Facebook Messenger evolves: here’s what it means for music



As predicted, Facebook announced plans yesterday to turn its Facebook Messenger app into a bona-fide platform for external developers, while also confirming that the messaging app now has 600 million monthly active users.

(Or, to channel Xzibit: ‘Yo dawg, Facebook heard you like messaging apps, so it put some more messaging apps in your messaging app’.)

It’s a strategy that makes sense, given the similar platforms and developer communities being developed by the likes of WeChat, Line and KakaoMusic in Asia.

The first thing to understand about Facebook’s Messenger apps strategy is that in the short term, it’s about communication rather than media: most of the 40+ launch apps focus on photo-sharing, GIF creation, sound-clip editing and memes.

There’s no integration yet for streaming services like Spotify or video services like Vevo – although we think that may still come later. For now, the apps will be discoverable within the main Messenger app – although they can exist as standalone apps – creating little nuggets of content for people’s conversations.

That said, there are a couple of music apps in Messenger’s launch slate. MuseAmi’s Hook’d gets people to record “video selfies” of themselves singing the hook from 70 prominent tracks, a bit like Dubsmash but with actual singing rather than lip-syncing.

Then there’s Ditty for Messenger: “a fast and fun new way to send friends a custom song and lyric video” where people choose a song, add text, and then send it to friends within Messenger. It’s a standalone app for iOS and Android, charges $0.99 per licensed song using in-app purchases.

Oh, and Ditty is the work of Zya, a rebranded music startup originally called Music Mastermind which was working on an online music creation platform in 2011 which then evolved into a mobile music game called Zya by 2013. It’s raised more than $27m down the years, with Facebook Messenger now providing it with a third crack at the social music cherry.

Expect Hook’d and Ditty to be joined by Facebook Messenger apps for many of the music messaging startups that have launched over the last couple of years but not really caught on with users.

Is all this any more than a novelty as far as the music industry is concerned? Zoom out a bit and look at the wider, long-term trend of messaging services becoming platforms for third-party apps, and also content. Snapchat Discover being a prominent example of the latter.

Comedy GIFs and memed-up photos might be the most prominent characteristics of this first phase of Facebook Messenger’s evolution, but music companies of all kinds – from Spotify to Universal Music – will be thinking hard about how they can weigh in for phase two on Facebook’s messaging app and its rivals alike.

Written by: Stuart Dredge