Last year, a survey by ratings agency Nielsen found that YouTube is the go-to platform for teenagers looking to listen to or discover new music. Indeed, online music streaming is so convenient that it’s easiest to just search for a song and play it online—and especially on YouTube.
Two other popular destinations to search for music are SoundCloud, which has a huge collection of user-uploaded tracks, and DailyMotion, which is a fantastic repository of music videos. Combine these with YouTube and you will probably be able to track down any song you want to listen to.
That’s the aim of Solayo—to make a cool online music player for regular users and let them tap into the resources of these three portals. And on top of that, it wants to build a mini social network for you to discover friends with similar tastes.
Where’s The Social?
Solayo Beta requires you to sign up to use the service, either with a new account or by logging in with your Facebook credentials. Choosing the latter will result in Solayo pulling in your account details and profile picture from your Facebook. But you can always customize these just like with a new account.
What I found really weird was that even though I logged in with my Facebook credentials, Solayo didn’t alert me about any of my Facebook friends using the service or allow me to send them an invitation to join me. In fact, there is literally no way to discover people with similar tastes on the network. There is no ‘Now Playing’ tab or a public social stream that you can check out and find someone. The only way to add a user as a friend is by searching for them in the People Search bar, but then you already need to know that person to be able to do that, so you aren’t making new friends here.
And that makes the Home tab (which lists your recent activity on Solayo) and the Messages tab quite useless, unless you and your friends are specifically already using Solayo and look each other up.
Search Everywhere, Play Here
By default, Solayo says it is hooked up to search YouTube, SoundCloud and Dailymotion. The search function is quite powerful and allows for plenty of options. You can select individual sites, whether to search for any content or music only, filter it by duration, and choose to look for media or playlists. This last option is very cool since you can basically get a full playlist created by some user on YouTube or SoundCloud (playlists are not available for Dailymotion), which is a great way to discover music you would not have otherwise come across. Sigh, if only Solayo allowed for an option to send that person a message saying, “Hey, I just checked out your playlist on Solayo, join me there!” It’s a missed opportunity for a social network.
You can add the playlists directly to your own playlist or start playing them immediately. With individual tracks, there is the option to play it now, play it next, add it to the ‘Up Next’ queue, or just put it into your playlist. It’s simple, it’s easy and it looks darn good doing it.
A Beautiful Player
When you have your playlist ready, it’s time to start listening to your tunes. There’s a small video pane at the top of the playlist so that tracks from YouTube can be accompanied with the video if there is one. You can even hit a button to make it full-screen.
The playlist, available as a pane on the right of the screen, has the usual options you’d see in any media player. You can repeat and shuffle tracks, toggle crossfading between them, mute or adjust the volume, run a quick search, and save the playlist (along with renaming it). Since this is a connected app, there’s also the option to immediately share whatever you are listening to on Twitter or Facebook.
Solayo also has a Radio feature with 10 “stations” — popular radio, dance, R&B, rock, house, trance/techno, Latin, reggae, hip-hop and world music. The selection in these, though, is atrocious. I’m sure Solayo uses some sort of algorithm to populate these stations instead of hiring people with good taste to curate the songs there, which is the whole point of a radio station. Listening to the Rock station meant mostly having to listen to metal. For a ‘music player’ to not know the difference between the two is ridiculous. And in fact, at one point, Solayo picked up a video of a guy teaching how to memorize notes while playing a guitar — I’ve come here for the music, not for this! In short, don’t ever hit that Radio button.
Worth Your Time?
What I really liked about Solayo was the fantastic search engine that allowed me look through songs in both YouTube and SoundCloud, as well as the beautiful interface. The other basic functionality it offers is also spot-on, in that creating, listening to and saving a playlist is as easy as it can get. I’ve tried several of these online jukeboxes and media players before and trust me, not one of them matches up to Solayo when it comes to design. Overall, it feels good to use for extended periods.
But that’s all you should want out of it: an app to search for and play music tracks from YouTube and SoundCloud. If you want a social network, if you want to discover new music, or if you want to listening to a curated online radio station, Solayo is a complete failure in its current avatar. Hopefully the team solves these problems before it comes out of the beta phase.