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As predicted, Facebook is officially launching music videos, courtesy of licensing deals with all three major labels plus indie licensing agency Merlin, as well as BMG, Kobalt, and other labels, publishers and collecting societies.

It’s not a global launch. For now, it’s in the US, as well as in India and Thailand, where the new feature has been in testing already. Facebook has no news (yes, we asked) to share on expanding to other markets at this point.

“Starting this weekend, you’ll be able to discover, watch, and share music videos from today’s top artists to up-and-coming bands and classics across various music genres on Facebook,” announced a blog post by VP of music business development and partnerships Tamara Hrivnak and VP of entertainment Vijaye Raji.

From today, there will be a dedicated section for music videos on Facebook Watch, the social network’s video hub, with options to browse by genre, artist and mood, as well as curated playlists.

“Over time, the experience will become more personalized to your tastes based on artists you follow and videos you engage with,” explained the announcement.

Facebook hasn’t updated its public stats on Facebook Watch viewership in a while, but in June 2019, it was attracting more than 140 million people a day, and 720 million a month – although the bar to be counted in those totals was quite low: it was anyone who’d spent at least one minute in Watch in the period covered.

Music videos will also be displayed within artists’ pages on Facebook. However, the promise is also that music videos will fit neatly into Facebook’s wider social features.

“Like any video on Facebook, music videos can be shared, reacted to, and commented on. With social sharing across News Feed, Groups, and Messenger, now you can share music videos that are important to you or reflect your current mood,” explained the announcement.

“You can discover a new artist from a music video shared by a friend in News Feed, connect with fans who share your passion in a Facebook Group dedicated to your favorite artist, and react to a video in real time as it premieres.”

This kind of messaging is something that Facebook is putting out more widely. Witness CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments on video (in response to a question about game streamers) during the company’s earnings call yesterday:

“The value proposition is community. And that’s true for all kinds of creators who are posting content and video, like what we’re doing in Watch as well,” he said.

“Our channels are ones where you’re not just distributing content, but you’re building up a community and able to communicate with people in a number of ways, which is something that is just a lot harder to do on YouTube or Twitch or other products like that, even though those are also great products for streaming.”

Facebook says it is already working with artists and labels on turning music video launches into marketing events, tying in existing features across its platform and apps.

“In the coming weeks, we’re excited for global music video premieres happening exclusively on Facebook, including exclusive music video content from J. Balvin, Karol G, Sebastian Yatra, Alejandro Fernandez, and Calibre 50,” explained Hrivnak and Raji.

“Fans can also expect the exclusive premiere of the official music video for a new track from Lele Pons, who will be going live on Facebook in advance to connect with fans and build excitement. In addition, Panamanian R&B singer Sech will be exclusively releasing a new video on Facebook and engaging fans in the leadup through tools like Live, countdown stickers in Stories, and fan Groups.”

Today’s announcement adds that Facebook’s music videos catalogue will be growing in the coming weeks – it hasn’t said what the size of that catalogue is at launch – and promises “more features to help music lovers share, discover and connect around music on Facebook” in the future.

Today’s news isn’t a huge surprise. In December last year Bloomberg reported on the Thailand and India tests, and claimed it was pursuing licensing deals with the three major labels.

Then, in July this year, documents sent to the owners of artist pages leaked, revealing a 1 August deadline for preparing those pages for the official music videos launch.

At this point, details of the terms of the licensing deals – specifically the royalties that music videos will be generating on Facebook and how they’ll be shared – are not public.

It’s an important moment for the music industry though: more competition for YouTube, which has for so long been the dominant player in terms of music video viewing.

Apple Music added a catalogue of music videos to its service in March 2018, and there has recently been speculation that Spotify is planning something around music videos – famed app-cracker Jane Manchun Wong found evidence in Spotify’s app of “a tab to switch between Canvas, Album Art, and Video” on Spotify’s ‘Now Playing’ screen.

(While we’re on rumours, the boss of distributor Believe Digital recently alluded to discussions with TikTok about official music video experiments within its app too.)

YouTube paid more than $3bn to music industry rightsholders in 2019, and for now it very much remains the top dog for music videos. But strong competition is good, and Facebook has the potential to provide it.

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