Music means a lot of things to many people, and it can be a very good way to meet or get to know each other. Or, it was in better times. With concerts basically dead, the odds of bumping into someone at the bar during a show and hitting it off are basically zero. But a new app called Vinylly leverages your Spotify data to match you with other people with similar musical tastes — or, at least, that's the claim. In practice, either my jams are too niche, or the app needs some work.
Vinylly has been available on the iPhone since last year, but it landed on Android just last month, and in short, it's a dating app with one twist: everything is based on how well your Spotify data matches someone else's. In case that isn't abundantly clear, that means you'll need a Spotify account to use it, and that automatic data harvesting saves you a ton of time tapping through preferences. However, the focus also means other romance-significant details like religion and political affiliation may not match, which could be an issue later on.
The app isn't too difficult to use, though there are a few issues. In general, just connect your Spotify account (which is very easy if you have the app installed and signed in), and tap through the questions to set up your profile. That last part could stand some polish — one step for choosing the location on your profile means scrolling through what must be a hundred options to get to the bottom of the list and tap "next" to proceed. That should probably be a floating button or something built into a navigation bar.
The app can match you with partners across a range of relationship types and identities, too. If you just want someone to go to concerts and share music with, that's an option, but you can also target casual relationships or even something serious.
Some of the details you determine during setup are a bit misleading, though. For example, the app asks what format your first purchase was on. That's a simple question, right? Well, when you check out your profile, that's labeled your "sound preference," which is an entirely different thing, and there are a few little inconsistencies like this that should be adjusted by the developers. Firing up Vinylly after it's been pushed out of memory or killed also flashes a bunch of weird interstitial screens, plus a decidedly holo-era loading prompt.
The interface for the app itself is actually a little cute and in keeping with the musical theme. You don't swipe left/right or heart folks, you "shuffle" and "fast forward" and "play" them. Relative musical compatibility is indicated with the volume slider at the bottom — or, at least, the app claims that's the case. I never actually saw it move from dead center.
Every single match was 50% — and no, I do not enjoy My Chemical Romance.
Relatedly, many of the people I was recommended to contact had musical tastes that varied quite drastically from my own. If and when you stumble upon someone with similar tastes — which actually seems kind of hard, though maybe I'm just into weird stuff — tapping the dead center "Play" button doesn't just indicate a potential match; you are also prompted to send them a message. Wallflowers will have to muster up the courage to at least tap one of the pre-made suggestions, but you can fire off custom messages as well.
Some of the messaging options take the overly reductive setup process to an extreme. "Hi Natalie, have you heard any good Indie lately?" While I'm far from an online dating expert (never had to do it, thankfully), I have to assume writing your own message will be less awkward than the options you're given. You can access your conversations-in-progress via the grid-like icon to the top left of the default view. Top right takes you to your profile and app settings.
This is where my hands-on ends. Most importantly, I have a girlfriend. But also key: No one has answered my messages in the last hour, so I can't be sure how the rest of the app works in practice.
The app has a clear monetization model, as well. In the future, features like chat will require a paid "Gold" premium subscription, though the developers have made that free for the time being. There are a few perks beyond just hiding basic features behind a paywall, though. The app actually has a built-in tool that lets matches choose virtual concert dates, which is a good touch.
I personally spend 4-8 hours on any given day listening to music as I work away, and those are probably rookie numbers compared to some folks. Vinylly may be a little buggy, and it may not have done a very good job matching me with people, but I can see this app being popular. Music is a big part of many of our lives, and Vinylly lets you share that experience with others.