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Twitter FM: How micro-blogging & music might work together

Posted by Sam Golden on 12th April 2013

Following the news that Twitter has bought the music discovery service We Are Hunted, the site is launching a new dedicated app ‘Trending Music Web’ over at https://music.twitter.com/.

While details on the app’s features are still thin on the ground, this could be an interesting development on a platform where thousands of musicians already tweet their material and engage with the community.

Twitter's new music app announced

We Are Hunted confirmed the acquisition deal this week following rumours throughout March.“While we are shutting down wearehunted.com, we will continue to create services that will delight you, as part of the Twitter team,” founder Stephen Phillips wrote in the note, adding “there’s no question that Twitter and music go well together.”

Why does anyone give a twit?

Well firstly, streaming music is definitely a market with potential for massive growth. According to the BPI, the streaming market is currently worth £49m to UK record labels and this number is likely to continue growing, as seen in countries such as Sweden, home of legendary tech startup Spotify, where streaming music accounts for 90% of digital music revenues.

What makes it difficult?

People will tell you that the web is a global marketplace and for many industries that’s true. However with music it’s a slightly different story. The potential is there but I think the industry just hasn’t caught up with technology yet.

Complex and archaic licensing laws mean that companies must navigate a legal minefield of labels, managers and artists to ensure everyone is getting their slice of the pie. This might not come as a big surprise but the fact this has to be done on a per region and per country basis might be. This is the reason it took Spotify so long to enter the US and Switzerland, where I’m guessing four official languages and 26 cantons for a population of under 8 million made it a difficult market to enter cost-effectively.

This doesn’t mean there isn’t potential. As I learnt at the 3Beards event ExEE last month licensing reform is something everyone in the industry is interested in and some tech startups have already started working on a solution.

Music to my ears

I believe that as social media continues to empower the individual, the marketing functions of more and more large organisations will struggle to pin down, target and affect their audiences in the same way they have before. Just as word of mouth recommendations have such an effect offline, the same can be seen on the web.

The reason I think Twitter and music recommendation services will work so well together is everyone likes their recommendations to come from people, not companies. McDonalds will obviously recommend you try the Filet-o-Fish because they’ll profit from it. Just as Columbia records will claim floppy-haired ponces, One Direction, is the sound of our generation, despite the music being written by 60-year-old chain-smoking executives.

Ok that last sentence might have been there to deliberately troll the masses of 1D fans on Twitter but my point still stands. People like recommendations to come from people and the internet empowers us to do this globally.

As a team member of a music blog myself, I’ve seen thousands of readers thanking our writers for the recommendations they’ve given. The reason we’re trusted? We don’t have an ulterior motive. We share music that we love in the hope that other people will too.

Deception and déjà vu

Integration of a music discovery app not only gives Twitter the ability to capitalise on the wealth of big musicians using their platform, but it also, perhaps depressingly, turns the millions of users into marketing channels for new content they didn’t even realise existed. I’m guessing in a boardroom somewhere in San Francisco we’re probably all being referred to as ‘Marketing Conduits’ or some equally sanitised term.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has done this though. As PR pro and tech journalist, @MaxTB pointed out in January, Twitter’s previous acquisition of Vine wasn’t just so you can make fun videos, it was Twitter’s route to selling visual ads in your stream.

Yet despite the slightly cynical reasoning of Twitter’s acquisition I’ve given above, social media continues to be an amazing tool for bringing people together to discuss things they love. Just as Bulletin Boards did in the 90s, microblogging platforms like Twitter give us the ability to discover more about the things we care about.

How the plans for Twitter’s trending music web app play out is yet to be seen, but as the music industry continues to change at such a rapid pace it’ll be interesting to see how this affects labels and empowers artists in the way I think it should.