And Then There Was the Facebook Play Button…

Last week we saw the launch of the Facebook Timeline for Artists and the Spotify Play Button, neither of which were without controversy (click on the links for more).  Now we have the two trends pulled together with the Facebook Listen Button.  The Facebook Listen Button gives artists a Listen button integrated into the front-end of their profile page which when clicked starts their music playing in the music app of the user.

The Good News: Elegant User Experience

  • This is an elegantly simple integration, that is uncluttered and allows a user to achieve their goal quickly and simply
  • It brings further consistency to Facebook artist pages, putting into practice the lessons learned from the anarchic chaos that was MySpace artist pages
  • It will help drive usage of streaming music services

The Bad News: Problematic Integration

  • The same player-integration issues apply to the Facebook Listen Button as do to the Spotify Play Button: a visitor has to a) be a user of one of the supported streaming music services and then b) has to have the app open.  Both of which are speed bumps in the user experience, especially if the visitor isn’t a user of a supported music service, perhaps because they live in a country where the services aren’t yet available
  • Following being shunted off the artist profile front page by the Timeline, artist apps like BandPage, Reverb Nation and FanRX have effectively had their usability further downgraded by their play buttons being a couple of clicks away from the front page compared to the front page click of the Facebook Listen Button


Overall the Facebook user wins here.  The Listen Button is not intended as the consumption mode of choice for aficionado fans, it is a quick discovery tool for people new to the artist who want to learn more.  And with this key use case in mind, the design and implementation is clean, elegant and (reasonably) convenient.  But the flip side is that those artist apps find themselves further let down by the implementation.  Strategically this matters not so much for those apps (though of course to the companies themselves it will feel like a kick in the ribs while on the floor) but instead for what it says about Facebook’s ecosystem and platform aspirations.  Though these apps are a miniscule detail in Facebook’s Socially Integrated Web Strategy, developers will be looking at their experience and trying to learn whether this is a precedent for how Facebook treats its developer partners or just a blip.  Facebook needs to ensure that it is the latter and that this is known clearly and widely.

For now, Facebook has momentum to spare and developers will willingly swallow the risk for a stab at reaching the largest single digital audience on the global web.  But Facebook’s Socially Integrated Web Strategy depends upon those developers helping ensure that momentum is maintained.  Long term Facebook needs the developers as much as they need it.  Facebook may be the future for now  but that confidence could be beginning to beget hubris.  Remember, MySpace used to be the future too.

6 thoughts on “And Then There Was the Facebook Play Button…

  1. It must be terrible to be an artist with a name that’s also used by another artist/band that has slightly more popular tracks on [insert supported service]. No control over what users will hear when the click play…

  2. I suppose it depends upon to what degree the integration goes beyond artist name

  3. I don’t know. I think it is a win for Spotify if the app has to be open while you are on Facebook. It gets their company name out there to Facebook users in a practical way (via the artist music page that the user likes) I think Facebook and Spotify could be a pretty decent strategic alliance.

  4. Yes, fully agree this is a win for Spotify, it is an extension of the Spotify Play Button marketinig funnel strategy. Facebook and Spotify have a mutually beneficial relationship at present.

  5. The most important part of the deal is the addition of five new categories to the Section 115 of the Copyright Act. This section deals with mechanical royalty rates, and if the deal is approved, going forward Section 115 will cover mixed service bundles, paid locker services, purchased content lockers, subscription-based service covering specific genres or playlists, and music bundles.

  6. “The Listen Button is not intended as the consumption mode of choice for aficionado fans, it is a quick discovery tool for people new to the artist who want to learn more.”

    Agreed. I think you’re going to see a new breed of music apps that focus more on building direct relationships and activating the top of their fanbase. A relationship that goes beyond the consumption of previously released recorded content.

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