Sound the alarm, Siren.fm is here!

By Kira Grunenberg

One of the key words tossed around at midem was the term “disruptive.” It is not a bad descriptor to reference every now and again, as it keeps things from getting stale and attitudes from becoming desensitized. Thusly, the music industry is always looking for ways to shake things up; both for the people and the businesses of which the people are a part.

Music streaming might now be a hashed and rehashed mode of doing business/getting music out to the public. That being the possible case, disruptive would be the last idea one associates with a streaming service. The team that built up Siren.fm begs to differ though and is putting their money where their mouth is by launching their service, which they believe brings in a “fresh approach.”

A fresh press release reveals the unrolling of this new Texas-born platform, co-founded by Jacob Terry. Since he is already aware of the ups and downs to being in, and working on, a method of market penetration claiming to be never-before-seen, and with the recent reminder of music streaming’s potential unpleasantries floating around online, Siren sounds like it has its work cut out for it. However, Terry holds a respectable amount of confidence in the young service, taking in his consciousness of the murmurs going around the fray and still feeling Siren can carefully watch its business colleagues to “avoid the financial pitfalls of the current players in the field.”

Two of the biggest active players in the streaming market right now, Spotify and Pandora, are put at the forefront of Terry’s case to show contrast over companies’ treatments of clientele, stressing the opposite for Siren’s central objective; stepping up support on behalf of musicians who use the service –and sincerely meaning it.

“All of the competition claims to be making things fair for musicians but, really they are playing right into the same old song and dance with the labels. Indeed, many artists have voiced their concerns over royalties from Spotify, which mostly end up going to labels, and Pandora is currently lobbying Congress in an effort to pay even less than they already do.

Siren plans to work with up and coming musicians that have not yet signed their rights away to a record label, and therefore still own their own music. These musicians are free to do as they please with their music, without having to deal with pick-pocketing labels and royalty collection agencies.”

If this more ideal course of operations doesn’t seem disruptive enough, Siren is also (at least right now) set to run as a free offering; not only for the musicians who contribute their music but for the listeners who sign on to enjoy the tunes. This, of course, translates to there being ads brought into the formula and as stated in the release, artists are given payment “based on a fair percentage of these revenue streams.” Still, the fact that “[y]ou won’t find Siren asking for a monthly membership fee or capping your usage after a week or two,” is sure to at least have people flocking over to hear some new music that comes from slightly “off the path” and taking delight in not being prompted to pay money to keep listening after only a few songs.

Signing up is free and there does seem to be a decent amount of music already in place on the site. The layout and terminology used acts much like the newest version of iTunes, so most users don’t have to feel format shock. Giving some leeway because the service is still improving, overall, things are good. Getting to the play button to hear the music is quick and painless. Metadata is clear and visible for each song and album and unlike iTunes, there is an added “News” tab on the sidebar where users’ playlists and the chart tab is located. Right now there isn’t much there beyond material to introduce Siren and explain its different philosophy regarding money but if it adds more current material that can be perused while listening, that’s a plus.

Downsides with the user interface are minor and liable to be adjusted with time and through feedback. The main sticking point at hand is a lack of some buttons or clicks that would make the experience much more intuitive. For example, an initial playlist needs to be created in order to earmark a song that one likes. The songs all have buttons to do the bookmarking but without the playlist you can’t complete the action. A built in default “Like” list would help tremendously. When a song is queued up and playing on the site, clicking on any of the metadata at the top above the stream bar takes you to a page with the full info about whatever has been clicked: a plus.

However, if the song title is what gets selected and a user decides to play a different song from an artist’s same album, unlike most other players that take any click of a track’s info to translate to “play this song,” a click of track names will only bring that song up on the player and then one has to click the play button specifically, to start the music. The buttons being somewhat blended into the screen as they are currently, makes it a move less likely to be considered by the user. To be fair, the action of having to press play is somewhat of an idiosyncratic detail but, three clicks to get sound going after first seeing a name or picture that intrigues is pushing the “no more than three clicks” rule-of-thumb for users surfing the net. 

Once again though, these aspects are miniscule and easily adjusted. Music being the most important feature of Siren, there is nothing to complain about there. Users might just have to spend lots of time doing good old fashioned browsing in order to get familiar with the under-the-radar repertoire of artists listed in their library and not look immediately to the search bar to pull up tracks.

You can sign up to get in on the action now, at Siren.fm.

Kira is an old school music nerd with a love for all things creative; always searching for music’s common ground. She graduated with an M.A. in Performing Arts Administration from New York University. Drop her a tweet @shadowmelody1

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