Music as social content
In recent years we’ve seen the dominance of the image-powered web, where photos evolved from memories captured in albums to moments communicated in real-time. We adapted to this engaging format assisted by social networks like Facebook, where the simple “hack” of tagging people made them the largest photo sharing platform on the web, and Instagram, who offered context through geo-social data while offering community through hashtags. As personal content creators we prioritised imagery – whether it be photos of what we ate, text or a quote layered over a pic, a browser screengrab or crudely drawn comics. With the humble image safely ingrained as our content format of choice, the question is which format can be reinvented next. While most seem to assume that video is the next format to take centre stage in content marketing, I can see a different contender starting to make some noise – music.
Music is as emotive as a photo, with the ability to capture a moment, a friendship or even a decade. It can inspire communities around artists or genres and we look to it to both match and affect our mood. We are collectors; our personal libraries tell a story of the albums that shaped our lives, of the flings with one hit wonders, and the shameful little secrets that sneak their way into our musical history. iTunes may have introduced us to the digital age of music but we’re only just starting to see what social can do for it. Why could music be the next big thing in social content?
While iTunes Ping never really took off, music delivery services that host or stream music are now centered around social interactions. You can like, comment or share, much the same as you can for most online content, but what I love about music is the ability to pinpoint the specifics. Whether you’re addicted to a riff or want to share with the world your hilarious misheard music lyric, SoundCloud gives you the opportunity to comment on moments within a piece of music.
There seems to be no barrier in sharing our taste in music, despite a shaky start for Facebook and Spotify’s “frictionless sharing”, most are happy to broadcast their listening habits to their personal networks. So with this already forming a constant narrative within your digital footprint, will we see music taking on other elements of standard social interactions? Will Facebook allow you to tag a friend in a song? Will we want our location to be attached to our current playlist? Do we want to be able to comment on top tracks or the latest song thrown up by the radio function? Will we demand a profile soundtrack as part of our online identity? Can MySpace resurrect itself as the ultimate social music network?
Data brokers social networks make excellent recommendation engines, with uploaded libraries and selected favourites guiding the platforms through our diverse tastes in music. MySpace sadly seem to be struggling with this as even though they’ve heroed Discover as a key focus of their site, their recommendations have not been influenced by any music connection I’ve made through their network. My preference for discovering new music (when I’m dragged out of my late 90’s comfort zone) is to check out the latest lists from 5 friends/acquaintances. While these might not be people I speak to regularly, I do know we have similar tastes in music but they’re much better at finding new tunes than I am. We Are Hunted offers this as a USP to those unfortunate enough to have less cool friends.
Music identification services like Shazam have dabbled in extending their remit from purely helping you figure out the name of that damn song to unlocking a world of content or exclusive deals. Expect to see more from Shazam in social marketing as audio becomes the new QR code, especially in conjunction with other media placements.
The assumption is that audio will never take off as a major player in content due to the barriers involved in creating your own music. I think this assumption misses the point in what people do create when it comes to music – playlists, mixes, sets and libraries. Even Obama has his own playlists, albeit as generic as they may be. Despite the threat of personalised “radio” based on streaming platforms, triple J has embraced the competition and has 58,250 subscribers to it’s triple J Hitlist due to the respect it has earned as a music director. Of course our national broadcaster doesn’t have to worry about the impact on advertising revenue but this seems to be the factor that keeps the ABC ahead of the pack when it comes to new technologies. We’ll connect with the music makers, whether they be artists, curators or DJs, and within these hubs communities should form, where people have a strong association with the central figure and weaker associations with each other.
Social content is in it’s element when it’s all a matter of time. We look for content that’s relevant right here, right now, and the rise of the citizen journalist can turn the most exclusive event public with an open invite to anyone willing to follow the content stream. IROCKE brings the concert to your lounge room, with endless live streams for your own home festival. Considering large crowds and struggling 3G networks can make it difficult to share your live music experience, the ability to connect with other fans from the comfort of your own couch should help spur on the social element of live gigs.
Even Facebook has figured out that you need a strong presence on every device. The modern mobile made a camera and a music player as necessary as call functionality but social music networks won’t stop there. Volvo and Ericsson are looking to bring Spotify to your car and with music so intrinsically linked to driving, this will be the one place that music will certainly dominate over other content formats. The soundtrack to your life is dependent on location, mood and your social circles so Music Everywhere will be a natural progression.
So if music does become the new content trend, MySpace has placed itself in an interesting position. Even if the Justin Timberlake machine can’t tap into what makes us care and what makes us share, there are plenty of other social music networks ready to step up and take on the revolution. I predict the rise of a few key platforms that will do for music what Instagram and Pinterest did for images. Sounds sweet!
~ by mandi bateson on January 22, 2013.