one to end. You can search by the name of the uploader as well as the title of the video and other metadata. Anyone in the room can search for a YouTube song and play it for the group, and people can cut each others' songs off by choosing a new one, so this system works better amongst friends.
5. Turn it up. When Google+ Hangouts plays its first YouTube video, the volume starts out very low, probably so that people can talk over it. There's no talking at a group listening party, so boost up the volume. You'll only have to do this once, because the volume setting will stay the same for the following videos:
6. Talk amongst yourselves. Click over to the Chat area, and you'll be able to talk about the music you're all listening to, trade war stories about seeing the bands live, and so on:
Pro Tip: If this is something you want to do a lot, we recommend setting up a Circle just for your group-listening friends. To help build that Circle, you might send status updates to your contacts periodically asking if they want to join your music Hangouts. Add those people to the Circle, and you'll be able to summon them to the room in an instant, whenever the mood strikes.