Facebook is perpetually rumored to have some sort of in-house music service in the works. The latest story is a vague piece today in the pseudo-tabloid New York Post. Apparently Facebook has been talking to people in the music industry about partnering with a bunch of streaming media services and record labels to integrate music more deeply into the site.
However, says the Post, “Facebook doesn’t want to bog itself down in securing their own licenses to distribute music or building a proprietary service from scratch, sources said” about the new service.
Time for a little background about what some music services that already exist on Facebook. I’ll explain why I’m not taking this rumor seriously, and why a lot of mainstream reporters probably shouldn’t have.
Facebook has offered a developer platform for more than a year wherein an independent company named iLike has deeply integrated its own music services into the site through applications (screenshot below). Among many other features, you can use iLike apps to stream full songs from Rhapsody, find nearby concerts and buy tickets. The social network has more recently designated iLike a “Great App.” That preference gives iLike such advantages as a higher chance of a user’s actions — say, going to a concert — showing up in their friends’ Facebook news feeds. ILike also offers a streaming music platform, so other third party apps can integrate its Rhapsody-powered streaming music into their apps.
Let me rephrase the above: If Facebook isn’t going to bother with licensing or building its own service, and instead has condoned iLike’s existing features that do exactly those things, then what is left for Facebook to do?
Oh wait, hold on, Facebook already has its own “Music” service of sorts (screenshot below), that has mostly lain dormant since it launched last year. The service includes ways for promoting bands within Facebook, including a bunch of Facebook-built apps for sharing information about music. The Music page even incorporates one of iLike’s apps, iCast — a bulletin system to help musicians get the word out about news.
Facebook last updated its “Music” page on September 3rd, with a brief note and a link to a case study on how artists can promote themseles using Facebook’s fan “Pages” in conjunction with its advertising service.
Considering everything I’ve said so far, I’m pretty curious as to what the Post article actually meant by this line:
The surging social-networking giant is talking to a number of song-streaming services and music community sites, including Rhapsody.com, iMeem.com, iLike.com, and Lala.com, about an outsourcing deal that would more deeply integrate their music experience into Facebook, sources familiar with the situation said.
The only thing I can imagine Facebook looking into now is a more advanced form of promoting features that already exist. Maybe it is working on some sort of co-sponsorship ad package, where it helps a musician do an album launch or something? To get an idea of what that might look like, Facebook Film, a Facebook-created page similar to Facebook Music, has recently been publicizing a Patagonia-sponsored surfing movie called One Track Mind.
Here’s Facebook’s response to my query about the Post article:
Facebook is committed to its mission to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected, and we recognize that music sharing plays a part in that as well. We cannot comment on specific initiatives, but are always talking with potential partners to pursue opportunities that help us deliver on our mission.
The one thing I agree with the Post about is that whatever Facebook could be working on, it probably won’t resemble the standalone “MySpace Music” site. Other publications that track Facebook relatively closely have also found the whole article a bit silly. As Nick O’Neill of AllFacebook puts it “[t]he future of a Facebook music service still seems unclear at this point, but you can never give up a good opportunity to speculate about future plans!”
Which brings me back to my headline. The post did a hilarious Photoshop job (top) combining Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s head with an old photo of Guns N Roses guitarist Slash. “I think Zuckerberg looks cute in a wig,” was iLike chief executive Ali Partovi’s only response when I asked him for comment on the article.
Indeed, my two big takeways from it are both in regards to the photo: 1) Mark, seriously consider being Slash for Halloween and 2) please never ever actually grow your hair out into a ‘fro.