By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
We must admit: Budtobud is not our favorite-named app. Is it supposed to be a riff on “peer to peer?” We’re not sure. Regardless, what it does is neat. First, it turned your iTunes into a free group listening party for your friends. Then, the interface improved, although it still had too many windows and confusing options for our taste.
The company also has a new tagline: “We are social music simplified.” Are they really? Let’s find out. (Note: This is currently only for Mac OS X; other operating systems are said to be in the works.)
According to budtobud’s announcement,
Here’s the deal. Once you download the budtobud app, you play music as you normally would on Spotify, iTunes or whatever. You tell budtobud what music source you want to use and it captures the song information from what you’re playing at that very moment. Your Buddies can see what you’re listening to and you can see what they’ve got playing too. Then you and your Buddies can listen along with one another in real time. While you’re enjoying the music you can chat, explore each other’s listening histories, update Facebook and Twitter, as well as bookmark and purchase songs from your favorite music stores.
Our chief complaint about past versions of budtobud was that it can be a little hard to figure out. The new version sports a handy 10-second guide that pops up to help you along, and it’s streamlined, in that the first decision you make is: where do you want your music to come from? And then things fall into place from there.
First, you choose a music source (iTunes, Spotify, Rdio, or a budtobud friend), and you’re listening. Second, you add more budtobud friends, giving you more options for listening to their music, and more potential people who might listen to yours.
Unfortunately, we still like the idea of budtobud more than the software itself. Things started out promisingly enough with the new Spotify integration; we were able to start streaming with no problem at all. However, getting our friends to listen was more of a challenge. We tried to invite our Facebook friends from within the program, but it told us our Facebook account was disconnected from budtobud. It was not (see update below — this could have been because we tested a previous version).
Once you successfully add a friend, either via email or by searching the budtobud network for one of the rare people who is actually online within the program and paying attention (or if your Facebook connection works in a way that ours did not), they can in fact listen to your Spotify from within their budtobud. Yay!
Although there aren’t many users on this thing, we did manage to find someone who was streaming, and after a few seconds, we could hear their music. Budtobud really does work — assuming you can get a friend or two to install it.
Amidst all of the pop-up windows, disconnected Facebook accounts, and so on, we couldn’t help but think that budtobud is a perfect demonstration of why so many other applications — especially the social ones — are moving to the cloud, where there’s nothing to install, and where one cloud-based thing tends to work with another (see Facebook-connected music services). We sort of just wanted a URL to send to friends right away, rather than having to dig up their email addresses, make them install the software, and then hope they jump online. We have animated cat gifs to look at! Who has time for all this stuff? (See update below.)
Convincing all of your friends to install OS X-only software with a learning curve so you can listen together is simply more work than we want to do these days, when other options (Soundrop, Turntable, etc.) let people listen together online without dealing with all of this stuff. True, many people have no problem installing Spotify on their computers — but that also comes with free access to 18 million or so songs, and there’s no such lure with budtobud.
To be fair, once we found someone who was online (see update below), we were able to listen to what they were playing, for free, and it worked. The fact that this application lets you stream music to your friends as you chat with them is neat, it must be said.
If you’ve been looking for a way to listen with friends, and they’re all on OS X, and you have their email addresses, and they won’t mind installing this thing and running it, you will probably enjoy budtobud. But from our experience, this one still needs a bit of smoothing out before it becomes social music for the masses, as lazy as we all are.
11/5 Update: Budtobud chief visionary officer Patrick Rousseu sent over some points about the article that we’d like to include here:
Regarding the point about not many people being online, there could be 10 million users online on budtobud but you would never know it. When you are online with budtobud, you are online with people you know, your Buddies. You have a few extras because when you first logged in we were automatically assigning “Auto-Buddies” to get people going. Now we have a few test accounts that we call Test Buddies to do that. Users add their own Buddies from there — people they know, not strangers. Which takes me to the Facebook problem you had. I suspect that your account was linked with Facebook from a little while back. Facebook Connect requires that you re-authenticate once in a while. This is not something we can’t control or even know when it occurs. To see if that was the case, you can disconnect and that should make the problem go away. Technologically budtobud can not exist in the cloud. There are too many system processes for it to work.
As for things we can control, such as the multiple windows, we have started to work on them or have plans to.