Facebook has been slowly leaning into the world of music for some time now but the recent announcement that they had lured Tamara Hrivnak, former director of music partnerships at YouTube, to Menlo Park was a clear indication that in 2017 they will be taking music seriously.
Of course, in many ways Facebook is already part of the music business. Success in drawing artists and bands to create pages on Facebook and interact with fans via the platform has made the network a key part of any music label’s strategy. But it hasn’t been all plain sailing – 2015’s ‘Music Stories’ feature failed to gain widespread interest – and really Facebook has forced its own hand here. By aggressively expanding its video offering, the network, like YouTube before it, has had to contend with music rights owners protesting that their content is freely available on the network. One of Hrivnak’s key roles will surely be to sign licensing deals to cover user-uploaded music videos.
But as many platforms have discovered, navigating the sea of contracts and agreement necessary to provide a rich music streaming library is not easy. Facebook’s deep pockets, as well as the massive reach that it can promise artists and music labels, obviously stand it in good stead here. And Facebook should be welcoming this process because there is plenty of reason to think that Facebookers could take enthusiastically to any music offering that the network launches. GlobalWebIndex’s research shows that it’s already 65 percent of Facebookers who are using music-streaming services in some form and that this group are now more likely to say that they prefer to stream music online, rather than own it themselves.
Surely, adding another revenue stream will be attractive to Zuckerberg & Co., though how exactly they achieve this will certainly be interesting. So far, Facebookers have been quite reticent about paying for content directly via the platform. Yet Facebook’s traditional revenue model – providing services/content in exchange for data and advertising exposure – is one that music labels are becoming increasingly frustrated with. Apple Music and Tidal have touted the ‘premium-only’ model as the future of music streaming, while Spotify has felt the heat for steadfastly defending its ad-supported offering. Facebook’s laser-focus on user growth and engagement means that it will surely push for freely accessible music for its users, particularly as GWI’s research shows that only 16 percent of Facebookers say they currently pay a monthly subscription for a music-streaming service.
Facebook’s biggest challenge, however, may be to solve the puzzle of ‘social music’. While some music lovers flock to concerts and enthuse to their friends about their favourite band, it’s not everyone who wants to broadcast their listening habits to their social contacts. As is their nature, Facebook will undoubtedly put sharing and commenting at the heart of whatever music offering they produce but getting the right blend of privacy settings will be essential.
As with its move into video and commerce, Facebook’s new interest in music highlights its evolution from a social network to a service and content platform. But just as publishers and content producers have had to re-evaluate their relationship with Facebook recently, so too will music publishers need to reckon with the might of the world’s largest social network.