Bridging the gap between podcasting and music discovery is SpotDJ, a Web service and iTunes plug-in (download SpotDJ for Windows or Mac) that lets listeners record audio clips, or "spots," about their favorite songs or musical artists.
The site has the grassroots appeal of letting amateur DJs like Greg expound upon the libertarianism of Oingo Boingo while also providing inside information from artists themselves, from The Donnas to Taylor Hicks. I recently was lucky enough to be given a tour of the service by CEO and co-founder Kevin Barenblat.
Essentially, SpotDJ analyzes your iTunes or iPod playlists and adds relevant recorded audio clips, which provide more information about the song or the artist you just heard. You can set your preferences to increase or decrease the frequency of provided clips, and also specify whether or not you only want clips from your friends or from the entire SpotDJ community. Creating spots is a snap. You can simply upload a prerecorded MP3 file (up to 90 seconds long) to the SpotDJ site, record your clip with a Flash-based Web interface, call in your recording via phone, or use the aforementioned iTunes plug-in.
After listening to a clip from former Rolling Stone reporter Ben Fong-Torres that included some cool historical information about the Doors, I was immediately reminded of those NPR segments that dive into the backstory of a popular song or album. For those of us who love music and learning more about artists and songs, these informational clips can provide valuable context to the music that we listen to. That said, not all of the content is up to the quality of Ben Fong-Torres, and many of the user-recorded spots are rather generic.
Although Barenblat said that the community currently includes "thousands," it's clear that it's still quite young. The success of SpotDJ will obviously depend on quality submissions from users of the service. You may care about what Lars from Metallica thinks about current music (for the audio impaired, he likes Sword), but do you really care what Candeelion has to say about Ludacris?
Unfortunately, the iTunes plug-in definitely shows its beta status. I had difficulty getting it to surface via the Windows task bar, and I also encountered problems with my playlists stopping after listening to user-recorded spots. That said, the premise is original and addictive. I only recorded one spot to test out the service, but I've already been thinking about all sorts of jokes, commentary, and background information that I'd like to record for some of my favorite songs.
Check out my first spot about the Mates of State's "Like U Crazy" and tell me what you think. Do I have the chops to be a pro DJ? (I think not.)