The opening sentence on Wikipedia for We Are Hunted reads like a eulogy, solemnly stating that “We Are Hunted was a San Francisco based software company”. What WAH was a website that used programming magic to find the tracks with the highest buzz on the net, and put those songs into lists that were as fun to navigate through as they were to listen to. Their most popular playlist was their Emerging chart, which was what loaded on the site by default.
WeAreHunted.com had a big, beautiful side-scrolling list of songs represented with a compelling photo of the artist and smart use of mouse hover to reveal more information and actions for each track. The best part of these 99 tracks was that they played all the way through, it was a new music consumer’s dream. I could put it on and listen all day. I would constantly be peeking back at the tab at a song I liked in particular to add it to my playlist or get more info on the band.
In late 2012 WAH was bought by Twitter, who then launched #music earlier this year. There is a ‘hunted‘ playlist on the site. It plays 30 second clips. I listened for about 30 songs. Here’s how it went: When the first clip ended, I believed (foolishly) that it was a glitch. As the 2nd ended abruptly I was annoyed, but by the time the 4th had rolled around it was becoming a soundtrack to this post. As I listened to each 30 second track roll by, examining how they defamed the layout and made bland (bootstrap bland), it was just a feed. Not enjoyable, more like a plug-in. It causes me an alertness in the bottoms of my feet to imagine the implications of being fed new music so quickly.
What Twitter #music missed when buying WeAreHunted’s beautiful service and shutting down their business was the brilliance of WeAreHunted. The excitement of WAH was not just that it was a feed. It had a feel, like a good radio station. You could put it on and listen all afternoon. Music affinity is not blasting through clips at 2 per minute. Part of appreciating a song is the act of listening to it from the beginning through until the end. If you don’t like a song, you skip ip. If you do like a song you listen to it, maybe twice as you’ve started to investigate the band. There are parts to a song, hopefully more than can be demonstrated in a clip that is more than likely automatically generated to pick-out breaks in audio files. The deterioration of music appreciation is already 320mbps of mp3 over streaming bandwidth. Won’t removing context and composition, whittling it into a bite-sized sample, eventually over-stimulate music lovers into a zombified consumptive state with limited emotional ability to form loyalty to an artist, to really appreciate the nuances of that art? Is that an over-sight, or exactly the direction that Twitter would have us move to?
It has never been clear to me how Twitter makes their money, but they make a lot of it. They have been successful at doing so with no expense to the end user. Twitter’s Promoted Tweets are fairly harmless considering how much money they must spend on keeping one of the most active social platforms running mostly smoothly. #music, apparently, does not share these values. They spell out the differences with the 30 seconds music blitz and an iTunes Buy Now button for everything.
Despite being lauded as a friendly joining, where-in Twitter uses the software to parse it’s data into playable lists, it’s a pill to see the success of Hunted’s start-up being snatched up and repurposed with the best parts of the tool being lost to monetization.