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For the past few months, I have been hearing about Facebook and Spotify getting a lot closer as companies, with a much tighter integration between the two services. However, Facebook’s musical ambitions go beyond Spotify and include other music services and applications. The company is currently working on lining up more partners for the 2011 edition of f8, its annual developer conference, which is most likely to be held in August 2011.
It seems that Facebook, after consolidating its position in three major Internet sectors – retailing, news and games – is now getting serious about music and media. At The Cable Show held recently in Chicago, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts extolled the values of cloud-based services and explained why cloud-based guides and interfaces are going to be key to television’s future. He showed off a deep integration with Facebook that can make television more social with recommendations from your social graph.
Just like Comcast, Spotify already allows you to share the information about the song that you are listening to on Spotify with your Facebook friends, but the next level of integration is going to be much deeper. And it won’t be just Spotify – my sources tell me that Facebook has been reaching out to other online music services and much of the attention at f8 should be focused on music. Facebook Connect and Facebook Likes are key components of this effort.
Facebook Music Features
Whether it is Pandora, Turntable.fm, SoundCloud or iTunes, listening to music, sharing music and then talking about is inherently a social activity and it makes perfect sense for Facebook to encourage this social behavior. Also, as we become an always-connected society, the idea of downloading and buying music is slowly giving way to the idea of “subscribing” to a giant library of music.
Facebook’s music plans are aimed at capitalizing on just such a future. Here is what Facebook is planning to launch as part of its music efforts, based on pitches it has made to some of the music services:
- In the left-hand column, right where Facebook lists Photos, Friends, Places, Groups, Deals, Pages, and Games, you will find a new tab called Music. This tab will show up if a user has listened to music with one of Facebook’s partner music services.
- Clicking on this new tab will open a page called Music Dashboard.
- The Persistent Playback/Pause Button at the bottom of the Facebook page, where currently you have the chat icon. This button essentially is like a quick snapshot and controller of the music experience. Mouse over it and you can see what is playing on whatever service you might be logged into using Facebook Connect. It also allows you to play or pause a track once you discover it on Facebook. It is also linked to the play buttons in the news feed.
- A page with snapshot of all the songs you have listened to on any specific service and also your top tracks and the number of times you have listened to those tracks.
The Music Dashboard will have the following features:
- Music Notifications: here you have notifications that show if your friends have listened to songs recommended by you or on your profile.
- Recommended Songs: You can get a list of songs heard and recommended by your friends. You can also play them back by clicking the play icon.
- Top Songs from friends.
- Top Albums from friends, with cover art.
- Recent listens from your friends.
- In the upper-right corner there will be a “happening now” ticker that shows what is happening in your social and musical universe, including songs that your friends are playing. There is some talk that this “Happening Now ticker” would show-up all throughout your music experience and not just on the music dashboard.
Facebook’s push for integrating deeply with music services is understandable. The company wants everyone to keep coming back to their website – if they don’t, then they cannot sell the ads they need to keep those revenues growing.
Music Equals Social Commerce
When Apple launched its Ping service, I was pretty excited by the idea of that service and what it meant for the future of commerce. Here is what I wrote then:
This click-and-go-somewhere-to-download model of affiliate links can never match a unified experience. Amazon, for example, encourages bloggers and others to link to things they like and then get a piece of the action. This separates social from commerce and treats them as two discrete activities. On the post-Facebook Internet, I don’t think anyone can afford to keep these two actions distinct.
Ping, from what little I saw during Steve Jobs’ demo, allows a similar level of social interaction. It can tell me who my friends think are cool and the top 10 favorites of people in my social graph. Some of my friends are famous deejays. Others just have eclectic musical tastes. They can collectively sift through over 10 million songs and help with the discovery of music.
Unfortunately, Apple never did things right with Ping and it seems Facebook is on its way to becoming a worthy challenger – without even having to deal with the record labels.