Facebook Music: Living up to the hype?

When Facebook announced their music service it raised a great deal of questions and excitement about how this could change the delivery, marketing and purchasing of music online. They seemed to promise to revolutionize the way that people could interact and share music with each other, encouraging new fans for bands and artists.

The basic idea was that on the newly instated timeline ‘ticker’, users could see what friends were listening to, and stream that track straight onto their computer. From this, the listener could then like the artist, or even click a widget to take you through to buy the song – It’s a well-known fact that if a friend recommends something, you are more likely to trust their judgement and give it a try.

  • So far, so good, but what happens when the elements that make all this happen smoothly aren’t up to scratch? Facebook Music is, granted, in its infancy, and they are making changes as they go along – but for now there are some issues that are affecting it working well, if at all.

Last week, Digital Music News reported a study by Josh Constine, author of website Inside Facebook. The study claimed that Facebook Music so far isn’t increasing the number of ‘Likes’ for artists and bands from the shared listening feature – and went on to suggest that the gain for the artists, managers and labels could be ‘negligible’.  According to Constine, people are tending to be ‘pass-through listeners’, rather than becoming new fans. He said “Facebook is gaining compelling feed stories about listening habits and data it can monetize through ad targeting, all without returning the favor to musicians”.


  • If this is the case, then, as Constine has suggested, record labels and the artists themselves should ask for more from Facebook, something that helps turn listeners into fans.

To ‘Like’ an artists or band that you have been listening to on Facebook, you currently have to find a story about when you’ve listened to them in the history of your timeline. There is, however, a lesser know way of ‘Liking’ an artists, which is actually as simple as hovering over the artists name and clicking ‘Like’ on the pop-up card that appears. This way hasn’t been publicised, and if you forget to like when you’re listening, it means having to find the artists again to do so. It seems that if Facebook made the ‘Liking’ process easier, more people would do it, which would equal more fans. Simple.


  •  And more ‘Likes’ are important because…

Although Facebook music’s partnerships with streaming services are making some money for the artists through royalties when their songs get played, it really is a tiny amount. In the industry today, it’s sadly selling tickets for concerts and the sale of merchandise that makes the most money. By not generating more new fans, Facebook is not helping artists do this, as it is only fans (people that have ‘Liked’ the Artists Page) that receive updated about gigs, and not listeners.


  • But this isn’t the only problem. You would expect that when you click on what your friend is listening to, you would then be streaming the same song, wouldn’t you? Well, not always. It seems that Facebook sometimes gets its wires crossed when it relays songs to different players.

There have been reports of problems when trying to open a song that one person is playing in one player (Spotify, for example), which a friend wants to play in another (for example, Rdio). Brian Whitman, CTO of music intelligence company Echo Nest blogged about the problem this week. It’s down to something called ID resolution, which basically means that the ID of one song can get misread to mean another. This can happen in terms of a different version of the song being played by your player, or go as far to a completely different song being streamed. For example, two songs could have the same name, but are by different artist. You want to listen to what your friend is listening to, but because of issues Facebook hasn’t worked out yet, you end up listening to a whole other tune.


  •  The problem with this is that if the songs don’t play or links don’t work, then it is impossible for people to share or talk about them. The only way a music sharing service can work is if the song you want actually plays.

Facebook also promised that people could ‘tag’ artists names in their wall posts etc. and Facebook will then make the artists playable, if Facebook knows about it. The key phrase, and the key problem, in this sentence is ‘if Facebook know about it’. Of course, there are many unsigned bands and artists that people love that Facebook don’t know about yet. One of the obvious problems that has arose is that famous singers that are also actors, for example, may be listed on Facebook as an actor, thus eliminating them from Facebook’s radar as an artist.


  •  There has also been confusion over the ‘Talking About This’ number that has appeared under the ‘Likes’ figure on the band or artists page.

At some point over the last few weeks a number would have appeared under the ‘Likes’ number without any explanation or reason why. Website ‘Search Engine Land’ spoke to Facebook, and gathered that this figure was made up of metrics of stories that users shared in their timelines, for example liking a Page, posting on a Page’s wall, mentioning a Page in a post, and so on. It seems that admin on a Page will be able to utilize these numbers when a new ‘Page Insights’ of analytics becomes available – so that the admin can check the ‘Virality’. This basically means you can see the reach of a post against the number of people talking about the artist.


  • One last problem there seems to be with Facebook Music is the ‘Also On’ links

These can be found on the bottom left hand side of an artists page and links to Spotify, Rdio and Deezer. The problem is that these buttons seem to not just link to the individual artist, but to anyone with the same or similar band name. We advise artists to check this out on their pages.


It seems that Facebook still have a lot of work to do in order to iron out the issues that have arisen with their music service. However, if they can do that, then it really could do as promised, and change the way music is streamed, shared and bought online.


This post was written by Zimbalam blogger Jess Boyer @jessroseboyer

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