Will Facebook Join Streaming Music Brigade?

Originally posted on MediaPost

Twitter cozied up to iTunes and SoundCloud. Apple spent $3 billion to buy Beats, and that news was followed almost immediately by the release of Amazon Prime streaming music. Google bought streaming music player Songza and just launched YouTube Music Key.

It seems that all the big players are doubling down on streaming. Yet in all these discussions, it also seems there is one major player being left out. Everyone at the dance has found a partner with the exception of Facebook. Zuckerberg is standing alone in the corner, watching all the other couples pair off and dance.

It’s true that streaming music makes sense for some in different ways than others. Apple has long been a juggernaut in transforming the consumption of digital music; it is now looking to leverage its Beats acquisition to bolster iTunes and raise its profile on the streaming side of the equation.

Amazon is priming the pump with its new Amazon Prime music service, paired with its latest Kindle devices. Google has made a big investment in YouTube, which all the kids are using to listen to music these days. In fact, according to recent Edison Research, 83% of 12-24 year-olds use YouTube to discover new music.

Still, many of the big companies that aren’t typically associated with music are showing up to the dance as well. And who can blame them? Streaming music was a $1.4 billion industry in 2013 and that number is growing quickly.

For all of these tech heavyweights, it’s really about engagement and time spent on their properties, in their apps, on their devices — and audio services are increasingly strategic as that constant companion. It is always in our ear at work and play, and not interruptive as other visual advertising vehicles can be.

Combined with the popularity of audio on mobile devices, which rarely leave people’s hands, audio (music, podcast, spoken word) is the soundtrack of our lives.

It’s a clash of the Tech Titans between Apple, Google and Amazon — and Facebook is quietly (at least publicly) standing by the wall. However, what lurks below may be interesting, and perhaps we’ll find out soon. Facebook is keenly attuned to user engagement and time-spent.

As it grows its core base, it has recognized when and where people spend their time, swooping in to buy Instagram and WhatsApp (out from under Google, reportedly) as more people spend increasing amounts of time sharing pictures and messaging.

The Internet audio and music services audience is too big to ignore and aligns perfectly as a complement to Facebook’s current portfolio of products. So when the music stops, will the man with the hoodie be left without a dance partner, or will Facebook get out on the dance floor and show off its moves?

Who do you think Facebook will ask to its first Internet audio dance?