It might be a bit of a cliché, but the sight of a senior Facebook executive blogging that “there are few things people love more than music” can’t help but reignite the music industry’s speculation about what the social network’s ambitions are around music.
The executive was director of product Michael Cerda, who was announcing Facebook’s latest music-focused feature: Music Stories.
“On the Facebook iPhone app, songs and albums shared from the leading music services will become ‘Music Stories’, a new post format which allows people to listen to a 30-second preview of the shared song (or album) while on Facebook,” explained Cerda.
For now, ‘leading’ means just two services: Apple Music and Spotify. No SoundCloud or YouTube, which is one talking point, while the lack of Google Play, Deezer, Rhapsody, Tidal, Rdio and others will come: “We will expand Music Story support for additional streaming music services soon,” as Cerda put it. “We hope by making this experience better, artists will share more, friends will share and engage more, and music will become a better part of the Facebook experience overall.”
The immediate benefit here is that shared songs may now have a better chance of making it through Facebook’s news-feed algorithm, just as native videos and “instant articles” from news publishers have more clout in getting into people’s feeds. The news feed algorithm remains a mysterious black box in terms of its workings, but if music is dialled up, that’s a good thing.
What about Facebook’s long-term ambitions? Music Ally ended up with egg on our face earlier this year when reporting multiple music-industry sources’ claims that the social network had plans in motion for an audio streaming service. Facebook did not respond to our pre-publication query at the time, but as the story spread, the company explicitly denied it to other reporters.
So is Music Stories the extent of Facebook’s ambitions in streaming music? Even now, there are a lot of people in the music industry who see this as another step down the road towards a Facebook-owned streaming service.
The question is whether this is hope versus expectation. There are lots of reasons why the music industry would welcome Facebook (latest quarterly revenues: $4.5bn) as a competitor to Apple, Google and Amazon in the streaming space – we’ve left Spotify out of that list because many of the same people would like to see Facebook buy Spotify as its statement of intent.
Yet the reasons why Facebook would want to get into streaming need a bit more fleshing out to truly convince. That said, if Music Stories take off, they could make a better case for music fitting neatly with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s mission “to connect the world”. Including picking up the phone to Daniel Ek…