At fusion5 I've been working on setting up an employee powered online music streaming playlist using Soundrop, Spotify and Deezer, I've nicknamed it F5.FM. We have employees all over Australia and New Zealand and this lets us all listen to the same music as if we were in the office together. The solution allows each person to vote on what songs everyone should hear next, think of it as a democratic, social radio station.
After reading about github's own inter-office music streaming application, Play, I was keen to setup something similar over at Fusion5. My team is spread across Australia and New Zealand, distributed teams are hard enough from a process perspective, let alone trying to build a culture and bond as a team across different time zones.
My initial thought was just to grab a copy of the Play repo and run it internally, however I wasn't sure if people would be motivated to upload their own music to the server, let alone the legalities associated with that. Unfortunately, Play relied on the iTunes DJ feature which has now been retired by Apple and is no longer available in later version of iTunes. At the time, the Play team was working on a V3 which didn't rely on the iTunes DJ play queue. I wasn't able to get any of the development builds up and running at the time, so I opted to find an alternative using pre-existing cloud solutions.
I scoured Goolge for projects similar to Play, I wanted our users to be able to add songs to a queue and also vote for which songs they wanted to hear next. I also wanted to kickstart our playlist options with a pre-existing library of tracks. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find a suitable all-in-one alternative, but what I did stumble upon was Soundrop. Soundrop offers a plugin for Spotify and Deezer, it allows you to make a public playlist that users can add tracks to and vote for the order of upcoming tracks. It uses the existing Spotify and Deezer libraries so there are millions of songs to choose from.
Setting up our own public playlist took less than a minute, I shared the unique url with some co-workers and we were off and listening to our new shared playlist.
Soundrop maintain their own iOS app, which allows premium Spotify users to stream the playlist via their mobile devices. I'd prefer it if all users could have mobile access to our playlist, but beggars can't be choosers.
In the case where you have a mix of premium and free Spotify users, free users will hear regular adverts and the playlist resumes once the ad is over. This sometimes means they miss the beginning of a track, not a big deal.
I've created a microsite on the internal network that explains to would-be users how the system works and walks them through setting up Spotify (or Deezer) and Soundrop accounts. Unfortunately Soundrop requires Twitter or Facebook for authentication which rules out some employees who don't have either accounts or don't wish to link their social networks to Soundrop, hopefully they'll include generic logins in the future.
We've also been working on a 'now playing' web page that we can put up on one of the spare monitors around the office, it displays the cover art, song name and artist name of the song currently playing. Useful if you're taking a break from your headphones but want to see what is currently playing.
So far the biggest challenge has been getting a decent number of listeners on the playlist consistantly. We've already had some great days where we've all posted songs from a given genre or around a central theme (e.g. songs from our childhood), these are usually hilarious and extremely fun. I can see many more possibilities once we get a large critical mass on the service, so only time will tell how successful F5.FM is.