KCRW’s Music Mine – Design Innovation for Music Discovery

Today we are happy to announce the release of Music Mine, a free iPad media discovery application designed by the team at Roundarch for KCRW, arguably one of the most forward-thinking and well-respected radio stations (if not music brands) in the country.

For those that aren’t familiar, KCRW is a Los Angeles-based radio station and product of Santa Monica College. The station is generally known as Southern California’s leading National Public Radio affiliate, featuring an eclectic mix of music, news, information and cultural programming. The station boasts one of the nation’s largest arrays of locally-produced, nationally-distributed talk program content, with internationally recognized programming and DJs that have become household names in the music and recording industry.

I had the opportunity to oversee the design team while we worked in collaboration with PRX (Public Radio Exchange) and The Echo Nest to assist KCRW in the strategy, design and development of a next-generation music / media discovery application. The concept, albeit technically complex, is quite simple: create a playful, engaging way for people to discover new music, learn more about artists, and get closer to the original content that KCRW produces every day.

Music mine features top songs played on KCRW each week, as well as direct links in to each of the KCRW shows, offering a completely different way to explore music and KCRW programming: by artist, track or show on which the song has aired.  Once a user dives into the experience, they are presented with a mosaic of KCRW shows, artists and popular songs, and exclusive videos of live performances recorded inside the KCRW studios. The user interface consists of tiles that can be explored by the user, and the tiles are laid out on the screen with the most recent songs appearing towards the center, and the less recent content spread out towards the edges of the mosaic.

Drilling into an artist / song provides a bunch of additional content related to the user’s selection, with a quick and easy way to view photo galleries, biographies, and links to YouTube videos and blogs related to each artist.  One of the things we especially wanted to accomplish with the application was an ability to not only explore, but also to share new music with others through Facebook, Twitter and email integration.  Of course, if users really love the newly-discovered music, the songs can be purchased directly from the iTunes store by clicking a link from within the Music Mine application.

The process of designing this application was done collaboratively by working with PRX and the team at KCRW led by Anil Dewan, KCRW’s director of New Media. In addition, our team worked with music fans for input during the design process and to ensure that the experience that came through in the software was representative of our design strategy.   When we began the project, we came up with the concept that the application should provide a good way to visualize the week’s popular tracks, but also provide the feeling of digging through a great collection of curated music to find the gems you’d want to share with your friends.

I can speak for the entire Roundarch team when I express how proud we are to have been able to play such an influential role in the strategy and design of this experience for KCRW. Our focus on user experience really worked well in this collaboration.  As a company with many serious music fans, we were able to design something that we wanted to use each and every day to get our fix for both the latest and greatest unreleased music as well as classics that we’ve heard time and again.