Defining the next era of social music

From the early days of file sharing to the success of Myspace and, more recently, to the explosion of music playlist and recommendation sites and apps, music has proven itself to be the most social of all content on the web.

But you ain’t seen nothing yet. As Om suggests in his post on the alive web, the future of the web will increasingly be about immersive, communal experiences, and music itself is the type of content that will benefit most. This is because, well before the Internet, the experience of listening and enjoying music has always been as much about the people you listen with as those you listen to.

And now, with a more immersive web experience — the alive web — online music is taking more of the off-line elements of community — immediacy, intimacy, self-forming communities — and creating a new era in social music.

Social music will increasingly leverage not only the power of community, personalization and curation at a much deeper level but also the ability to create music content within a community context. In other words, by allowing immediate creation and sharing of tracks through online tools and providing the artist with immediate feedback, social music is now as much about creation as it is curation.

Below is a chart that breaks down the social music evolution path, illustrating how we’re moving beyond simple social playlisting into a world of immersive social curation and creation.


Source: GigaOM Pro

The Myspace era was largely defined by one large social network that gave music fans and musicians the ability to express their tastes within a single, confined network. The second era, the social playlist era, was driven by API integration with the large social networks, where social music apps became networks on top of more-popular networks, leveraging the scale of Facebook or Twitter.

So how is this third era of social music different? As exemplified by (currently in beta), the new era of social music is not so much about scaling wider but going deeper. It’s about taking this world of API-driven integration into increasingly communal curation and creation and allowing communities to engage with one another online in ways previously only possible in the off-line world. While you could curate and share your playlist before, you can now get together and listen, comment in real time, vote and connect. Meanwhile, sites like SoundCloud and Audioboo allow you to create music and then share it immediately. Your community can connect and comment on the music, all the way down to the details in an individual track.

The exploding interest in sites like comes at an interesting time, when online music is seeing increased validation through the success of sites like Spotify and Pandora (the latter of which just IPO’d this week; its market valuation was to the tune of over $3 billion). These sites, no doubt, are highly compelling and provide a fast-growing audience with a different way to access music.

With interest in new online music distribution offerings growing so quickly among mainstream audiences, it’s worth asking, Just how widely adopted will these newer, more social music offerings become? After all, immersive experiences require a bigger investment of attention and time, and not everyone wants to be a DJ.

The reality is that these sites will quite likely never see the same amount of adoption as lower-investment, less-immersive experiences like Pandora. But that said, passive consumption of a site like Turntable is both possible and probable, and in fact it may become the dominant consumption mode for many consumers of these other services in time.

Consume first, and engage if you so desire.

Question of the week

How will social affect the next era of music?