Salmon

Music. Together.

Brief

Music's better together. Design an experience that highlights both the social and the musical aspect of sharing music.

Category

Consumer Music

Roles

Design + Research

Music is shared. It's a shared feeling; that's what music is all about.
When you listen to a song with someone else, it becomes more than just a song.

It defines relationships.

— Tom Odell, Singer-Songwriter

Mission

Make music-sharing effortless.

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People have been sharing music with their friends, loved ones, and even the ones they have never met, one way or another.

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The technology we have today finally allows us to experience music together, and more importantly, react to it - in realtime.

I made good friends going to shows during college. Now we live so far apart it's hard to organize a meet up to just enjoy music.

Lien H.

My sister and I used to listen to music together since we were little girls. She is still my trusty source for what's hot and popping.

Vivian N.

I'm in a band right now and also working part-time waiting tables. I'm looking for ways to stay connected and keep the steam going up with my band.

Nguyen N.

keyboard_arrow_up User Interviews

I sat down with 11 people from all backgrounds in music: some are professionals in the field, others simply enjoy the art of listening. I asked them about their personal experiences when it comes to sharing and listening to music together.

Method

In Person. One-on-one.

Role

Design research.

Legal
Challenges

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Music is meant to be free

Despite being something so fundamental to our lives and integral to our culture, music is still a business, and a big one at that too.

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But we know it is not.

Citing the high costs and efforts they have put into the process of talent-seeking, recruiting, training and production, artists and record labels demand their fair share of royalty payment every time a song is streamed or played on the radio.

“Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free.”

— Taylor Swift, Musician

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Our Challenge:

Building a service that involves copyright content such as music requires Salmon to be nimble and creative in resource-management while still keeping its legalities in check.

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Solution:
No actual song shared.

Instead of transmitting the actual sound bits of a song, Salmon simply syncs the current timecode and metadata of the song across its clients. The Salmon client then taps into the listener's subscription services for the requested track and plays it at the corresponding timecode.

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Never misses a beat.

To increase the responsiveness of the app, Salmon is built upon the Realtime Database infrastructure provided by Firebase (now a part of Google) The NoSQL platform offers near-zero-delay reading, socket listening and concurrent data writing.

Social contexts make up a large part of one’s music experience.

Market
Research

Sources:
+ Nielsen Reports
+ Spotify Annual Reports
+ IFPI Global Music Report

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With 53 percent of the Multicultural population is under age 35, these consumers are using social media and technology to connect—whether it be with the artists they listen to or with each other.

— Nielsen Reports

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Our need to share transcends demographics, platform, genres and even our own expectations of ‘good music.’

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When it comes to device choice for listening to music, personal computers is still the ruling platform, but with smartphone adoption rate steadily picking up, the throne is being challenged.

— DATA: Spotify Annual Reports

Behavioral
Segmentation

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The
Trendsetter

Having the most influence on their community, Trendsetters help define the next best thing. They are not afraid of breaking out of the norms and marching to their own beat.

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The
Contributor

Possessing an excellent taste in music, Contributors know what people like and are able to give it to them. They are more likely to be welcomed into groups in social settings.

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The
Follower

Followers are the so-called laggards in the music world. However, they are the engine that is making it happen. They have the potential to become Contributors when time and situation permit.

Strategy

From my own user interviews, I learned that people are most comfortable and thus more likely to share music with someone they know.

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By focusing on small-group sharing, Salmon taps into the intimacy and trust generally reserved for members of one’s inner circle.

Mia


Jenn & Joanna

Jake

The Trendsetter

Mia Carlson


22, Store clerk at Crystal Records

Eagle Rock, California

accessibility Bio

Having started playing guitar at a very early age, Mia learned to channel her introvert energy into the songs she wrote. To her, music has to be found at the heart. Sharing one's musical creation with others, according to Mia, is "guiding them on a journey to find themselves".

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Being a Millennial, Mia's exposure to technology has been abundant. She's excellent with recording devices and streaming applications.

graphic_eq Sharing

Mia loves sharing music with her friends, sometimes when they're together it's as simple and intimate as sharing earbuds, other times Mia demands something more sophisticated.


create From the interviews

Women are twice more likely to share a song they love with their close friends & family

User
Journey
Matrix

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Discover

The Trendsetter archetype is most likely to discover new and exciting content to be shared.

