Of all of Apple’s failures, one of the tech company’s more disastrous was its move into social music sharing with Ping. Things got so bad that Lady Gaga, the social network’s face, publically called the results “underwhelming,” while Apple’s once-promising service didn’t even warrant a mention during WWDC earlier this month.
If anything, Ping highlights the inherent challenge of building a mass market social network around music, an industry that’s been more or less wrecked by the advent of MP3s and file sharing platforms. If users can download an album for free (and go largely unpunished), why would they go to an online service and listen to clips?
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Take for instance MySpace, whose ascent to one of the world’s most trafficked sites was followed by one of the web’s more spectacular flameouts. The first mainstream social network, in trying to rebuild its identity, famously reinvented itself as a resource for bands and music fans – and look how well that turned out.
“Music is something that is naturally social,” says Steve Jang, CEO of Soundtracking, a music sharing and discovery app that was launched at this past year’s South by Southwest conference. “Back in the day, it was an analog experience, such as playing music in your living room, going to concerts with friends and hanging out at the local record store.”
The difference in today’s digital age, however, is that listening to music requires a certain degree of immersion. You have to be in a situation where you’re primed to actually listen (like at your work desk).
Photosharing platforms like Instagram are currently booming because your reaction to an image is instantaneous – you can more or less decide if you like a photo right away – but with music? It takes time, even if it’s only for a few seconds.
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