The seventh part of our end-of-year roundup, originally published in the Music Ally report. New to the series? Start from part one.
In 2010, as Facebook soared past 500 million users and Twitter climbed to 145 million, music services and music marketers saw a clear opportunity to tap into the ’social graph’. They became all the more powerful for it.
This co-incided with a big push from Facebook to make APIs available for web services and mobile apps to tie into its system more easily – Facebook Connect and Like buttons in particular. Both became increasingly familiar to music fans over the course of the year.
The impact of adding social features to a music service could be drastic. Spotify implemented Facebook Connect and saw its rate at which people signed up to premium subscriptions double – despite the fact that you didn’t need a premium account to use the social features. Pandora was equally quick to hook into Facebook, with services like we7 and Thumbplay also getting social.
Remember the days in 2009 when every week seemed to bring new speculation about Facebook launching its own music service? It didn’t disappear entirely in 2010, but it became clear that the social network’s real goal was providing the social backbone to as many music services as possible. New cloud services like QVIVO also launched this year using the Facebook social graph as their starting point.
One that it didn’t was Ping, but Apple’s music-focused social network was just as clear a sign of the changing dynamics of the market. The theory behind Ping was strong: let people tell their friends about the music they were buying and liking, while following artists’ updates – all within the environment of the iTunes Store.
Apple’s problem was that it opted against a deal to use Facebook Connect, perhaps underestimating the level of criticism Ping would get for not making it easy enough for users to find their friends. However, a later deal with Twitter – and ongoing tweaks to Ping’s functionality – show that Apple is in the social music game for the long haul.
Talking of Twitter, 2010 saw more artists flocking to the micro-blogging service, including resolute refuseniks like Kanye West, who quickly became one of the key attractions. Music marketers spent much of the year discussing ‘Twitter strategies’, while it emerged that if there is a best Twitter strategy, it’s to let artists who relish the service get stuck in by themselves.
The rise of Facebook and Twitter was accompanied by the continued decline of MySpace, as parent company News Corporation jettisoned CEO Owen Van Natta, and proceeded to revamp the site into a ’social entertainment’ service, designed to offer users a stream of music, TV and games recommendations based on the preferences of their friends. In November, MySpace even bit the bullet and integrated Facebook Connect to help users find those friends.
Van Natta’s next job after MySpace was at social gaming firm Zynga, which dominates a market that’s increasingly on the radar of the music industry. Some scoffed when futurist Gerd Leonhard suggested at MidemNet that the music biz could learn lots from Zynga’s FarmVille game, but by the end of the year another social game – Booyah’s Nightclub City – was running music promotions for Kiss, Keith Urban, Gloriana and the TRON soundtrack.
In a recent interview, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said games had been the first creative industry to be truly shaken up by social networking. Judging by 2010, music may well be next on the list – and Facebook won’t have to launch its own music service to do that. Sharing music used to be synonymous with piracy, but this year, the concept of ‘Share’ became a much more positive and powerful force for music fans, artists and the wider industry.
Music Ally Trends of 2010 1. Growth and Decline 2. Pressure on ISPs 3. Pirates Under Attack 4. Mobile Apps Mania 5. Clouds and Silver Linings 6. The Economics of Streaming Music 7. Music Gets Socialised 8. Google versus the Music Industry 9. Music Investment 10. Music TV Makes a Comeback"