June 3, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Rexly Splices Facebook to iTunes for Word-of-Mouth Music Discovery

Music fans have plenty of options for discovering music these days: blogs, magazines, newspapers, podcasts, internet radio, YouTube, the Hype Machine, Hitlantis, Discovr, and other too many other apps to mention here. We appreciate these tools, but the tried-and-true method of just asking your friends what they’re listening to still works as well as it ever did, which is the angle taken by a new Facebook music app called Rexly.

Bringing music discovery back to its social roots in the real world, Rexly founder and CEO Joel Resnicow and his San Francisco-based team launched Rexly at last week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference. Currently in public beta, the program provides users with an accurate sample of the songs, albums, and artists their friends are listening to in iTunes, and soon, in other programs too.

“I find music the way that other people find music,” says Resnicow. “That’s mostly through asking friends, or serendipitous ways like hearing a song at a bar or going to a concert. These are largely manual, in-person interactions. What we want to do is mirror how you find stuff in the real world on our site. We essentially automated the process of asking your friends what they’re listening to.”

Rexly currently dovetails with iTunes, but plans are in the works to integrate Rexly with other music services like MOG and Rhapsody, too. It monitors what you’re listen to, somewhat like Last.fm’s scrobbler has done for years, but with a social twist.

First, Rexly figures out who your friends are by asking for your Facebook ID, and then whatever you listen to shows up on your friends’ Rexly activity feeds. There, they can vote the songs up or down, or purchase songs they like from iTunes. You can also publicize this Rexly activity on Facebook (with an option for Twitter coming soon) so that even more friends can see what you’re playing.

Like most upcoming social media ventures, the biggest problem facing Rexly right now comes down to numbers. Can it find enough users to make the whole thing worthwhile? It’s a serious issue, because services like this depend on the “network effect” — the more other people use it, the more valuable it becomes. And the competition is going to be tough in this arena, especially as iTunes moves to the cloud and Spotify continues to expand its presence on Facebook.

Rexly won’t release any specific numbers as far as members go at this point, but Rensicow maintains that his growth goals have been surpassed so far, telling Evolver.fm, “launching at Disrupt was a dream come true.”

It helps that Rexly operates without the added assistance of any manual actions. The program updates automatically based on what you’re playing through iTunes, which minimizes effort once you’ve joined, and the app will grow more powerful as it adds new services.

“Our bread and butter is that we’re cross-platform,” says Rensicow. “The social features of any product are limited by who’s there and who’s not there, but we want to provide you with social features such that it doesn’t matter where your friends are listening to music.”

He plans to accomplish that by integrating Rexly with music platforms in addition to iTunes, that plan isn’t limited to simply creating a forum on which friends can communicate, as things stand now. Rensicow said he hopes to turn Rexly into a hub for labels, artists and tastemakers to show their followers what they’re listening to during the day, sort of like Twitter for music.

“We want celebrities to get on Rexly,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see what celebrities actually play on their iPods, versus what they’re trying to put together in a curated playlist that their publicist makes for them? Think of it like a Twitter feed; a stream of consciousness running from the mind of a celebrity. Like imagine if we could get Steve Martin on this…

“Actually, this is our official invitation to Steve Martin to join Rexly.”

(Screenshot: Evolver.fm/Chase Hoffberger)