Friday, 20 August 2010

Let It All Flow

It has to be said, I’m a bit of a sucker for new gadgets or innovations, especially when they have something to do with music, music production or radio. So I was quite excited to hear about the launch of FlowSongs from the manufacturers PURE, who make lots of lovely radios, including the rather splendid Sensia.

If you haven’t read about it yet, FlowSongs is a new service which you can use to identify tracks playing on any radio station and buy them in high-quality MP3 format directly from any PURE radio with the Flow technology firmware installed.

The neat thing is that FlowSongs works on any digital, FM, or internet radio station you happen to be listening to. If you hear a song you like, just press the ‘FlowSongs’ option on your radio. For me, owning a Sensia, I press the little icon on the touch screen. FlowSongs the identifies the track (using the technology rented from Shazam) and then shows you the artist, and price etc. You can then buy the song if you’ve set up your account and loaded it with some credit.

So it was with some eagerness that I tried the Beta version of the service, which went live in the UK this week.

I was quite sceptical beforehand. Would it actually work and how difficult would it be to set up?

After I’d updated my Sensia with the new firmware, I eagerly tuned in to a station on DAB, and waited for a song and hit the little FlowSongs icon. Sure enough, it whizzed away and within about 10 seconds it told me that the song playing was Synchronicity II by The Police. (It was BBC Radio 2 playing it, for the record).

However, my radio then told me that this track was not available for purchase. OK – as PURE say, not all tracks you hear on the radio you’ll be able to buy. FlowSongs uses 7Digital’s ‘backend’ to sell the songs legally and the catalogue’s pretty good. It even sells Synchronicity II by The Police, so something didn't work perfectly there. But hey - giving them the benefit of the doubt, it's still in Beta I guess!

So I tagged a few more songs on a range of DAB and stations streaming online. And sure enough, the tagging worked every time and when I fancied some Hip-Hop, I was reliably informed that I was now listening to NAS and ‘Made you Look’ on New York’s ‘HOT 97’.

When I tried the ‘purchase’ function it was actually really easy and within seconds whilst listening to Kiss 100, I’d tagged and downloaded ‘Stereo Love’ by Vika Jigulina and Edward Maya, and was playing it directly on my Sensia. The track was also available to download onto my laptop, and pull across to any portable device that I wanted.

So, all in all... so far so good. It seems to work pretty well and for the occasions that I hear a track that I like and don’t know, I can tag it and buy it. Or as the marketing says “Hear It, Buy It, Love It”.

The real question is, will it replace iTunes as my default choice for legally purchasing all my music online? Well... no it won’t.

Despite being a cool bit of technology, it’s still a bit fiddly to work with the Sensia screen. Plus there’s an annual subscription of £2.99 just for privilege of tagging and ID’ing songs (which is to apparently to pay for the Shazam licence). Will I pay that after my 90 day trial period is up? Not sure yet!
Also, I’d prefer to ‘pay per song’ downloaded instead of pre-loading the account with multiples of £10. Likewise, I have to wait for a song to come on the radio in order to tag it and then buy it. I can’t just go to their online store to use my credit up. Finally, as I use an iPhone the integration is seamless, and that’s the one big advantage it has.

Will it encourage me to purchase the odd song spontaneously whist listening to the radio? Probably, yes.

Is it a clever use of radio and IP. Certainly.

Will the whole country be rushing out to get a PURE radio equipped with Flow technology this weekend?

We shall see!

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