Editorial Note: Since I first penned this essay The Sixty One has added some terrific features, but has also experienced disappointing community turbulence, which can largely be attributed to repeatedly poor public relations response from the administrators of the site..
The Sixty One is a unique social network that allows artists and musicians to interact, and the lack of a community relations plan – or, worse, imposing a pre-defined view of community onto the site – is not the prescription for continued success.
While I still think T61 offers a unique and enjoyable user experience, I do not recommend becoming a user of the site at this time. Clearly the administrative team needs to further develop their approach to community relations policies and infrastructure and their overarching plan for the site before any further expansion can be both feasible and positive.
Lately the focus on my crushing internet attention has been brought to bear on The Sixty One, and compelling and altogether addictive new take on music meeting social networking.
At its base, 61 is a place to discover and stream (largely free) new music. Never a bad thing. However, it’s a little more complex than that.
When you sign up as a Listener on 61, you receive a small allocation of points. You’re free to listen to your heart’s content, but if you hear something you enjoy you can use your points to promote – or “bump” – the song.
It takes the most points to bump a new song, and increasingly less points to bump songs that are already popular. Eventually a song reaches the tipping point and launches onto the main page, where it racks up dozens of bumps by the hour from even the most casual of listeners.
When the songs you promote are further promoted by others you experience a return on your investment in the form of more points, scaled based on how early you bumped a song. This makes the act of bumping (and deciding when to bump) an exercise in risk/reward strategy if you want to maximize your ability to spread your influence (points) even further.
The competitive aspect of 61 – who has the most points – isn’t difficult to game. It doesn’t take much smarts to figure out what the community likes to hear, and to bump those sorts of songs as early and as often as possible. In that position you are effectually an A&R Rep – playing the numbers game in the hopes that a fraction of your investments will reap benefits large enough to cover your losses.
If you were playing to win, you’d get pretty far pretty fast with this strategy. Of course, some A&R Reps suck at picking the big hits, either due to a tin ear or a fickle public, and if you’re indiscriminate with your points you might wind up sharing the same fate.
However, there isn’t much joy to the 61 with that approach – you quickly lose sight of discovering amazing new music … listening to it and loving it, feeling that you have to proselytize to all your friends about it, and then realizing that 61 is built explicitly to allow you to do just that.
In this role you are more of a critic – except, there is no pejorative, judgmental facet to the site – it’s all bumps. So, really you’re more like a DJ, spinning the records that deserve the most ears. As you accumulate more points you become more influential – not only due to your riches, but because you’ll gain special abilities, like multi-bumping and reviving past hits. And, your picks don’t have to shoot to success overnight – just like artists receive residuals, you’ll continue to receive points as users discover (and re-discover) the songs you’ve endorsed.
The higher your rank, and the more consistently you bump tasty tunes, the more chance other Listeners will start to take note by subscribing to you – a built in audience to cascade additional bumps down your list of favorite tunes that benefits you and the artists.
If it sounds as though Listeners have all the fun… well, they do. The Artist side of the site is much more passive – you post songs, and sit around praying and fervently spreading good will via comments on other users and songs. When your songs are bumped you win points, which eventually allows you to post more songs, thus winning you more points… et cetera.
Artists are too playing a game – a subtle contest of scarcity and demand. Listeners love discovering new songs and swarm to songs with the most activity (think: feeding frenzy). On a slow day a mediocre new song will seem like blood in open water to bored listeners, but on a busy evening your big hit could get lost in the shuffle – hopelessly marooned with a low point total until a benevolent Listener/DJ gives it a fresh spin.
If you don’t make enough points before hitting your upload limit you’re stuck schlepping your tunes around the community, fishing for an endorsement to open up a new upload spot. (And, as I discovered last night, deleting a song subtracts its points from your total – an unfortunate war of attrition.)
To take advantage of this situation, as an Artist it’s in your favor to dole out catchy tunes slowly rather than dump your catalog all at once. This will entice listeners to bump each of your songs in succession, rather than having to choose between multiple tunes.
Also, Listeners can’t vote until a song has played for at least a minute, so your first few tunes should be chosen with this in mind. The one-minute-delay also promotes research – Listeners need something to do with their 60 seconds, and if they don’t see a catalog of past successes on your page they might be looking for another reason to bump you, so make sure to have a profile image, write a bio, and leave a comment on your song.
All in all, The Sixty One it makes enjoying (and creating) music a game, a game that lacks the pejorative “bad” vote of other discovery systems, like my old favorite somesongs. If it sounds interesting to you I hope you’ll sign up (and maybe even throw some points towards Arcati Crisis)! And, if you list me (krisis) as your referrer, I’ll even make points off of your making points!
So far my favorite tunes have been: