With Teeth: Investigating Facebook’s new “share music” feature

Yesterday TheNextWeb reported that Facebook is rolling out a new “Share Music” button to your status update box which, when clicked, would allow you to share any song you like to your friends.

So how exactly will this work? My hope was that it would be akin to Tomahawk, i.e. if a friend shares a track, the song would play via whatever services you are subscribed to. That approach is complex though; Tomahawk works in that regard because it is a desktop client, into which you have “declared” which music services you use. Facebook does not have that luxury; it is an entirely browser-led experience.

In discussing this on Twitter with J Herskowitz, fellow user Juliano Polimeno pointed out that Facebook has enabled a “Linked Catalogues” function in an artist’s Page admin area, which the admins among you can view by visiting your Page, then clicking on Edit Page > Manage Music. It looks like this:

Facebook's new "Linked Catalog" area

Note that in the above area, Facebook states that “linked catalogues … will appear on your music tab”. This tab isn’t active on any Page I administrate, but I’m guessing it will be launching in due course. However the implication here is that artists will declare which services their catalogue is available on, and this will in turn dictate which services are used when someone links to their music.

So, in the example above, I have enabled Spotify and Rdio for Alt-J. I would assume therefore (not having had means to test the actual share function yet), that if someone then shared an Alt-J track, people would only be able to listen via either of those services and not via, for example, Yandex or Jelli.

In some respects then, this isn’t quite the same experience as Tomahawk, and still doesn’t deliver on the top-level resolver model I’ve written about before now. Make no mistake though, its a brilliant addition to Facebook’s functionality – one I sincerely wish they’d implemented in favour of the frictionless, low quality sharing we’ve been stuck with since F8. A friend sharing via this model would be valuable to me, as it is an explicit share. That’s a link I am infinitely more likely to click.

I also like that artists potentially have a say in where traffic is driven. After all, if links were to auto-resolve to non-paying stream services (e.g. Soundcloud), some artists and labels might well take issue. This method ensures artists feel empowered to steer people to their preferred services – perhaps not the open web I usually evangelise, but a rare example of rightsholders having some control over their content for once. Of course you could argue as ever that limiting people to the services that pay (or even pay the most?) may restrict your audience, but that is now the artist’s call. At least here if they choose to be restrictive and channel people to the wrong destinations they only have themselves to blame.

Something I can’t help hoping is that Facebook will at some point come clean and drop the frictionless sharing of music altogether in favour of this. Right now they have a serious signal/noise ratio problem, and if they were to turn off the sharing firehose in favour of a more qualitative approach like this, I’ve no doubt their user retention would only benefit.

DH

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