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Can Facebook ‘Lasso’ teenagers with its new music app?


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A 12-month period of misdirected tweets and school-holidays calls to the Music Ally office thinking we were social-music app Musical.ly gave us a ringside seat to the app’s rapid growth, before it was acquired by Chinese firm Bytedance and merged with another short-form video app called TikTok. The latter now appears to have real traction in the west as well as in its homeland – it’s currently the top free app in Apple’s UK App Store, for example.

Now Facebook has launched (in the US only for now, for iOS and for Android) its take on the TikTok formula. As rumoured last month, its app is called Lasso, and music is at its core. “Lasso makes it easy for anyone to create and share short videos with fun effects. Follow creators, discover popular video trends and join in by putting your own spin on them,” explains its app-store listing. “Once you’ve found a type of video that’s trending, whether it’s #comedy or #fail, you can use the in-app camera to put your own spin on it with special effects, music and editing tools.”

Music is key to the up-to-15-second clips. “Lasso’s music library is one of the biggest. From pop hits to vintage classics, you’ll find whatever song you need to take your videos to the next level,” explains the blurb – this is where Lasso will be benefiting from Facebook’s set of user-generated-content (UGC) licensing deals with music rightsholders and collecting societies. Certainly for artists in the US, we’d recommend taking a look at Lasso and seeing if it’s possible to get some fan activity going on the platform.

Will it be a hit though? Facebook has launched apps before in response to external competition for younger users – 2012’s Poke and 2014’s Slingshot most certainly weren’t Snapchat-killers, for example, although 2016’s decision to add ‘stories’ to Instagram has arguably done a better job of slapping down that particular rival. What’s more, Facebook in 2018 might not be the ideal company to be launching an app for younger internet users: a Fortune survey this weekfound that only 22% of Americans trust Facebook with their personal information.

It would be curious parenting to ban kids from Lasso because it’s Facebook while letting them use TikTok, but in any case we can’t help wondering whether the Poke/Slingshot history is the guide here. Facebook’s best app to compete in the short-form-video space might be the one that tens of millions of teens already trust: Instagram. Still, as a sign of what’s possible with its UGC music-licensing deals, Lasso is well worth following carefully in the weeks ahead.

Stuart Dredge

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