Poor Myspace. It’s been on its last air-guitar-riffing, crowd-surf-groping, drug-fuelled stagger for several years now. Indeed, the only thing that has kept its face from plunging into the vomit-filled toilet bowl of obscurity has been the way musicians have used the platform to self-promote… until now.
With the advent of Ping from Apple, the News Corp acquisition could be left ever more weakly pawing at the social media cistern (alongside Friendster) as Steve Jobs’ well-heeled boot plants, politely but firmly, on the back of the Myspace mullet.
Last.fm — Combining social networking with music is not a new concept.
Myspace first saw the rise of the initiative when it was still the Errol Flynn of truncated tweenie omglmao© u2cul8r missive management facilities. Several other platforms have broached the idea in different ways, not least among which is Last.fm, a more probable precursor to this most recent Apple amalgam.
The Last.fm music streaming platform (for those of us still struggling with the vagaries of the compact disc) profiles its users’ listening habits, gathering data not only from what’s streamed to their computers or contained in their collections, but also what they listen to on their mobile devices.
Using this information, other similar artists and musical styles are automatically collated and recommended, kind of like having your own personalised FM station (without the inane chatter and offers of ‘icy-cold Coca-Cola’).
Last.fm’s particular social networking capability includes the ability to browse the recommendations Last.fm is making to fellow users with similar musical tastes, as well as encouraging interaction with such users to enable more comprehensive musical browsing of bands, genres, events and their related media.
Facebook fights back with Pandora
This is not unlike the fairly recent marriage of facebook and Pandora.com; a similar streaming site to Last.fm that allows users to browse the musical tastes of their facebook friends (which, in my case, unearthed a shockingly lucid musical exposé of people I’d previously held dear.
I’m no musical snob, but I draw the line at the Brittany Spears of the world, or the questionably-coiffured warblings of Justin “Walnut Whip” Bieber and other such fashionable aficionados of the rotating rearwards hedge-drag).
The Ping that was announced on 1 September 2010 contained an element of Facebook functionality, hinting there may be some union between the two giants.
The capability was quickly removed after launch, however, when it came to light there’d been no permission sought from Facebook by Apple. Apple said Facebook’s demands had been ridiculous.
In a rapid battle of claim and counter-claim, each side squabbled under the discerning eye of public opinion before eventually agreeing that the other side were a big bunch of whiney losers. This was, of course, impressively attired in the soaring vernacular of the big business balloon dance.
It’s just not golf
By now, the more astute golfers among us may have realised Apple’s new baby shares a brand name with a popular golfing equipment trademark, owned by Karsten Manufacturing, which also manufactures top secret parts for military devices such as stealth bombers and the Abrams M-1 main battle tank.
Karsten Manufacturing released a statement following the launch, stating they had formed an agreement with Apple about the use of “Ping”.
Conspiracy theorists, especially those who play golf, may well be having conniption fits complimenting, and perhaps even exceeding in relative magnitude, those often shared after a particularly bad shot. (The downdraft from black helicopters is particularly disruptive, so I have been informed by the tinfoil hat brigade, during Super-Secret-Enemy-of-the-State-Observation Cup.)
iTunes versus Facebook
One could be excused for thinking the lack of Facebook integration might not bode well for the life of Ping.
Though obviously iTunes has a powerful presence, there is no guarantee it will make significant inroads into social networking domination without involving either Facebook or Twitter.
With multiple platforms to manage, users and advertisers will likely choose in favour of applications with not only the greatest penetration in the marketplace, but also its integration with other platforms.
In addition, frequent criticism of Ping’s lack of the networking facilities found in other applications, such as status updates, render it even more unattractive as a standalone networking tool.
What Ping means for the music industry
More even-handed praise has also been offered, however.
As a music networking platform, Wired reported that Ping had several advantages over its competitors, not least of which it is directly tied to the world’s largest purveyor of music.
As users follow their friends and their musical habits, buying the same song is but a single click away.
I can envision individual users in certain genres becoming taste-leaders, if you will, as they prowl the alleyways of their particular musical bent looking for a novel score.
Much like earlier social media platforms, gurus will emerge from the populace, with no previous celebrity, only this time forgoing personality to trade on their innate ability to spot musical acumen. Users follow, stars are made, and gurus become sought for their opinion or endorsement.
It’s a crazy concept, but it’s the way we’re heading as social media shrinks the world.
The traditional criteria used to achieve celebrity and the associated opportunities therein are being slowly eroded by the onward glacial movement of social media networking.
More specifically, the route map to discovering new music is being ripped from the grimy mitts of mere celebrities and record company executives, and placed in the hands of the consumer. Now, more than ever, consumers will be deciding who becomes the next musical sensation.
The evolution of ejecting record companies from the equation is almost complete, and Apple have just thrown their hat into the revolution ring.
Stefan Abrutat is an award-winning freelance writer, blogger and editor in a wide variety of fields, from sports to science, the philosophy of science, humourism, history, travel and food.