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Create playlist

They would be more likely to start their own playlist with those content.

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Share

The playlist is shared with their circles of friends & followers.

Typical Trendsetter behavioral pattern.

The Contributors

Jenn & Joanna Kelly


22 & 23, DJs

West Hollywood, California

accessibility Bio

Mia's classmates in high school. The Kelly sisters are notorious for their sick covers and remixes. Always on the journey looking for what's hot and new, this musical duo garner the most follower count on popular social networks.


create From the interviews

Women are twice more likely to share a song they love with their close friends & family

The Follower

Jake
Jakubson


22, Barista

Seattle, Washington

accessibility Bio

A good friend of of Mia. Originally from LA, Jake moved away to Starbucksland to pursue a career in professional baristaship. He keeps in contact with his friends on social media. He wanted to invite his friends to concerts in his city but hasn't found the perfect opportunity to do so.


create From the interviews

Women are twice more likely to share a song they love with their close friends & family

User
Journey
Matrix

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Invited

The Contributor archetype is often invited into playlists, thanks to their excellent sense of music.

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Listen

They listens to & analyzes the playlist.

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Contribute

The playlist is then furnished with new tracks from the Contributor.

Typical Contributor behavioral pattern.

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Browse

The follower archetype is very keen in looking for the next hottest thing.

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Listen

They will most likely be consuming the playlist and sharing it among their peers.

Typical Follower behavioral pattern.

Paper Prototype

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One of the artificial challenges introduced in the project is that we are going to design a desktop application, instead of the usual mobile or tablet experience.

A good candidate for a successful design should be one that leverages the current mental model inherent to desktops (windows/folders/files) with a slight twist of uniqueness.

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Initial user testing made simple with just some white post-its and a black marker.

(along with some coffee stains)

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I was able to quickly verify my assumptions and establish a few key design principles.

Key Principles

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Seamless integration

One big key differentiators that set desktops apart from mobile is the concept of folder & files. A system-level listener enables the Salmon dropzone to be evoked when a compatible audio file or link is dragged.

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Metadata gatherer

The dragged song are then analyzed for possible matches on streaming services, essentially offloading Salmon's need to stream actual song data.

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Straight from social media

Dragging a friend or contact from your favorite social network triggers an invite to be sent to that person via the very same social connection you share, e.g. your Facebook friend will receive a Facebook message containing the invite.

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Platform-agnostic

This enables Salmon to effectively onboard users from as many platforms as possible.

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Design for multi-tasking

Music consumption on a desktop/laptop usually means it is accompanied by another activity. Salmon panel-based design makes sure the app only takes up the minimum screen estate when active, and then folds neatly into the OS taskbar when minimized, letting the user focus on their task.

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Use notifications

User will get notified upon a new song or a new listener is added to the playlist.

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Users love the dropdown + notification system

Citing the need to multitask while listening to music, they appreciate the fact that the app can swiftly move in and out of the background when needed.

Some users are dubious about adding songs to the playlist, saying they don't really know which file format is supported and which is not.

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Play well with streaming services.

A major addition suggested by users is the integration of streaming services. As verified by research data, more and more people are changing their behavior from downloading songs to listening to streaming music.

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Simplicity is key.

When it comes to enjoying music, the simpler it is, the better. Salmon's model of 'songs + friends = good time' is well-regarded by tested users.

Let's drop the beat!

After extensive testing, I begin to craft a high-fidelity mockup in order to solidify my vision for Salmon, both in terms of graphical and behavioral qualities. Graphics are done mostly in Adobe Photoshop while animations are created in After Effects.

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Why Salmon?

As told by ancient folklore, members of this species upon reaching adulthood would brave the strong currents of the sea and streams, often together, to go back to the exact place they were born.

The thought behind choosing to name the app Salmon and using the emblem of the fish simply came from my fascination with the famous homecoming behavior of the anadromous species.

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Dock Icon

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Drag & Drop

The act of music listening is often retrospective. The dark, single-key color palette of Salmon's UI reflects this attention to content instead of chrome.

