So what did happen? Well, it's actually quite simple. Facebook signed up 16 music services including Spotify, SoundCloud, MOG and Rhapsody then plugged them directly into Facebook. When you listen to a track in Spotify, Facebook knows. More importantly, all your friends know too as it appears in a constantly updating ticker on their Facebook page. To make all this work, you just fire up your favourite music service, authorise it using your Facebook details and the rest happens by magic. There are a few extra goodies Facebook threw in to the mix. When a friend pops up in your ticker with an interesting track, just click it to launch the music service and start listening as too. Even better, if they are currently listening, it will synchronise both music players so you can listen together. You can also get an overview of your friends' listening history and discover which track was most popular among your network. Neat stuff.
How it actually does this is also quite simple too. The music service pulls all the data together, such as your Facebook ID, the artist, album, cover art image and so on and pings it over to Facebook. Facebook takes the information, puts it in the right places and updates everyone. This feature is actually open to anyone with a music service, but the 16 chosen ones have some extra functionality you won't get.
All good so far. But there are a few niggles to be aware of. I fell foul of the main one almost immediately. I was researching a Queen cover band so naturally fired up Spotify to hear the real thing. On returning to Facebook I discovered a comment thread where my mates poked fun at my listening habits. Ok, I had an excuse (honest) but those guilty pleasure playlists you indulge in may need to be reined in. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Luckily, some of the music platforms have added a 'private listening' option for such occasions.
You also need to be a member of the same music service as your friends to share music. If they shared a track via Rdio, you have to have Rdio too. Great for the music services, as it promotes new downloads but maybe a bit tedious for us.
So now you know how it works, the obvious question is how can brands get involved? We all know our audiences are all on Facebook (no matter who they are) and music is such a powerful reflection of your personality and aspirations, surely this is gold dust for marketeers and brands? Well, as it stands, it's not as open to exploitation as it seems.
Those 16 companies have a special deal with Facebook. They get top-shelf promotion and integration with special Facebook developer commands at their disposal. So one route is to go to them directly and do a deal, whether it's a basic advertiser package or innovative one-off stunt. It's up to you how integrated you can make it. As a random example, you could set up a Facebook brand page with competition details. You could then set up a matching profile in Spotify. Play winning tracks at certain times, which will get published on Facebook to your followers, who can click it to link to a special Spotify page running a targeted ad or competition. Phew! Good luck with that.
The other option is to wait for those special Facebook developer commands to become available. There are some interesting commands that sound like they should give your Facebook page or app access to your fans' music. This would open up opportunities to suggest products, services, draw interesting conclusions based on the wider community, dynamically create branded good to match your music or discover who's playing the most guilty pleasure track of the moment. It can be as innovative as your imagination will allow.
However, no date has been announced to release those all-important commands. So for now, there is no silver bullet, no simple 'sponsor a track' option, no branded virtual game where everyone drinks virtual cola listening to gigs based on their music history. Facebook Music doesn't seem to be an easy-win band wagon, yet. There is still a LOT than can be done, you just have to think smart. No change there then.
Dino Burbridge is the creative director of Noise Inc.