In August 2018, we published an article questioning what ‘social music’ is in the streaming age, which included a (slightly depressing, in hindsight) rundown of past failures at wedding social features and music. Among them was a catalogue of music-discovery gamification services – fantasy labels or league tables of friends’ track-spotting skills – which included Thesixtyone and the original TheNextBigSound; NoiseToys’ HitMaker mobile game; TasteMakerX; Tradiio; and 2018’s latest spin on the idea Laylo. “Hear me whimper each and every time when none of my friends bother to sign up, and no sustainable business model for these services emerges,” was our lament.
Might the prospects for this sort of thing have changed in 2020 though? Industry newsletters Water and Music (written by Cherie Hu) and Trapital (written by Dan Runcie) have run a fun ‘mutual takeover’ where each journalist pens an opinion piece for the other’s publication, addressing the question of whether there’s legs in a musical equivalent of fantasy sports games. Both are well worth a read. “While that goal of activating influencers and tastemakers is certainly relevant and important for the music industry’s future, the specific application of fantasy-sports tactics to do the job has yet to be proven,” is Hu’s verdict. “As some point, a successful product will be built to mitigate the challenges. Even if it only serves the ‘nerd corner’ of music culture, there’s still an opportunity,” is Runcie’s take. Plenty of food for thought.