As anyone who has held up a lighter alongside friends during a second encore can tell you, social networking and music are meant to sing together. MySpace reminded everyone of its roots last month with the launch of MySpace Music, and inside sources say that Facebook may finally rock out with its own duet soon.
Music has always been one of MySpace’s shining features, so well-known that it’s part of a supposed social networking divide. Long before News Corp. purchased it, MySpace became the place for independentâ€”and increasingly mainstreamâ€”musicians to build a community with their fans. Now, with last month’s introduction of a 5 million-strong catalog of downloadable and streamable songs from all the major labels and (arguably not enough) indies, MySpace finally took its next logical leap into becoming a full-blown social hub for music.
With Facebook’s roots as a private bulletin board for college students, it has yet to cross into MySpace’s territory when it comes to music. While additions in recent years of “Pages” have allowed users to become “fans” of products or musicians, Facebook has never held a candle to MySpace’s integration of tools for artists to promote themselves and their music. Sure, Facebook’s recently-opened platform has opened a few doors for users to stream music and share their favorite artists via apps such as iLike (with 5 million monthly users) and Rhapsody. But this middleware still means that music isn’t an integral component of the Facebook experience.
If the New York Post’s sources are on to something, Facebook may be about to take a serious step into becoming a music outlet. Not much is known about exactly how or what features Facebook will offer, but a Facebook music store or service would probably work along the lines of the rumors we reported in October 2007. In other words: not like MySpace’s.
Digital music distribution is experiencing a resurgence of competition now that DRM has all but been eliminated (we’re looking at you, iTunes Store), but we aren’t banking on Facebook playing second fiddle to MySpace Music. Considering Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reported reluctance to give up the same equity control to the labels that MySpace did to create its new store, the company would probably opt to partner with established services like iTunes Store, Amazon, or even Real’s Rhapsody. Facebook has already tested these waters, too, with brief partnerships with iTunes and Ticketmaster. Why sweat it out with the labels when your best feature is a platform, and everyone else has already done all the licensing work for you?
Of course, anything Facebook introducesâ€”be it a full-blown music store or branded applications from established outletsâ€”will probably be at least marginally successful. Its chances for long-term growth for music sales improve when you consider the fact that Facebook just edged out MySpace in worldwide unique visitors in August. If Facebook wants to ensure a hit, though, it’ll have to leverage its unique advantages of a rich, integrated application ecosystem and initiatives like its Facebook Connect platform that lets users take their data to other sites and services.
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