[Review] QCast Music: Letting the party be it’s own DJ

Does anyone remember the Nexus Q? Of course you don’t. It was a dome-shaped Google set-top box that was over priced and never actually produced. Despite it’s failure to attract any significant attention, it did have one feature everyone that heard of the Nexus Q was excited for: group-playlists in Google Music. Imagine one person playing music through Google Music and others in the same area contributing to the song choices being played. Suddenly, the party is in control of the musical entertainment, not the just the party-host.

Unfortunately, the party-playlist feature of Google Music died with the Nexus Q until a group of four developers from the University of Southern California revived the idea. It’s no coincidence that they called their app QCast Music. In fact, the name is directly inspired by the Nexus Q and Chromecast. The initial release of the app was designed to stream a collaborative playlist of music from a host’s Google Music All Access account to a Chromecast and enable others on the same network to add to the playlist. Today, the app also supports Spotify and doesn’t require a Chromecast to work.

How it works

servicesThe first person to start up QCast Music in a party is usually a host. The host is the one providing the music account – Google Music or Spotify. If the host doesn’t have an account with either, or at least a library of music uploaded to Google Music, then he or she won’t get very far with the party. Anyone physically at the location can be the host, though. So as long as someone attending has an account ready to go, he or she can start the QCast party.

Choosing an account makes a difference. Google Music can be the free account which consists of the user’s personal collection of music uploaded to Google Music or the $9.99/mo subscription which gives users access to millions of on-demand music streaming. Selecting to use Spotify will give users access to millions of on-demand streaming songs as well, whether using a free or paid account. I haven’t spent enough time with QCast Music on my free Spotify Account to determine if ads play, the music selection is limited, or if there are any other drawbacks versus a paid subscription, however. If anyone reading this has used Spotify with QCast Music enough to comment on this, we’d all appreciate the feedback.

Once the host chooses his or her account to use, the party needs to be named and a method of playing the music needs to be chosen in order to allow other users to join in the fun. The app was designed to work with the Chromecast initially, but the host can choose to play the music locally, on his or her own phone instead. This allows the host to connect the phone or tablet directly to a stereo with an aux cable or over Bluetooth. After selecting an option, everyone else at the party can then open the QCast Music app on their phones or tablets and join the named party. There’s no need for the party host to give away the WiFi password either. QCast Music uses gps locations to help people join the proper party as well, allowing everyone to use their cellular data if they can’t connect to WiFi.

searchOnce everyone is connected, adding music is as simple as searching. Just start typing a song name or artist and it will dynamically list anything related to the search. Anyone can add music to the playlist at any point. Best of all, there’s even a voting option to skip the current song. When the majority of the party votes to skip, the song skips. Additionally, the party playlist creator has full control over the playlist, including skips.

Currently, QCast Music is only available for Android, but it is in beta testing. Anyone can request to be a part of the iOS beta testing at QCast Music’s website below.

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