By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.
Two South by Southwests ago, I met a guy with a neat, as-yet-unreleased app called Wahwah.fm. An early group-listening app for iOS, the app essentially turned your iPhone into a radio station based on the songs stored on it, so that anyone, anywhere in the world, could tune in to your station using the same app, and listen at the same time.
The next year, at SXSW 2012, I saw Wahwah.fm again. This time, it was available to the public, and it was still neat. Then, the licensing costs became too much, and the company went under, only to be acquired in December by Senzari, which rebranded its “Pandora competitor” as Wahwah.
That brings us all the way to today (March 8th), the first day of SXSW Interactive 2013, where a couple of minutes ago, Senzari officially relaunched Wahwah (screeenshots and descriptions below) into the iTunes app stores in the United States, Brazil, and Spain. Will the third SXSW be a charm for Wahwah? It’s time for some hands-on testing.
For starters, the only way to use it is with a Facebook login. Our old favorite feature, which let you DJ songs that were actually stored on your iPhone, is gone, possibly because it’s easier to license everything from the cloud. To start a station, you get to specify exactly one artist, which isn’t much in terms of customization, compared to the old version. However, at least you can pull some sliders for song popularity, tempo, artist similarity, and “discovery,” all powered by Amp3. The catalog includes 15 million songs.
Once the music starts playing, you can shape the programming by choosing one of these options — a much wider array than you get with most of these things:
- Love this song
- Hate this song
- Song is a classic
- Like this song
- Great memories!
- Sexy time
The app asks for your location. When you’re broadcasting, it puts you on a map, so that listeners can see you based on where you are. Another neat wrinkle: You can associate an activity with your station, the way you might with a Songza playlist. Options include everything from cooking to coding. You can also associate a place (as in a restaurant, cafe, bar, store, or anything else in the yellow pages) with your station by checking in to that place within the app.
As a listener, you can browse stations using all of the above options, joining any station to listen along with the broadcaster and other listeners in real time — as in, you hear the same music at the same time, just like with old-school radio stations — except that the person broadcasting only needs to use an iPhone and a free app, instead of an expensive, local FM radio station. If you find something you like, you can add it to your favorite stations to listen later (assuming the person who the station is broadcasting). And unlike with FM radio, everyone on the station can sit in a chatroom talking to each other within the app, be they in Brazil, Spain, or the U.S.
Finally, native AirPlay means you can zap the music to your Airport Express, Apple TV, or AirPlay speakers without doing this.
This app is nicely designed, stable from what we can tell, and does something that blew us away in 2011. There’s a lot more competition these days (Soundrop, Turntable.fm’s iOS and Android versions, and asynchronous Facebook music sharing), but the idea of broadcasting from your iPhone (albeit not as literally as you could before) to the world is still immensely appealing, especially with all of these nice extras.
- The app shows which broadcasts are trending, how many listeners they have, and what they are playing.
- Check in to any place in the area to add color to your station.
- You can chat to your listeners — or, if you are a listener yourself, with other listeners or the host.
- Sliders let you fine-tune your station.
- What are you doing? Potential listeners to your station might want to know, in case they’re doing the same thing.
- To shape your station, you can rate songs in more ways than usual.
- You can create a station based on any single artist, shape it with sliders, and describe it with your activity and location, so others can find it.