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This article was published on January 21, 2010

TheSixtyOne redesigns. Turns itself into the slickest music web service out there.

TheSixtyOne redesigns. Turns itself into the slickest music web service out there.
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

Picture 119If you haven’t heard of TheSixtyOne, you’re in for a treat.

Essentially, a music discovery engine, but with number of carefully selected features that effectively turn the site into a game of sorts.  The focus is on music discovery and the site is designed almost entirely round the concept. Combining a Digg like voting system, RPG-like points system and a flood of music from established bands as well as your average bedroom producer.

Associated Content takes you through the sites features and functionality in detail, the basics however, I’ll try and sum up exactly how the site works here.

On the site, after signup, there are two basic things you need to do to get a feel for things; heart songs and save them. Hearting shows you enjoy the song (you get a limited number of hearts per day) and saving, well, saves them to come back to whenever (you can do that as many times are you like).

Each user on the site (not artists, although I suppose you could be one) has a ‘reputation’ and it is that that that ranks TheSixtyOne’s users. The greater your reputation the more of the sites features you unlock. To grow your reputation you ‘heart’ songs that then become more popular, because lots of other users begin to heart the song too. The more other listeners heart a song after you hearted it, the more your reputation grows. So the higher your rep, the more it illustrates to other users that you’re a great music discoverer. So clearly the earlier you heart a song that becomes particularly popular, the better.

Picture 121

From an artist perspective. Anyone can upload their music, but it must be discovered by a listener, and only then does it get shared with other listeners on the site. If the song picks up a number of hearts it’s likely to find a place on the homepage and can remain there for up to 60 days.

Similar to most music sites, TheSixtyOne has artist profiles where all their music is accessible from, you can also link to particular tracks to share on Twitter, Facebook, email etc. Also, if the artist have given permission, you’ll be able to download artist songs for your own private music collection. The site also features stations based on the type of music you’ve hearted but also based on music taste and mood.

Admittedly it’s not the simplest of set ups, but after just a few minutes on the site you get a sense of the community that’s grown the site, and that most successful startups thrive off. The mechanics of the site also become a bit more straight forward.

That said, TheSixtyOne has undergone a somewhat drastic redesign which went live this morning and will undoubtedly grab your attention, but for many it’s bound to leave puzzled – particularly from a usability perspective. The layout does give a greater artist focus than any other music site out there, and it IS slick, but sadly rather counter intuitive. Additionally one of the things I adored about its previous design was the ability to play and pause music while I browsed the site for more music. In this redesign, it’s hard to distinguish exactly what will cause a new song to start/stop playing and what won’t – bound to leave many frustrated.


Picture 117


Picture 116

Hearting and saving songs, one of the sites fundamental features is also rather frustrating as you have to hover to the left vertical row of buttons which you want to click but before you’re able to, they suddenly transform themselves into a completely different style and end up in the center of the screen. I also found it near impossible to comment on a song, not sure if I’m missing something there.

At the end of the day however, it’s the sites community that runs the show and if they’re vocal enough, we’ll see fixes and enhancements before long. It was one HN commenter, who summed it up perfectly however, “The new UI is very confusing, but the music is so good I don’t care.”

TheSixtyOne is a Y Combinator US startup founded in January 2008 by James Miao and Samuel Hsiung.