Music Needs ‘Connective Tissue’ and Facebook Wants To Build It

Illustration for article titled Music Needs ‘Connective Tissue’ and Facebook Wants To Build It

As details emerge about Facebook's plan to integrate with music services to let friends share their listening experience, one thing is abundantly clear: Music fans and the music industry desperately need this—or something like it—to happen.

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Here's the core of the problem. When music fans use an online music service, whether that means free music on YouTube or a paid subscription from Spotify or another subscription service, they're more-or-less alone. If I use Spotify, you use Rhapsody, and our friend Bob uses MOG, the three of us might as well be in different universes when it comes to sharing and talking about what we're listening to. Our playlists, comments, and "likes" don't translate.

The inability to share music degrades the experience for all three of us—perhaps to the point that we won't renew our subscriptions, or would never sign up in the first place.

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Illustration for article titled Music Needs ‘Connective Tissue’ and Facebook Wants To Build It

It reminds me of when I used to DJ a small room in San Francisco. We weren't too serious about it—this was basically a way for us to play music we liked over big speakers and showcase our friends' bands. Still, we had a problem: People would show up throughout the night, and leave when they saw a mostly-empty floor. Another group would do the same thing, and so on. If they all arrived at the same time, that night may have gelled.

Likewise, when people try a paid music service today, they are isolated. The chance that all of their friends will decide to subscribe to the same music service is virtually nil. If you share a Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, or other link on Facebook or Twitter, only your other friends who have that service can play it. YouTube is a cross-platform exception.

There's not much "connective tissue," as Reuters' anonymous source described Facebook's upcoming music strategy, to bring these paid services together. (See also "4 Ways One Big Database Would Help Music Fans, Industry.")

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Facebook will announce an initiative to integrate tightly with multiple music services on September 22, according to various reports. Apparently, and here GigaOm's June 19th report is particularly instructive, the company plans to introduce new sections that show us what our friends are listening to, giving us something else to talk about, which is a reason to stay logged on. Nice move.

You can already share songs on Facebook with multiple services, but the upcoming reported integration would show you what I'm listening to in real time among other things.
We should be able to comment on what they've been doing, in classic Facebook style, and listen to their songs if we use the same service, which is already possible with Spotify, Rhapsody, MOG, Rdio, and others (screenshot to the right).

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We might even be able to chat about the same song as we listen, which we've termed "synchronous group listening," and which is already possible on "Google+YouTube".

Hopefully for music fans, Facebook will also figure out a way for people to share songs across music services so more of us can hear shared tracks in full. Even if it doesn't, people will reportedly be able to track each other's listening and figure out how to hear stuff by searching on their own.

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We've seen similar functionality elsewhere, but Facebook is massive. People use it daily. Prominent music sharing features there could bring to the mainstream all sorts of formerly nerd-like behavior—stuff like scrobbling music from Turntable.fm.

Social music on Facebook could be big. What will it look like?

First, it will be cool, because the non-stop hangout on Facebook would have a socially-customized soundtrack for those who want it. We can already sit near our Facebook friends at shows courtesy of Ticketmaster, so we should be able to listen together at home, too.

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The Social Network makes no secret of letting app developers and outside marketers see what we do there. Earlier this year, we learned that our faces could end up in Facebook ads if we don't set our preferences right, among other seemingly-periodic issues. If Facebook's reported music plan succeeds, it will know who listens to what, who influences them, who they influence, what they did while they listened (to an extent), and more.

That might be fine. Apple won't even tell the Financial Times or any other app developer who their customers are. But for Facebook, that sort of user information appears to be the name of the game, and music is another way to get a lot more of it.

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On the other hand, who cares? Many of us (present company included) like using Facebook today despite the privacy issues. Group listening among so many people can only add to the fun. Who knows, it might make more people pay—happily—for music.

Image: Flickr/Jason Steinschaden

Illustration for article titled Music Needs ‘Connective Tissue’ and Facebook Wants To Build It
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Evolver.fm observes, tracks and analyzes the music apps scene, with the belief that it's crucial to how humans experience music, and how that experience is evolving.

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DISCUSSION

thepriceofeggsinmalta
ThePriceofEggsinMalta

Oh, thank God. Music has become so boring! Feeling the rhythms, absorbing the harmonies, getting lost in the melodies, pondering the poetry of the lyrics... who wants to do that shit? I'd much rather chat with my friends about a song as I'm listening to it, because who needs even a few fleeting moments of cognitive distance to appreciate art, anyway? If I share a song on Facebook a few moments after I listen to it, or recommend an album to a friend the day after I've played through it, then the information is old and stale: my friends need to know how I feel about my listening selection at the very moment its vibrations rattle my eardrums.

No, seriously: this is going to be big. I think it's going to revolutionize how we think about music. I don't at all think it's a clever move by Facebook to exploit the narcissism and lack of anything resembling an attention span of the 12-30 demographic in order to generate more revenue by offering participating music sharing companies the potential for more subscribers. Nothing like that. Connective tissue. Future. Yes.

(Ok, but seriously: I can see how something like this would be kind of cool, but to say music fans "desperately" need this is flat-out idiotic. If you need your friends' instantaneous input to enjoy music, then you're listening to the wrong fucking music. The music fans who desperately need this are also: self-absorbed jackasses, insecure people who can't make up their minds whether they like something until they hear their friends' opinions, and people who go into withdrawal if they don't have some sort of virtual human contact for a whole five minutes. For the rest of us, it'll most likely be a neat gimmick that we'll try once or twice and then forget its existence altogether.)

(Get off my lawn.)