As Micah Singleton on The Verge reveals, Facebook supposedly is talking to music labels. As in major labels, that is. Key question is: What can we expect? What is it that Facebook is working on?
The straightforward assumption is that it might be about (yet another) streaming service. If so, it has to be entirely different from Spotify, Tidal, Rhapsody et al, not to mention AppleMusic’s take on the topic. Micah Singleton is right when he doesn’t buy into this assumption. The Verge’s sources are talking of the approach as being “unique”.
The company wants to do something “unique” according to sources, but how that will manifest is yet to be determined.
Apple’s music environment is perfect
But despite the fact AppleMusic has been launched as something thoroughly new and fresh, it isn’t. Apple went back to the DIY concept and dug up the idea of „Connect with your fans“. It’s nothing but a polished version of a topic that wasn’t even new when it emerged in conventions and conferences worldwide ca. 2009/2010 (see artists like Jill Sobule and Amanda Palmer to mention but two). AppleMusic features „Connect“ as an artist driven marketing service (feel free to replace artist by label/management). But the real trick is that it interweaves the streaming service and the fan’s personal music collection. That’s exactly what Andrew Dubber explained in 2009:
To value a track you have to listen to it in the context of your very own collection.
Add to that Apple’s perfectly shaped iTunes centric hardware environment.
Facebook has what music industry needs most
Facebook is about sharing thoughts. It is about instantly sharing experience. Facebook is about sharing life. To the most part, it’s a users’ community. The communication is biased by professionals. But essentially, communication is user driven. This is the strength of Facebook.
Now, music is an important part of our human environment. It reflects our moods, and we express ourselves by music. This is more than engagement, as Micah Singleton suggests. It goes way beyond. However, the vast majority of music tracks you can find on Facebook are part of artist and industry driven marketing. This marketing does rarely work. What does work, is recommendation by hints of your ever growing community of friends. Yet again, due to licensing issues, there is few sharing of music on Facebook.
Engagement died with distraction
Engagement with music and engagement with artists got lost with but not bcause of downloads and streaming. If there’s so much more that draws your attention to, like games, multiple screens, texting – then you are distracted from actually listening to music. It becomes part of the scenery, it is a background sound. You don’t even focus on a single track anymore. You are switching from one track to the next like you are doing since the number of TV channels exploded. Check out Mark Mulligan’s excellent book “Awakening: The Music Industry in the Digital Age”. His description of digital evolution is spot-on.
Facebook has the opportunity to bring that back. Integrating not just links to music but instantly playing music within your feed makes music part of your daily chat again. Music reenters your stream of consciousness – you will pay attention like you are focusing on a video in your feed.
Let the good times roll
Facebook and similar platforms have changed our lives. Any “empty” moment of waiting that’s ever so short becomes filled with online chats. By integrating true music sharing you are reinventing the times of enjoying music with friends in the 80s. Yet, you are now communicating with 100s and 1.000s of friends because the meaning of friendship has changed. Technology changed your own personal reach.
There have been quite a few approaches and business models to share music from various sources in one feed. Until now, any of those concepts was destined to fail. There’s only one service that comes close, and that is SoundCloud. Unfortunately, it does not include your own collection neither does it feature a full fledged communication platform as in Facebook. The challenge lies in licensing. It didn’t work.
But they did listen to Apple (iTunes, AppleMusic), and they are likely to listen to Facebook.
Apple reinvented downloading and brought it to perfection. They improved streaming and connect-with-fans to the benefit of the music industry. Facebook could top that. Key is a streaming approach that includes paid-only plans for truly sharing music – legally.
The result would be that Apple serves those who are listening individually to music. The current version of AppleMusic can reach out to the more dedicated listener. Most people though will gladly be satisfied by listening to music their pals are enjoying. For Facebook, it means they can add a new really Unique Selling Proposition. They have legal music sharing on offer. Given the fact they have begun losing young users already, it will bring them back.
Facebook could emerge as the first service to legalize sharing with artists being paid. Even better, hosting the music themselves means they are cashing in. That’s entirely different from the vast majority of videos hosted on YouTube and played on Facebook. In this case it is YouTube who is paid. Of course, there’s ad-based revenue.
But let’s be honest, in Q1/2015 Facebook had more than 1.4 billion active users. My good guess is there is no such feature that can compete with legal sharing of music. Based on the vast number of users, Facebook would even be able to set a low price tag to enter the game.
This streaming model would enable Facebook to surpass all other streaming providers.