Way back in the heady days of 2009, a leaked document revealed that Twitter aimed to be “the pulse of the planet.” The world may have changed since then and Twitter’s business strategy may have evolved, but that phrase still remains a key one, especially when it comes to the media.
In a world where the traditional music charts, TV ratings and box office receipts don’t necessarily reflect the media we consume, Twitter is well placed to harness the buzz and conversation around songs, shows and films that we’re buying, streaming – or even watching live in the case of music. In recent months, the company has been moving to turn this vague notion of ‘buzz’ into products it can potentially make money from.
Its partnership with Nielsen has TV covered, turning the conversation around top shows into a social ratings list that complements traditionally compiled viewing figures. With today’s launch of Twitter Music, it’s primed to do the same for the music charts.
Playing around with the new iOS and Web apps, it’s clear that Twitter has something here that will serve music fans reasonably well, but the real audience that the company is targeting is the music industry.
Hits over personalization
It’s telling that the app doesn’t put personalization front and center, like many music apps do. When you open Music, you’re presented with the ‘Popular’ tab. With PSY at number one, and well-known names like Pink, Paramore and Little Mix taking prime positions, this is more about reflecting that ‘pulse of the (musical) planet’ than it is about unearthing gems for your listening pleasure.
For the music industry, there’s a metric right here that will complement chart placings and ticket sales as a measure of popularity. ‘We were number one on Twitter!’ certainly represents a form of impact that’s valuable when assessing the popularity of an artist. Of course, Twitter isn’t quite as representative of the population as a whole as its rival Facebook is, but it’s much easier data to validate, free as it is of messy privacy controls – and hey, if it’s good enough for the TV industry…
Surprisingly good recommendations
I was skeptical about how good Twitter’s music recommendations would be – after all, most of us don’t necessarily follow others on Twitter for their music taste. I follow lots of interesting people, but their music taste is often so far removed from mine that it brings out the repressed music snob deep inside me that doesn’t understand how anyone could like the Black Eyed Peas.
As it turns out, the ‘Suggested’ tab on the iOS app harnesses your device’s music library to offer up (in my case at least) highly relevant recommendations – artists I may want to listen to. The #NowPlaying tab, which lists artists being tweeted about by people you follow is more hit-and-miss. Mine currently takes in artists as diverse as electro-rock hipsters YACHT (who I like) to Rick Astley (who I only in an affectionately ironic way). The people I follow on Twitter, it turns out, have varied tastes.
One tab that the app could (and should) add is local trends. It would be interesting to see what’s trending in the UK versus the USA, for example, and the music industry would appreciate it too. ‘The pulse of the planet’ is all well and good, but marketing budgets are often dealt with on a country-by-country basis.
It probably doesn’t matter that much to Twitter if you like this app or not
Twitter Music is an aggressive sell to the music industry. It says: “Twitter even more relevant than you may have realised and you should spend money advertising with us,” because after all, that’s what Twitter needs.
Sure, you might discover a couple of new bands thanks to Twitter Music, but the real value for Twitter is in the advertising dollars the people behind those bands are prepared to spend.