Pundits are raving about Apple’s new music social network, but there are a number of elements of Ping that seem old-fashioned and backward-looking to me. I’ll describe the ways that Ping is last-generation, and sketch out the next-generation, listener-centric music social network of the future.
First, the social network is tied to a player of downloaded music. Meanwhile, streaming services represent an increasing share of listening time.
Second, the social network is tied to a particular player. One of my favorite music tools is still last.fm, because it assembles a picture of music you are listening to in almost any player or service – iTunes, MySpace, Mog, Pandora, Rdio, Spotify, Hype Machine – you name it. I can look at my music history, and the music history of friends.
Third, Ping is not long tail friendly. It doesn’t allow profile pages for Indie artists. At least at first seems biased toward the most popular of stars. When I logged in, Ping recommended that I follow Lady GaGa, Katy Perry, Yo-Yo Ma, U2, Linkin Park, and Jack Johnson. One of the reasons to us a social network service is to discover music through your friends, not to discover the megastars you can already find on Entertainment Tonight!
Ping is not long-tail friendly for artists or listeners. It forces listeners to choose very broad, mass-market-type genres – Rock, or Country, or Jazz – when listener-defined tags provide more a accurate and nuanced picture of music.
The music social network of the future isn’t tied to a specific player, or the location of the music (in the cloud or on your personal hardware). Like Last.fm, it lets you record and browse music by people, regardless of where that music is stored and played.
The music social network of the future isn’t tied to a specific piece of software. Unlike Last.fm, it doesn’t use a proprietary format to record listening – it uses the open ActivityStrea.ms format to record and gather listening from any player, in many different software tools.
The music social network of the future isn’t even tied to a specific social network. Instead, you can have different social contexts – your favorite club or local open mic, the Outside Lands festival or Monterey Jazz, fellow Phish fans, Pitchfork or your favorite online music site — and your friends from all walks of life in Facebook. In the different social contexts, you might want to share different aspects of your personality, different favorites, plan different events.
The music social network of the future embraces the long tail. There is no mass market gatekeeper governing who can have a profile – Lady Gaga and Zoe Keating and a friend recording in her basement can have profiles, and cultivate their own communities of fans. Listener-defined tags are used to create a nuanced picture, so Toumani Diabate can be found under Mali and Kora, not just the hopelessly vague “World Music.”
The music social network of the future is about the listener, and her friends in the different social contexts in which she listens to, experiences, and shares music.