Piki Billy Chasen

Discovering new music online is a pain, more so months after I try to pull up the songs I liked across several streaming media services. (My thought process goes as follows: Did I add that song to YouTube as a favorite? Did I just “like” the song from a video I barely watched on YouTube? Or was this something I heard on Vimeo … or am I totally wrong and this was on Pandora?”)

Piki, the new music service from the creators of Turntable.fm, released a new version on the web yesterday that solves that problem even though it’s primary goal is to provide a algorithm-based smart radio experience that’s superior to Pandora.

The web version provides you with a bookmarklet that you can click whenever you hear a song you like on another site (like YouTube, SoundCloud, Rdio, Turntable.fm, or even Pandora). It then identifies the song and pulls it into Piki, essentially making it a more functional musical bookmarking service. It’s nice because that means you don’t have to keep up with your favorite songs on multiple services, and unlike a regular bookmarking site, your picks actually feeds into Piki’s musical discovery engine.

Piki bookmark

“We try our hardest to determine the song you’re listening to on other sites with our own technology,” said Piki and Turntable.fm cofounder Billy Chasen in an interview with VentureBeat. He added that not all songs can be identified due to the way each streaming service encodes their music. Still, this is a nice feature that none of the other streaming music services offer.

Piki launched an iOS app last month that provides a different spin on music discovery via algorithms. The service enables you to pick the best songs you’re listening to and then provides a smart radio station based on the “picks” of other users. Unlike Pandora, the service uses its algorithms to match you up with people who have similar music tastes instead of songs that sound the same, and it enables you to alter what gets played on a single station rather than providing you with separate stations comprised of a few genres or artists. It also has some cool features like the capability to capture/recognize songs that you hear (sort of like Shazam or SoundHound).

The web version’s bookmarket is a nice way of tying Piki’s goal of capturing music you like as you hear it — and doing so without stepping on all the other streaming music services out there. You can still enjoy all those other services and just use Piki as a bookmarking service. And the more songs you add, the better Piki’s discovery algorithms will be when you do use it as a music service.

“We’ve actually been working on a web/desktop version of Piki parallel to the iOS app for about a year and a half, and there’s been several versions of the interface,” Chasen said. “Mobile is an important portion of Piki, but there’s a lot of people working at their desks during the day that just want a lean-back listening experience that doesn’t come from their phone.”

The final version that launched today is very similar to what you’ll find on the iOS app in terms of user interface. The sidebar still presents you with controls for “tuning” the type of songs that play on your station, and the album artwork is prominently displayed as is the user who originally “picked” the song. Visiting a user’s profile on the web lets you toggle the frequency for how often you want a particular user’s picks to pop up on your station as well as sample their musical tastes.

The web version of Piki does handle importing your own music differently. You can’t just navigate to your iTunes music folder. Instead, Piki only lets you chose from songs you’ve uploaded on Turntable.fm after you’ve linked your account. There’s also a message that instructs people not to go crazy with adding every song they own, either.

“We’re really trying to get people into the habit of only picking their favorite songs of the moment … just your jams, not an entire album,” Chasen explains. “So if users pick songs only once or twice a week, that’s OK for what we’re trying to build with Piki.”

Chasen said Piki’s development team (which along with Turntable.fm is part of Stickybits) plans to launch an Android version of the service in the near future.