Over the last few weeks I have been trying out a new music service from the BBC called Playlister. The functionality of Playlister has been built into the BBC online music website http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio
I should start this review by pointing out that I am not normally a regular listener to BBC radio stations either via terrestrial or online methods but this new service intrigued me and I wanted to test it out.
Playlister allows a user to tag songs and have them added to a personal playlist. Pretty much every song on the website has a small orange Add button which is used to add it to the playlist. Hovering over an image associated with a song also brings up a similar option. Songs playing during shows being broadcast can also be tagged.
The current playlist opened from the menu of the BBC website but the songs cannot actually be played from there. I assume this is a licensing limitation. Playlister provides a tool to export the playlist to YouTube, Spotify and Deezer. It is also possible to create a PDF of the playlist or even print it directly.
Exporting to YouTube requires you to have your own channel setup up there but this is a simple process once you have logged into your account there. After YouTube matches your songs with tracks in its database, you can listen and watch to the songs in your playlist directly from YouTube. It is possible that a song might not be available on YouTube but I have not had this happen yet.
Spotify provides a similar experience but allows you to sync your playlist to your mobile devices as well. I have not tried Deezer but I would assume it will work in the same way. Where Spotify differences from YouTube is that it now contains its own Playlister Application that allows you to search for songs on BBC stations that are configured in Spotify and tag them, so it is possible to build a playlist without even visiting the BBC website.
So you might be thinking what are the benefits of Playlister? I think it is a simple way to record new music that you have discovered and what to save for later – whether that is to listen to again or purchase. In theory it should help you discover new music as there are options to find similar songs or browse the most tags. In practice though, I found that most songs Playlister suggested were already big hits, songs rising up the charts or obvious classics – perhaps this will improve as the user base grows.
My view is that the BBC believes Playlister will improve the ‘stickiness’ of user to website and therefore the online streams (both live and recorded) of its radio stations. This does seem to make sense as typically when users start to interact with a radio station (or in fact pretty much any website) they will tend to stay longer on the site. Of course, the fact that you must leave the BBC site to listen to the songs in your playlist seems to go against this idea of ‘stickiness’.
Perhaps the challenge for the BBC is that, while Playlister is likely to appeal to those that already spend time listening to BBC Radio, I don’t think it is likely to attract new listeners. Spotify could provide a better avenue for new listeners as they may discover the BBC as a source of music they had not previously considered.
Playlister has only been available for six weeks at the time of this review so it is definitely a music service worth keeping an eye. The BBC is likely to improve the functionality and hopefully will do more to make the discovery of new music more effective.