Facebook Prepares to Integrate Music

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Facebook Inc. is preparing changes designed to make the site a hub for listening to music, watching movies and playing videogames, according to people familiar with the matter, in much the same way people already use the social network to share personal media like photos and videos.

Facebook has told media executives in recent days that it will begin letting online music services such as Spotify AB and Rdio Inc. publish user activity on Facebook pages, much like actions such as adding friends or "liking" websites.

The move is part of a larger effort at Facebook to improve the discovery of all types of media content on the site.

If finalized, the changes could be announced at Facebook's f8 developer conference in late September, said a person familiar with the matter.

The Facebook initiative is designed to integrate the social-media giant more closely with services that let users stream free music or an unlimited amount of music for a monthly fee. By contrast, Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. recently started "cloud" music services that let users upload their personal music collections to remote servers and listen to them remotely, and Apple Inc. is preparing to start a similar offering.

CNBC reported Wednesday that Facebook was working to create a music platform. In response, Facebook said: "Many of the most popular music services around the world are integrated with Facebook and we're constantly talking to our partners about ways to improve these integrations."

In some cases, music services could create a player that would sit within Facebook, letting users hear music without leaving the site. However, the music itself would still be delivered through the third-party service, which users would be required to log in to before listening. Such players wouldn't be mandatory, these people said, so that if a user wanted to listen to a Facebook friend's Spotify playlist, that person might need to switch applications to hear it.

These people said that the new arrangement wouldn't represent a partnership with any particular music service. In practice, however, Spotify could benefit more from the changes because the music service offers more free music than its competitors. That in turn could mean that Facebook users could sign up for Spotify and listen to friends' playlists without paying.

One of the media executives said Facebook was encouraged to pursue the plan after its success with social games made by companies like Zynga Inc., the maker of FarmVille.

Meanwhile, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. movie studio in recent months has begun renting movies on Facebook. As with the proposed music offerings, users watch the movies, including "The Dark Knight" and "Yogi Bear," on Facebook, but they are delivered by third parties. Warner Bros. charges 30 to 40 Facebook credits for the rentals, with the site taking a 30% fee - its standard cut of transactions using its proprietary currency. A Facebook credit is worth 10 cents (Source : Wall Street Journal).
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