Facebook wants to be the “connective tissue” desperately needed by music fans and the music industry alike, so that, at long last, people would be able to share music with each other without friction — and without breaking the law.
However, despite all the other neat stuff Facebook unveiled today, it mostly failed in that regard, with big implications for music fans and the providers of unlimited digital music subscriptions.
As noted earlier, Facebook will let you see what your friends are listening to in the real-time Ticker feed that appeared on the right side of the page this week, as well as in the diary-like Timeline feature that will appear in the weeks to come, which is is a good start. But if you want to hear full-length versions of those songs, you’ll need to use the same music service as the person who shared it.
While demonstrating Facebook’s new ability to let users see their friends’ top albums and top songs, Zuckerberg said, “I can see all the stuff [my friend] is listening to, and play it with whatever music player he used to play it.”
Again: “whatever music player he used to play it.”
Zuckerberg dropped this in as somewhat of a throwaway line, but its implications are as serious for music fans and its distributors as anything else the company announced today. It means that if Facebook friends want to become “friends with (musical) benefits,” they’ll both need to subscribe to the same music service. The new Facebook Ticker and Timeline features do constitute “connective tissue” for music — but only between listeners who pay (or otherwise use) the same middleman.
There will likely be only one winner in all of this, as far as unlimited music subscriptions go, and it could be Spotify, whose CEO Daniel Ek appeared with Mark Zuckerberg at the F8 conference on Thursday, and whose app Zuckerberg said he “really loves.”
Maybe casual music fans will be willing to install every music service on all of their computers, smartphones, and tablets, just in case they need to field a shared song from a service they otherwise wouldn’t use, but we wouldn’t count on it.
The way Facebook has set up music sharing will encourage a single winner to emerge among the existing music subscriptions. And that winner will be whichever music service first gains critical mass among Facebook users as the way to share music.
Maybe, but only one music subscription service joined Zuckerberg on stage today, and its name starts with an “S.”