The social web has opened up opportunities in a variety of fields, and the music industry is no exception. Social music recommendations are a hot topic lately, but according to research into UK music users’ online music habits, more people still prefer finding new music via word of mouth and offline recommendations from friends and family. This means that the social music recommendation model has plenty of room to grow.
While hearing from your concert-loving friend that a certain band was great live might entice you to go out and buy the album, there some features that online social recommendations have that offline simply can’t provide. Think about sites like Last.fm that allow you to get recommendations from your friends, and then go one step further and let you preview a song or two before you buy. That way, you don’t settle in for a nice relaxing Sunday drive to a new CD, only to find out with an unpleasant jolt that your friend failed to mention the thrash metal leanings of their latest recommendation.
Or if previewing a song simply won’t cut it, what about exploring an entire genre and picking and choosing the songs or bands that really stand out to you? Sites like Meemix let users enter a song or choose from a list of their friends’ songs, and then listen to a “station” that is built around characteristics of that particular piece. This way, users can explore new music without really having to move out of their comfort zone, and could be a particularly effective method of enticing music lovers to purchase single songs if it were tied to a legal music download store.
Mixing social music recommendation with other social media is also an option. We recently reviewed Music Pets, a game that allows users to create a pet and manage its happiness and energy by visiting friends and sharing songs. This type of music-game crossbreed might sound a little “out there” at first, but it’s a great experiment and is particularly promising in terms of getting younger music lovers to share and purchase music online.
Record labels must adapt to the social web in order to stay in business. Beside adopting an online music-sharing model, they could also partner with social networks like Facebook to gain access to a plethora of social capital. Think about a music app from one of the big labels that could connect whatever desktop player a user has with their Facebook profile, letting friends with similar music “likes” in on what they’re listening to. Of course, this would have to include a one- or two-click purchase option so that potential buyers could find the MP3 and download it without any hassle.
Within all of these models are two features that must be present for success: social interaction and ease-of-use. Music lovers want to hear what their friends and family are listening to, and they want to access that information with only one or two clicks. If record labels can tackle these two features and make music sharing online a fun and easy experience, they’ll begin to see increasing success with the social music recommendation model.