Before Spotify and Apple Music Were a Thing, Provided a Stream of Free Curated Music

Simone Lippolis
Simone Lippolis
Published in
4 min readMay 29, 2018


I must admit that the title might be a bit of an overstatement, at least when I think of the reach that Spotify and Apple Music have, compared to the one that had. But let’s get back to our story…

The background story

Back whenI had the idea of building, internet radio and streaming services were already a reality. LastFm and Pandora where already working pretty good for commercial music. Spotify was a thing, but only in Sweden and a bunch of Northern-European countries. At that time (late 2010), Italian music aficionados had very few choices if they wanted to listen to online music, and YouTube was probably the number 1 solution. SoundCloud was ruling the market of user-generated music, and it was accessible from everywhere in the world, yet from my point of view it had the same problems as any other kind of crowd-sourced content: too much stuff available and very low average quality.

Sketching on paper, full info on Behance.

The idea

To me, the solution to this problem was simple: find a bunch of music lover friends that use SoundCloud daily to discover new music, create an easy method to collect their favourite songs, and find a way to use these songs to create curated playlists, available to anyone.

… at that time (late 2010), Italian music aficionados had few choices if they wanted to listen to online music…

The process I came up with was very straightforward: using SoundCloud’s APIs to collect and playback the music. Curators were asked to authorize’s App to access their favourite list, and a bot ran twice a day to collect new favourited songs from all their accounts. From a curator’s perspective, this was a totally transparent process, since they were not required to do anything specific, anything different from usual. The user, instead, was able to listen to a curated playlist made with new, often unreleased tracks using a very simple interface. The music selections ranged from Hip Hop to Electronica, from Funk to Independent Rock.

The first claim was “An endless stream of curated Urban Music”, and at the end that’s exaclty what it was. A stream of music, curated and accurately selected, and (potentially) endless.

The redesign

After few years with a very classic “radio-like” interface, I decided that it was time for a redesign. I started woking with Marco La Mantia on a new version, and we came up with a totally new concept: what if we could not only playback the tracks, but also provide some editorial content and give some context to them? A user listening to our stream would have access to more info about the author of the track, and maybe be able to interact directly with him. We designed a concept, but since this kind of activity required a lot of editorial work, we did not implement it. What we did was implementing the new design on top of the old features.

Marco La Mantia’s proposed redesign, full info on Behance.

The technology

The core of the service is written in PHP since version 1. I like PHP because it’s very powerful, easy to test and debug, widely used, and supported by a strong community. The whole process of authenticating curators and grabbing their favourites is based on the SoundCloud API wrapper by Anton Lindqvist. The playlists are then exported as plain JSON files, and consumed by the user-facing web app. The frontend is just plain HTML. Ajax calls and DOM updates are managed with JQuery. The rotating disk is created in SVG. A few helper libraries are part of the package: the SoundCloud JavaScript SDK, and ColorThief by Lokesh Dhakar, a useful JavaScript utility that is able to extract colour palettes from bitmap images. now

The site is still online at (in fact, it isn’t anymore). Unfortunately, recent changes both to browsers’ policies (like browsers preventing the autoplay of content with audio), and the recent events and changes in SoundCloud created some problems with the web app. Maybe one day I’ll update it, but at the moment I don’t really have plans for that. Oh, and yes, Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal are a thing, now…

My name is Simone Lippolis, after spending almost ten years as Design Technologist at frog, I am now with Cisco, as a Data Visualization Expert. This article is part of my online portfolio that you can access at:



Simone Lippolis
Simone Lippolis

Data Visualization Practicioner in Milan, with a passion for connected objects and photography.