Thesixtyone Gamifies Indie Music Discovery

If you listen to music enough, eventually the music you have in your library gets old. Luckily, there are tons of apps out there to help you find new music. You can try unlimited streaming with Spotify or discover new artists with custom stations on Pandora. These services are great, and widely used. Unfortunately, services like these don’t really benefit independent artists.

Thesixtyone is a web app that turns indie music discovery into a game. Users listen to full songs from up and coming artists and have the opportunity to interact with the song and artist in various ways. On top of these interactions, users can complete quests and earn points just for listening to songs and accomplishing various tasks. It’s quite an interesting idea for music discovery, so stick with me after the jump to learn more about how thesixtyone works and if it’s worth checking out.

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The Premise

Ok, so here’s the idea behind thesixtyone, according to the site creators. Essentially, artists make records. Listeners listen, and then use their “likes” to show what they like. Artists can sell merchandise and music directly to their fans through the app. Rather than making a measly $1 or $2 an album like large labels charge, artists make at least $7 for every album sold and are paid every 30 days. It’s a cool idea – leaving the success of artists completely up to the dedicated users.

So you pull up the site and you’re immediately greeted with music. From the main screen you have the basic controls – the ability to play/pause, skip/navigate songs and adjust the volume. You can also access the basic social interactions (more on that later) and click the pop-ups for more information. Clicking a pop-up brings a window with information about the artist, a list of all songs available on thesixtyone and a list of any upcoming shows.

An overview of the site.

You can also filter and explore the music in thesixtyone in many different ways. You can use the “popular” menu to listen top songs, hot songs, and recently posted songs. You can also use this menu to browse and listen to music categorized by mood, including options like party, smooth and mellow. The explore menu allows you to search for particular song/artists, listen to “revives” (songs that have been voted back up and have the potential to get back to home page status) and explore the channels.

Choosing music based on moods.

Have some songs you really like? You can always make some playlists. You can add any song to a new or existing playlist just by clicking on the plus button. Make playlists based upon pre-determined moods or title it yourself. You can fulfill achievements based upon the number of times your playlists are listened to by other users.

Editing my playlists.

The Gamification

So discovering new artists and supporting independent music is cool and all – but what about what makes thesixtyone unique? Well, let’s focus on the gamification of the site for a little while. So first of all, you want to earn reputation (XP) points in order to level up on the site. The easiest way to earn XP points is simply by listening to music. While it’s the easiest method, however, it’s not necessarily the fastest method.

In addition to XP for listening, you can take on a couple of other challenges. One is to up your “adventure level.” By default, thesixtyone plays the most popular songs available given whatever filters you are using. If you want to earn XP at a faster rate, you can “up your adventure level.” This means that rather than playing the most popular songs, thesixtyone plays songs that don’t get many listens, giving lesser known artists the opportunity to get their music out as well.

The adventure meter, on the left.

Lastly, you can earn XP and some social rewards by completing quests. Quests come in two flavors – daily and main quests. Daily quests expire, main quests don’t. You might get quests asking you to listen to different moods of music, to listen to song a certain number of times and even to leave the site to complete a task. It’s the best way to earn XP – not only do you continue to earn XP via listening, you’re also earning points for completing simple tasks.

Completing quests.

The Socialization

An important part of thesixtyone is the ways in which users interact with both the artists and with one another. In order to encourage communication amongst peers, thesixtyone supports Facebook integration. You can log-in via Facebook, share songs with Facebook friends and find fellow users of thesixtyone. You can follow users and check out music they’ve liked or listen to their playlists.

The option to follow me.

More important, however, is the way in which users are able to interact with songs and artists. Users have a lot of control over which songs are featured. By listening to songs and completing quests, users earn “likes.” These likes are used to boost the popularity of songs and to revive older songs that had previously made it onto the homepage. In addition to spending liked, users can also comment on songs as a way to potentially interact with the artist.

Interacting with the song.

The Adoption of Service?

The idea behind thesixtyone is quite a nice one. A service that allows you to discover cool new music, influence popularity of songs, earn points and genuinely benefit the artists if you purchase their music? It’s a great idea. On top of that, the site looks nice and has great features available. It’s a pleasure to use the service … When it works, that is.

The biggest problem with thesixtyone is that sometimes, things just stop working. I signed up with Google Chrome and then one day I wasn’t signed in any more and I couldn’t log in via Chrome. It worked in Safari, but needless to say problems like that are quite frustrating. They’re not super common, but when they happen it can make you want to tear your hair out. Smaller bugs are a bit more common.

The other problem is that thesixtyone is so full of features that it can get a little confusing. I wouldn’t really call it a problem so much as something worth noting. Once you learn the service it’s no problem at all. Just a bit of a steep learning curve.

So it’s a cool site with quality music and some interesting gamification going on. Unfortunately, when it’s buggy it’s quite buggy. I think I’ll find myself a sometimes user. If I’m bored of the music I have and the services I use and the site is functioning that day, I’ll try it out for an hour or two.

What about you? Will you try out thesixtyone? Have you tried it already? Do you love it or hate it? Share your thoughts below.


Discover independent music while earning points and beating quests in thesixtyone.