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Instagram stories now have 400m users… and licensed music to soundtrack them


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Instagram has announced its latest milestone tonight: more than 400 million people are using its ‘stories’ feature every day to share photos and video clips on an ephemeral basis.

There’s also a new feature for those people to play with: music. Instagrammers can now add music to their stories, thanks to Facebook’s recent set of ‘user-generated content’ music-licensing deals, which included Instagram.

“After capturing your photo or video, you can add music by tapping the sticker button and selecting the music sticker. On iOS, you can also select a song before capturing your photo or video by swiping to the Music format in your camera,” explained Instagram in a blog post this evening.

“Search for a specific song, browse by mood, genre or what’s popular. Fast-forward and rewind through the track to choose the exact part that fits your story. When friends see your story, the song will play automatically. They’ll also see a tappable sticker with the song title and artist name.”

That last sentence is important: music in Instagram stories has the potential to be a powerful new discovery channel for tracks and artists, although for now, it’s not one that leads directly to a particular streaming service to play the songs in full.

Instagram says that the ‘Music in Stories’ feature will be available in “select” countries from today, with a global rollout pegged for “the future”. Music Ally contacted the company to find out more details: its spokesperson said that the feature is launching in Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Sweden, the UK and the US.

(A quick primer on ‘stories’ if required: an Instagram user’s story is a rolling feed of photos and videos that they’ve posted in the last 24 hours, each of which disappears once its day is up. The idea is that your story is ephemeral, often raw-er, off-the-cuff moments rather than the more-polished images and videos that you might share permanently on your main feed. Snapchat invented the format, but Instagram – among others – has adopted it too.)

For Instagram, today’s launch is the first fruit of Facebook’s licensing deals, including Universal Music in December 2017, Sony Music in January 2018, and Warner Music in March 2018, as well as independent licensing agency Merlin, Beggars Group, PIAS and InGrooves the same month.

Those deals covered the use of music in user-uploaded clips on Facebook, but also on Instagram, Facebook Messenger and Oculus VR. When we asked which labels were involved in today’s launch, the spokesperson told us: “We have a large library of songs available at launch and will be adding to this in the coming weeks and beyond. Facebook Inc. has been partnering with music companies around the world to bring music to more experiences across the Facebook family.”

In March, Music Ally interviewed Instagram’s head of music partnerships Lauren Wirtzer Seawood, and asked her what those deals would mean for Instagram.

“As you saw in the announcements, there are a couple of licensing deals that have already been secured, and there are more coming. And once we’ve figured out where we land on that, we’ll probably have a lot more to say. But right now, that’s sort of all there is,” she said at the time.

“Artists are looking to share all kinds of content, and I would imagine that music content is part of their hopes and dreams. Certainly not in a streaming capacity, but to your point, I think that there’s a lot of opportunity out there, once those things [deals] happen.”

Instagram isn’t the only social app with a ‘stories’ format that’s interested in music, of course. Snapchat has also been making some interesting moves around our industry – albeit not yet with the kind of UGC licensing deals that Facebook has signed.

Snapchat’s parent company Snap, Inc recently launched a framework called SnapKit, which other services can use to tie in to its app. Pandora was the launch partner for music, meaning that users of the US-only streaming service can share songs via their stories, as well as sending them to friends on Snapchat.

Snapchat has also worked with a number of artists and labels on branded ‘lenses’ – the augmented-reality filters that can be used for photos and videos (including stories) in its app.

“If we can highlight a couple of songs every week, and make them available to all of our users around the world, we can really make a big impact,” said Snap’s VP of partnerships Ben Schwerin during his recent keynote at the Midem conference. He was also asked about the prospect of licensing deals – the kind of agreements that would be needed if Snap wanted to follow Instagram’s move today.

“We have over the past couple of years built strong relationships with rightsholders, and those are continuing to evolve.We’d like to have music be an even bigger part of the app. And we’ve also been an artist-friendly company from the beginning,” said Schwerin

“We ultimately want artists to be compensated for their work. We’ll see where this goes. Broadly we want to continue to build stronger relationships with rightsholders, and we want to see how music evolves on Snapchat.”

Now Snapchat has been beaten to the punch by Instagram with a stories integration, with the latter’s milestone announcement a reminder of the difference in scale between these two platforms. Snapchat’s app had 191 million daily active users in the first quarter of this year, compared to the 400 million daily active users for Instagram’s stories feature now.

What does today’s announcement mean for artists and labels? Clearly, artists can now feature their own music (or that of other artists they like) in their own stories. But the bigger opportunity will be in ensuring their fans know about the new feature, and encouraging them to use it en masse – perhaps even in a coordinated way: dance-clip contests, anyone? – to create a buzz around new tracks.

Stuart Dredge

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