Can Facebook create a new social listening environment?

On October 3, 2011

Original Image ©Maxell

I’m obsessed with listening to music. Though when I mention the word listen, I think my definition may be slightly different to the definition of other people. I like to listen: to analyse the content, attempt to discover the meaning (be there a contextual one or not) and enjoy the spectrum of elements that have been mixed together to create this piece of media. 

Music listening is becoming a lost art. We can blame many factors for this: 

  • Ease of access to lots of music, making choice of content difficult and less personal. 
  • Industrialisation and the increased presence of loud sounds around us
  • the iPod generation 
  • the constant media barrage from advertisement and other marketing

… and possibly many more.

Many simply use music as a method of drowning out other noise, or just to fill the awkward silence of other environments. Listening has become one of the hardest senses to efficiently use. (Please watch the Julian Treasures TED talks below this article on listening) 

I would like to briefly discuss our new understanding of “social”, how it is effecting the way in which we share information with others and how an article in Music Week has brought me to these ideas. 


Original Image ©IBT

Facebook’s vast new integration with digital music services is intense in both the amount of corporate partners involved and the method in which they are executing this strategy. It’s new relationship with  SoundCloud, Mixcloud, Deezer, MOG, Rdio, Rhapsody and Vevo puts into focus Facebook’s plan to add media sharing into the core online experiences you gain whilst being a member of its social platform. The most important new  deal for me is the greater connection between Facebook and streaming service Spotify.
Referring to the article by Eamonn Forde, this important statement sat out for me:

“As it approaches 800 million users globally – and by opening its API to a variety of music services – Facebook is arguably now the second biggest digital music platform after YouTube.” 

This announcement at f8 and Facebook’s ability of securing some very interesting (and somewhat one sided) deals, has effectively made it a media sharing powerhouse, but it has also lead to a small backlash from some Spotify users who are forced to login with facebook accounts. As anybody who followed the Google vs Facebook Data Sharing debacle, you will be aware that although Facebook likes to gather third party information, but isn’t as happy to allow parties to have such privileges (although its Open Graph service allows from some analytics to be made, but its data capturing is much to the benefit of facebook). So are such deals actually a good business strategy for these other developers? It’s too early to say, but since launch, Spotify has seen a significant growth in users (approx. 1 million  new users in a week).

Forde’s article reports well on the announcement and the very early feedback from industry commentators, but doesn’t look deep enough into the potential impact this feature will have on the industry itself – one which is still struggling to effectively capitalise from music streaming services. Nor does Forde think about the long term effect of such connectivity between users and the what may benefit them, or in the case of Spotify users, upset them. 

One of the benefits I recognise is the social listening tool. Users can now listen to music on a service like Spotify, broadcast what they are listening to on the new “Ticker” feed and have other users listen with them in real time. Effectively, you are being a DJ at home and your friends are the audience.

Yet what I truly struggle with during most of the journalism on this story (and not just from Forde) is the lack of connectivity between what benefits there are on a closer relationship between  “Social” and “Music”. The reminiscent articles and photographs displaying the family unit sitting around a radio and listening together, be it music or current affairs, is something associated with generations of long ago, but it was essential to have informed discussions about the media. A return to this sense of real time discussion between family, friends or peers on platforms which are relevant today is important, especially it’s international compatibility on Spotify specifically.

The implications of a new integration between music distribution and social platforms excites me quite a lot because the advantages of being able to socially listen: to share, to discuss, to critique, to discover, but mainly to enjoy.


If you are interested in Julian Treasures’ TED Talks on listening:

1. Four ways sound affects us.

2. Five ways to listen better.

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