Music is a social sport best played with friends. Whether word-of-mouth music discovery happens in person, through a messaging app, or through some sort of live broadcast, it’s always a special thing. So much so that there have been many attempts to form social networks solely around music. Music lovers look for the thrill of finding a new song or a new artist sooner rather than later. Sadly, none of these music-focused social services have been able to stick out in any meaningful way.
Instead, people are heading to general purpose networks like Facebook groups, Reddit, Twitter, Clubhouse rooms, and more. for social music discovery, because that’s where their friends are. The biggest opportunity for social listening in the future, however, is right at the source. Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and other music streaming services could be the hangouts of modern record stores if they wanted. They aren’t there yet, but they have some social listening features that could help you find out what your friends are listening to and share your likes with others.
“We believe music discovery happens through a combination of our personalized and editorial curated playlists and product features that connect listeners on a platform,” said Sten Garmark, vice -President of Products at Spotify.
“When we initially launched our group session in beta in May 2020, we saw a positive reaction from our users, but we quickly learned that listeners all over the world are thirsty for the remote listening feature,” Garmark said. “So we took the group session even further in July 2020, with a brand new feature that allows Spotify Premium users around the world to simultaneously connect to the same playlist or podcast. The feature is currently still in beta, and we’ll continue to solicit user feedback to evolve and innovate the experience over time.
Neither Apple Music nor Pandora have features yet that will allow friends to listen to music simultaneously, but they could be on their way. Pandora, in particular, launched its digital radio service based on its musical discovery, assisted by its Music Genome project. While it does integrate listeners’ feedback through its Thumbs Up buttons, those integrations are only very loosely related to the influence of listening to friends with Thumbprint Radio.
“Pandora invented personalized online music discovery at scale and has remained an innovation leader in the industry,” said Chris Phillips, executive vice president and chief product and technology officer at SiriusXM / Pandora. “Sharing is at the heart of amplifying discovery, so we make it as easy as possible for Pandora users to share their favorite songs, albums, playlists and stations with their friends and networks. “
After a year of social distancing, more social characteristics would be invaluable. None of the music services we spoke to were willing to discuss their plans for better social listening. There are, however, many opportunities for these services to create sticky environments.
On the other side of the entertainment industry, video streaming platforms like Disney +, Hulu, and Sling have all quickly added social viewing features. These product enhancements include synchronized video playback with friends and enable interactions ranging from sending emojis to showing viewers live video alongside the content. Can this rapid adoption of more social features work for Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music to encourage more listening with others? Or is it largely a pipe dream of some music nerds?