Guest post by Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
YouTube has an API — that is to say, an application programming interface. Those let people build stuff on top of big databases, such as YouTube. Many people have done this, which is why we are loathe to point out yet another tiny barnacle on the YouTube behemoth, which we’re going to do anyway, below.
But despite its popularity as a music service, YouTube was not designed to be one. In fact, it sometimes seems to be specifically designed not to be a music service, because if it were to present all of its music through a super-slick interface with easy-to-make and -share playlists, Google might have to pay more for music.
Granted, YouTube does a much better job of this than it used to, offering hand-curated playlists, recommended music based on what you’ve listened to before, concert listings, links to Live content, and the YouTube 100 music chart. But in order to find all that stuff at YouTube.com/music if you don’t already know it’s there, you have to go to YouTube.com, click the little “Browse” text link at the top, and then click Music in the horizontal navigation bar.
“YouTube in my opinion is a backend system, an upload database for user videos,” said Dick Wolf, founder of the Mutu.tv service pictured above and described below, which curates YouTube into a more-tightly-honed music service. ” The discovery and delivery aspect is almost non-existant, and I don’t think they are interested in taking this on.”
When YouTube launched this service last August, it was easier to find, as noted by the top current commenter on this YouTube video announcing the new YouTube.com/music in a language we can only describe as internet-ese:
“people who didnt like this ruined EVERYTHING nice, you give the internet a cool option to find new things relativity easy in a friendly layout that they dont have to use and what do they do?,” asked froman46992. “they bitch about it for no reason, are they losing money and time hosting that layout? NO. now its gone, something i loved and looked forward to everyday finding a new song that unlike you amazing wizards of music i thought was a really cool layout and now its gone or harder to find.”
Not only that, but YouTube isn’t an optimal playlist sharing service, either. It’s easy enough to add music videos to YouTube playlists by clicking a button underneath any video you find, you have to search pretty hard, again, to find and share those playlists (click your account name at the top right, go to My Channel, click All under the playlists in the right sidebar, then click the Share button). Even then, the videos play at normal size, and the recommendations rely exclusively on your previous YouTube listening, as opposed to, say, all of the Facebook Connected music services you might also be using.
The world seems to need a web app that sits on top of YouTube and turns it into a full-fledged music service. Mutu.tv offers a nice option, by taking a more restrictive approach to content than others we’ve seen.
“We are going to beat the competition by have the best content flow,” explained Mutu.tv's Wolf via email. “The next step is to develop a complex algorthim that compares users Facebook likes to others, accounts for ratings/song skips to deliver 90 percent enjoyed content. Of course the more content and comprehensize [sic] catagorization [sic] play a huge role in achieving this. Our content flow is already the best on the market; cull.tv and others have so much garbage you might as well be randomly browsing on YouTube. We don’t just throw in as many links as possible, we follow 100′s of blogs and record labels so everything is fresh and high quality.”
Indeed, we found Mutu.tv to be quite an effective filter for the music videos on YouTube — or, as he puts it, “garbage.” It has plenty of high-quality free music organized into helpful genres, with the ability to create shareable playlists if you register with your Facebook account. And crucially, the videos play at near-full-screen by default, whereas some others we’ve seen make the video window as small as YouTube’s terms of service allows. However, the fullscreen mode doesn’t work, because the YouTube HD API prohibits it.
When one video stops, another similar one starts right up, even if you do nothing. Eventually, your automatically-generated playlist runs out, but you can just click Refresh to bring up a whole new batch, regardless of what genre you’re in.
It’s quite an effective way to sort through YouTube (plus Vevo and several indie video sites) for the best music without doing much legwork of your own. But if anything, the filter is too tight.
The problem with its hand-curated approach is that Mutu.tv’s search function is pretty terrible — it’s missing lots of bands. The reason for this, said Wolf, is that it only has three people working on this, who are able to ingest 10 videos per hour.
As of now, Mutu.tv only has about 8,000 videos, which Wolf says “accounts for 85 percent of all quality new videos.” By the end of the year, he hopes to have 35,000, which is still a ridiculously small amount by internet standards. But if what you want is to search for just about any music video and hear it right away, there’s always YouTube.