Andrew Guyton's Blog

thesixtyonelogoAbout a month ago, I learned about TheSixtyOne and signed up for an account. However, it took me a while (and a particular Zelda-themed song) to really delve into the site and discover what it had to offer. I’ll attempt to explain its structure and appeal.

First and foremost, this is a music website, not unlike mp3.com in days of yore. Playing music on it “just works” and their interface is very slick. The site integrates several clever social dynamics to keep you engaged and the site interesting. Artists on the site are generally independent musicians or groups, although there are certainly some recognizable names such as Daft Punk, Ratatat, Arcade Fire, CSS, etc.

Popularity

The heart of the site is a voting system where users promote music by, yes, hearting it. That was a horrible pun. The most popular music is featured on the front page in the “top songs” and “hot right now” sections. That in itself is not that unusual; it’s only logical that a digg/reddit-style voting will be applied to pretty much every concept ever.

Special sauce

The real charm of TheSixtyOne, though, is its game-based design. As a user, you have a certain amount of “rep” (think experience) that determines your level. As you level up, you unlock site features, a clever way of introducing the various features. In addition, each level confers additional hearts per daily login. Rep is gained primarily by hearting music that is subsequently hearted by other users; this rewards users for picking “good” music, under the assumption that if it’s good, then other people will like it as well.

Rep and hearts are also gained by completing a wide variety of quests, which generally prompt a user to listen to songs in a certain part of a site or perform a certain action (ex: heart a song, subscribe to another user, etc). The combination of these two systems make for a particularly addicting site. Additional hearts and rep can be gained by listening to “the rack,” music that has “gone under the radar” (sometimes for good reason; sometimes, it’s worth your ear).

Bread and butter

That said, good web design is nothing without content. Given the focus on independent artists, you may be concerned that there isn’t anything to draw you in. On the contrary; the site has a significant music library, encompassing a wide variety of genres. I am most interested in electronic, rock, and pop, although I have dabbled in some of their other offerings and found them acceptable. That said, everyone has different music tastes and I can’t guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Try it yourself

Go forth and give it a try yourself; my userpage is thesixtyone.com/disavian and you can subscribe to me or listen to music I’ve hearted (“listen to radio” next to my picture). I’ve found it worth my time in a way that traditional radio could never be.

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