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Player View

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Friends View

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Key Screens

User Journey

Mia invites her friends to the playlist

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Mia discovers some cool music thru her favorite channel

She decides to share it with her friends

Mia simply drags the song she wants to share into the dropzone.

Salmon automatically interprets the source material (an audio file, a streaming channel or a third-party hosted track) and preps it for sharing. Most of the time, when the user doesn't have ownership over the track that they're sharing, it is kept on the original hosting/streaming platform so that copyright laws are honored.

She invites his friends to listen in using the same drag-and-drop technique.

Working on the same principle of which it handles shared music tracks, Salmon parses social-network-specific URLs that represent the sharer's friends. Invites are then sent via social networks through which friendships with each contact are established.

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Interested in how this would be built?

See technical notes

User Journey

Jennifer & Joanna joins the playlist

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Her friends Jennifer & Joanna receive the invite thru their social network

They decide to join Mia's playlist

Jennifer & Joanna listen to the track and react to parts that they loves most.

Reactions are captured on a millisecond-timestamped basis. These data, along with the metadata of the music track such as track name and artist info, are stored on a Google Firebase database, which allows for non-consecutive and real-time manipulation.

They get to connect with new friends that share similar taste and love for music.

Platform-agnostic user interactivity lets listeners from different social networks listen together and comment on the music that they love.

They can also browse around and listen in on other user-generated playlists.

The nature of music is open and inclusive. Users can browse and search for their favorite sounds & artists. By hosting open-to-public playlists, indie creators can also take advantage of this opportunity to introduce their creations to a music-loving public.

Upon permission granted, they can also contribute to the playlist of their friends.

Do your part by contributing to the playlist and keep the party going! Users approved by the playlist creator can drop their own tracks into the playlist so all of its members can enjoy the good time.

Monetization Strategy

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Get notified when your favorite artists are On Air or in town

Salmon suggests the best music shows in your area based on your listening preferences.

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Invite your best buddies

Choose to hang out with people of similar music taste, or get together for a wild afterparty.

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Easily pitch in for group outings

Salmon's social-enabled checkout process keeps it fun and efficient for all parties. Friends can choose to pay separately or give an IOU until after the concert.

Opportunities

An extended vision on what Salmon could become.

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Realtime Collaboration

Musicians can flex their finger (or mouth) muscles and collaborate together in real-time, regardless of their geographical differences.

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Fostering Communities

Friendly communities can be built around music-loving folks, helping preserve extraordinary traditions and disappearing genres.

Salmon On Air

Direct peer-to-peer streaming service broadcasts your live musical recordings to hundreds of fans in real-time. Watch them react to your creation and improvise on the fly!

With On Air,
I envision a future where Salmon is the linchpin connecting musicians with their audience.

Upgrading to Pro

Salmon's goal is to ensure the most direct connection between musicians and lovers of music. Seeing the opportunity that the very same technology that powers Salmon offers, I decided to explore what the service would be if the app actually transfers their own recordings.

Go live from any setup

Salmon's wireless transceiver supports all devices that output analog signals via a 1/4 in. audio jack. Just plug it in, and you are ready to stream, be it from this year's sound mixing setup or your uncle's vintage amp from the 80s.

Around the world.

Salmon broke the geographical boundaries for establishing music bands: practice with a violinist from China, synth & keyboardist from Sweden, electric guitarist from the US, and vocals from Latin America.

Salmon lets you play pre-recorded samples created by another bandmate or friend and lay it on top of your track.

Insights & Feedback

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Salmon simply took what best about the mixtape and fused it with today's technology. That's what I really love about it.

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By playing the role of a metadata aggregator instead of a media distributor, Salmon could as well avoid the legal convolutions involved with licensing music.

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The social feature of the app opens up a new way to find and connect to your future kindred souls via music.

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Tight-knitted communities of listeners already exist in the real world. I think the app is smart targeting fans who are dedicated and budgeted to follow their favorite artists.

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Our idea of music ownership has changed yet the industry has been doing less than stellar a job in catching up. I can totally see services like Salmon tapping into today’s new forms of music content online to liberate listeners from the old paradigm of ‘owning music’.