Take a second and think about that song you can’t stop listening to. The song that encapsulates your feelings about this hour or this day or this week, that gives you chills or makes you laugh or brings about late-night dances in the kitchen. Not your favorite song ever, perhaps, but your favorite right now, right this minute: the song that sets the rhythm of your days, reflects your moods, and defines your state of mind. Imagine if you could easily share this song with others and others could share theirs with you. Cymbal, an app created by Tufts undergrads Gabe Jacobs, Amadou Crookes, and Mario Gomez-Hall, offers just that.
Jacobs thought of the idea after operating a music blog with a simple mission—to upload one song each day. Recognizing that this system emphasized both the quality of each selection and ease of consumption, he sought to create an app that would allow a broader network to share music with the same accessibility and ease. Cymbal, the resulting app, functions much like Twitter or Instagram but features music as its medium. Users have access to songs from Spotify and Soundcloud’s databases and can upload their favorite song, or “cymbal,” at any given time. Their followers see this song in a constantly updated newsfeed that displays each individual’s current cymbal.
With this system in mind, there is a distinct weight behind one’s choice of cymbal. Unlike Twitter and Instagram’s design—in which it is possible to contribute multiple posts to the newsfeed—Cymbal only allows you to choose one song that currently defines your life’s soundtrack. As designer Gomez-Hall noted in an interview with music blog Sound of Boston, “the design [of Cymbal] incentivizes high quality content.” Equally important, Cymbal rewards the thought behind one’s choice of cymbal. If you love another user’s song, you can save within either Spotify or Soundcloud; if you love their taste in music, you can go to their profile and listen to every cymbal they have posted, as well as every song they have “liked” from those they follow.
In this way, Cymbal sets itself apart from other music-sharing platforms; it possesses the ability to create conversation among its users. While in Spotify one can see what their followers are listening to, Gomez-Hall points out that you “don’t really get a good sense of what they like versus what happened to come on.” Soundcloud, on the other hand, permits users to insert comments only at a particular timestamp—far less interactive than the Cymbal users’ ability to like and comment on their friends’ music with a system much like that of Instagram. You can tag the person who inspired you, hashtag a #tbt, or share your pick via SMS, email, or Facebook. Cymbal functions as a tool for “people-powered music discovery,” Gomez-Hall continues, offering its users endless avenues of music discovery. If you don’t love a song, you can skip it. If you do, you can save it to your own Spotify or Soundcloud account, comment on it, and perhaps bring it up the next time you see your friend.
The desire to share music among friends is not new—in fact, a Google search of song-sharing apps uncovers several similar services. SoundTracking, an app from the online music-player Rhapsody International, provides many of the same services but also allows you to share photos and tag places that connect to the songs. Several other apps enable users to create collaborative playlists, or explore feeds of music that’s currently popular. With the presence of these existing music-sharing apps established, the obvious question arises—what sets Cymbal apart?
The true appeal of Cymbal in contrast to these apps with more is the remarkable strength of its less. In the age of bite-sized media created to be easily consumable, Cymbal harmonizes with this structure and blends easily into the background of our lives. It is both is effortless and timeless. It captures pieces of the everyday and presents them within a simple, beautiful, and intuitive interface, offering a space for the individual to create their own narrative and the group to construct a complex discourse. The app doesn’t need its users to provide context because it isn’t just about documenting the concrete details; instead, it conveys emotions and moments. It connects the user to their friends and their self, their past and present. As Gabe expressed, “I will never stop loving music and I will never stop loving to share music with people, so… it’s very personal.” This individuality is applicable to each user and will endure for as long as the app exists.
Look for Cymbal in the App Store starting the first week of May.