For more than a year, Twitter has been addressing music. Its 241m monthly users are closer now than ever before to bridging the divide between artists and their fans. A year ago it acquired the Australian-based music data platform We Are Hunted, after which it signed, in succession, Ticketmaster president Nathan Hubbard as head of music commerce and Bob Moczydlowsky, from the marketing camps of Topspin Media, as head of music.1 Moreover, despite pulling the #Music app from the Apple store, Twitter has made some headway with partnerships and made some needed adjustments to their overall music strategy.
Initially, Twitter’s flagship music app generated a buzz. It was launched on the iTunes store in April 2013 (and, before then, shared exclusively with a few celebrities like Wiz Khalifa and Ryan Seacrest). It reached its peak at #6 on the Apple’s free app chart but was abruptly shutdown on April 18. The app was meant to enable users to find trending songs and to detect what music favorite artists were listening to. The concept was attractive, but Twitter could not make it work. Some reasons are listed below.
The effort was meant to entice an older demographic. The company announced the app on the popular morning show Good Morning America, a show geared towards an older crowd. But it was fighting a losing battle from the start: nearly one-third of 18 to 29 year-olds use Twitter, compared to one in ten of 50 to 64 year-olds.2
Also, user retention was hindered because Twitter had no music licensing agreements. As a result, it had to direct their #Music users towards competitors like Rdio and Spotify to listen to the full song, and then only if the user registered. The alternative was a thirty-second preview in an iTunes snippet built into the app.3
Other factors to consider were the lack of integration within the main Twitter feed, which must have alienated registered users, and the fact that many were having difficulty understanding the methodology of the rankings. As Jay Frank, chief executive of the label DigSin, said “we had songs on our label that had more retweets than charting songs, yet we wouldn’t show up on the #Music chart; after a few times of seeing the disparity, we just stopped looking”.4 Indeed, #Music ultimately ranked at #165 in the free music app category rankings of the iTunes store—a dismal showing.
Fortunately for Tweeter, interest in the social media site is still strong within the industry
Lyor Cohen, CEO of Warner Music Group for eight years, recently launched the pioneering music company 300 Entertainment. A few well-placed individuals, he believes, can change the music business and pop culture for the better. The company concept goes back to the war between Sparta and Persia in 480 BC, “a battle that changed the way wars were fought; [if you forces were] well synchronized, strategic, loyal, with great planning and preparedness much more could be done with less.”5 For instance, why would Cohen need to hire A&R staff in quantity when Twitter’s data could help simplify the task? The idea behind 300 is to both to sift through Twitter’s music intelligence and also collaborate with Twitter building tools to facilitate the discovery of promising talent. Cohen believes the social media company has not been given enough credit yet for how much it does for artists.
The Cohen-Tweeter partnership has increased awareness of the Tweeter brand in music. Billboard is now joining in. On March 27, Twitter announced a multi-year exclusive partnership to provide the world with “the first-ever real-time chart”, aggregating data from conversations taking place on Twitter in the US. The live-chart will live on Billboard.com, alongside the 200 exclusive charts it houses, and will be shared multiple times a week on Billboard’s Twitter page: @billboard. Tweeter claims that the earlier lessons learnt from its #Music app are now being put to good use.
Artists and their fans are avid users of the social media platform and will be greatly affected by these various changes, possibly altering their interaction with the site. And as data increasingly becomes a commodity today, the key to lasting success is being able to discern what information is valuable, and how it can be used.
It seems that the San Francisco based company has taken an introspective look at who the people they cater to are, all while understanding how much others can benefit from their data. ”We want music business decisions to be based on Twitter data”, says Bob Moczydlowsky, “and we want artists to know that when they share songs and engage with their audience on Twitter, the buzz they create will be visible to fans and industry decision-makers.”6 Twitter, in short, is repositioning itself as more than just a micro-blogging platform, and the music industry is coming along nicely.
By Nina Thistlethwaite
1. “Twitter to End Its Music App, Which Never Made Much Noise”, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/business/media/twitter-to-end-its-music-app-which-never-made-much-noise.html?_r=0