Match Your Music to Your Activity With Playlistnow

Between the 12,000 songs in my iTunes library and the magical algorithms of Pandora’s Music Genome Project, I don’t want for options when it comes to listening to music.

There is a gap, however — a small gap, yes, but a gap — and it comes from having to choose which music to press play on right now.

Playlistnow.fm aims to close that gap.

Overview

Playlistnow is based on a single assumption: music sounds better when it matches your current activity.

Imagine yourself having a candlelight dinner to the seductive sounds of Weird Al Yankovic and you’ll soon realize that playlistnow is right: if the music isn’t working, neither is your activity.

screenshot

Create playlists based on what you're doing

The songs on playlistnow are powered by YouTube, so any song that has a video can be also played through playlistnow. This is both a gift and a curse. As Rolling Stone recently reported, the most popular means of accessing music online is not iTunes or Pandora; it’s videos on YouTube. Unfortunately, with that massive library comes a lot of crap, from user-generated remixes to low-quality concert footage to horrible covers of Bob Dylan performed by your uncle on his ukelele. Regardless of the quality, playlistnow gives you access to all of it.

Listening to a Playlist

Choosing a Playlist

There are several different ways to get started on playlistnow. The first, most obvious way, is to use the search box. You tell playlistnow what you’re doing (“chilling,” “working,” “eating,” “writing a review of playlistnow” …) and it will try to match your activity to one of its already existing playlists.

If that method is too specific for you, you can also use their tag cloud to find a playlist.

screenshot

Don't know where to start? Try using the tag cloud.

And finally, you can just browse their entire collection of playlists until you find something that works for you. This method was my favorite. It turns out that without even knowing it, I was, indeed, in a french mood.

screenshot

Browse other people's playlists

Playing a Playlist

Once you’ve selected which playlist you want to hear, playlistnow brings you to the meat of the application: the playlist itself.

The window is similar to iTunes: playlists on the left side of the screen, a video player in the bottom left corner (showing you the YouTube video that goes with your active song), the individual tracks in the main section of the screen.

screenshot

A familiar interface for music apps

Because playlistnow is built using all kinds of social tools, you can take several actions on each individual track in the playlist: recommend it to your friends on playlistnow, share it on Facebook, or tweet it to your followers on Twitter.

screenshot

Share the songs you like

Once the music is playing, you can just minimize the browser window it’s playing in and get back to the activity you were meant to be doing.

I should mention, however, that listening to music on playlistnow fails in one major way: the application doesn’t have a non-repeat function, so the same song often starts playing again and again (not immediately, as if the song is on a loop, but after the space of one or two other songs). While it’s simple enough to open the window and forward to the next track, the process can get kind of annoying.

Creating Your Own Playlist

Sometimes, you’re the only person in the world who has ever tried to match a playlist to your activity (who would’ve thought that no one else wanted to hear a playlist built specifically for “making pancakes on a Tuesday morning”?). When that happens, you’ll have to build the playlist yourself. But before you can do that, you have to become a member.

Becoming a Member

Thankfully, the folks behind playlistnow make it easy to become a member. All you have to do is sign in with one of your existing social-network accounts, then fill in a quick form with your email address, name, and location, and you’re good to go.

screenshot

Use social networks to join

Creating a Playlist

Before you can add tunes to your playlist, you have to tell playlistnow how to categorize it. Every playlist has a name that goes with an activity (“I am making pancakes on a Tuesday morning”), a set of single-word tags to provide more detail on that particular list (“food,” “fun,” “upbeat,” etc.), and a category based on playlistnow’s built-in categories (“At home,” “Good mood,” “Breakfast,” etc.).

screenshot

Help them categorize your playlist

Once you’ve named and categorized your playlist, you can get to work on the nitty gritty of adding tunes.

On the face of it, adding songs to your playlist seems simple enough. You get a search box that asks you to search by song or artist, and when you start to type into the search box, playlistnow uses instant-search technology to suggest tracks for you to add.

screenshot

Instant searchified!

Once you make your selection, the application breaks your search results into several pages, with only five songs per page (a limit that is kind of annoying). You can test each track before you add it to your playlist, which is a step I highly recommend, since many of the songs on YouTube are incorrectly labeled and playlistnow has to no way to distinguish between your neighbor’s rendition of “Stairway to Heaven” and Led Zeppelin’s.

After you find the right version of the song you want to add, you just click the little “+” button next to the track, and it adds the song to your playlist. You can start listening to your playlist as soon as you add the first track, which means you can build the playlist at the same time as you listen to it

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a way to re-order the playlist after I built it, which means that you either have to be very organized in the way you search and add to your playlist or settle for always listening to your playlist on random.

Final Thoughts

The website has some issues (the FAQ link didn’t work at all, for example), but more importantly, the application has issues. Between not being able to prevent songs from repeating and the (apparent) inability to reorder a playlist, your music-listening pleasure runs into some snags.

Additionally, the fact that playlistnow is fueled by YouTube creates issues all its own. Some of the songs that appeared in my search results no longer existed on YouTube (the artist/studio forced the uploader to take it down) and many of the versions that are available are of a horrible quality.

With that being said, the idea of playlistnow — matching music to your activity — is a great one, and it fills a gap left open by some of the more popular music apps. While iTunes’s shared playlists offers a similar opportunity (provided someone else built a playlist based on the activity you’re looking to do and then uploaded it to the iTunes Music Store), with playlistnow, the music remains free, so you can listen to an entire playlist without dropping $40 on songs you don’t own.

Of course, you’re still depending upon individual users to create playlists that do, in fact, match the activity they advertise. Where Pandora uses its fancy algorithms to match one song to another, you’re only hope with playlistnow is that Betty Joe Smith in Podunk, Alabama shares your opinion on what songs go best with making pancakes on a Tuesday morning.


Summary

Playlistnow is a free music app for listening to songs that match your current activity.

6