LinkedIn post

for Matthew Talbot, Senior Vice President, Emerging Solutions at BlackBerry

How Social Commerce Is Changing the Music Business

As Steve Jobs famously said, “The first iPod…didn’t just change the way we listen to music—it changed the entire music industry.” But it wasn’t just the iPod. It was the combination of the iPod and the iTunes music store that together introduced a new way to purchase and listen to music. Today, social media is completing the picture for digital music, giving us a new way to discover new acts and share our favorites.

Music marketing has always had a social aspect to it, whether it was going to live music clubs, playing records with a group of friends, tuning into a favorite radio program, or sharing a set of headphones. We’ve always learned about music through word of mouth, friends, and family. Now that we’re all connecting via social media platforms, of course, music has arrived there as well.

Building a New Model

There’s a sea change going on in the music industry right now, where the old business model is crumbling — mostly attributable to the digitization of music and the ease of stealing it through services like Napster. What will replace the old model isn’t yet clear, but there are promising ideas in the landscape. And social media will certainly play a role.

If you doubt the effect social media can have, just remember back to the summer of 2012. That’s when the K-pop super hit “Gangnam Style” by the artist Psy became an international phenomenon because of social media. To promote the song, Psy’s music label uploaded the video to YouTube and tweeted it to fans. The video quickly went viral, which led to articles in Billboard and The Huffington Post, as well as TV coverage on CNN. Soon, the song was everywhere. The video became the first to hit one billion views on YouTube in December 2013, and has garnered another billion since.

No Shortage of Ideas

Shazam, the app that “listens” to songs in your environment (playing in a café, in your car, on the TV) and tells you what they are, was a groundbreaking music discovery app. Hear a song you like, and you can “Shazam” it to find out the name and the artist, then click a button to Amazon, Beats Music, Google Play, iTunes, Rdio, Spotify, or YouTube to listen to the song or buy and download it. Now, Shazam is adding more social features, allowing you to share the songs you tag on social media platforms.

The subscription services are also leveraging social media platforms, posting the tracks you’re listening to on Facebook.

Facebook continues to experiment with different features that post to your timeline whatever you’re listening to. The company seems convinced that there’s a way to marry music sharing with its social platform, but hasn’t found the right one yet.

Besides Shazam, there are lots of apps vying to help you discover music you’ve never heard before, by having you tell them your favorite genres, bands, and artists, and then suggesting others you might like based on your favorites.

Labels Experiment

The “old guard” music labels know change is in the air, and they’re trying new things as well. Acknowledging that social and digital media make distribution more democratic, all the major labels have now split off divisions that offer services à la carte to independent recording artists, instead of only as part of contract, as used to be the norm.

Universal Music Group has also worked with a social analytics platform to help artists generate money from their social media followings.

Messaging Apps Join the Party

There’s now a whole class of music messaging apps, where instead of sending a text, photo, or emoji, you send a song. These include La-La, PingTune, Rithm, and Soundwave.

Established messaging apps are tapping into the devices they run on to publish what you’re listening to on your device with your contacts. It’s a great way to share, and doesn’t require any extra effort once you’ve set it up.

It’s not much of a leap to imagine that messaging apps, which are selling stickers and games, will also offer music purchases, or at least links to content providers where you can buy. That would really be a seamless and satisfying experience: 1) see that your friend is listening to a new band, 2) check out the band, 3) buy the song or album for yourself. All in a few minutes and a few taps.

As messaging continues to establish itself as the entry point for our social-mobile interactions, I believe these apps will become the key platforms for music fans to discover, listen to, and buy music. And as “Gangnam Style” proved, social media can take music to the world state faster, and in a more spectacular way, than ever before.


Read the post in situ on LinkedIn.