I’ve shown up excessively late for parties. I know how it feels. Everyone else has settled into the mood of the thing and, after several conversations and drinks, become comfortable with the direction of the evening. They’re all having a good time and, regardless of how you try to catch up with the ongoing festivities, it’s often impossible to grab onto the same wavelength as everyone else. It’s an uncomfortable sensation that can ruin a potentially great event through the simple inconvenience of bad timing.
Facebook, with the announcement of its new music service, might get to know this feeling very well in the coming months.
Facebook Music (as I guess it should be called pending a proper name) looks to be coming — and coming very soon. Jon Fortt, CNBC’s technology correspondent, revealed the “breaking news” yesterday on CNBC’s Fast Money Halftime Report. The relevant quote has Fortt describing that he’s “hearing from someone familiar with the plans that Facebook plans to launch its long rumored music service at the F8 Conference on September 22nd.” He went on to say that “it seems likely that Facebook won’t actually host the music, but will partner with others who do.”
It seems like a good decision — Facebook plunging into the social music pool — but the timing, as mentioned above, may be a bit off. Facebook Music will be going head to head with Music Beta by Google (currently the focus of some new corporate attention) alongside already established offerings from Apple and Amazon. As we’ve seen through the public’s waning interest in Music Beta by Google (itself suffering from the same problem that Facebook Music may ultimately face — alienating an excited public by creating apathy during the wait for long-expected services) it can be difficult to determine how, exactly, a new music service, even one created by an internet giant, will catch on. The iron grip imposed by iTunes doesn’t look to be faltering anytime soon and even the heady promise of Cloud-based storage/streaming hasn’t made a sufficient dent in the industry’s currently successful business model of smaller per-song/per-album payments and downloads.
Facebook’s deeply loyal userbase could be enough to attract an initial fanbase however. If the service offers something truly innovative (or is even just more perfectly streamlined than the competition) it could be enough to upset the current balance of listeners and shake up the social music scene. Proper, unobtrusive integration of the service into current versions of the Facebook client could help to make for a natural transition but overt, on-site marketing could have the opposite effect. Facebook will have to have some pretty impressive concepts in place — and functional — before late September if they want to take advantage of their existing audience without driving them over to the similar double-whammy of Google’s Music Beta and Google+ social music cohort.
But, for now, all speculation is based on just that: speculation. Without the benefit of any details, aside from a prospective launch date, there isn’t much to do but wait and see if Facebook has arrived to the party in the nick of time or far too late.