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Twitter #Music's Awful iTunes Rank Belies Its Success

Anyone who says #music is a failure isn't accounting for its use of the "secondary" networking effect.

Twitter #Music's Awful iTunes Rank Belies Its Success

Is the "music discovery" term dead yet? Great! Now we can move on to just sharing music recommendations without worrying about all that pretense.

Call it what you want, but music has always been a locus of social activity—if people "discover" new music or bands in the process, all the better. Twitter knows this, as evident by Twitter #music product manager Stephen Phillips' remarks at SF Musictech Summit, when he said "We want to be a sharing experience" rather than a listening destination. So, while some people are quick to call the #music app and experience a failure, marked mostly by the App Store rank rather than on its merits, I can't help but see #music as nothing but a success.

When you use the Twitter #music app, you get the knowledge of what artists/bands and other Twitter users are mentioning and listening to in a mobile layout. Using the web version you get a little bit more information, as that's a sensible place to push extra content. There seems to be a lot of criticism around the fact that not a lot of people are tweeting through the #music app itself, but I don't think that matters. Whether people share their listening habits through the app or not, the data is still collected, making the app better.

This is a twist on the "network effect" phenomenon which has been possible only since mega-platforms like Twitter and Facebook have begun to spawn other products like Vine, Instagram, and Facebook's Messages app. But so far, Twitter #music is the only one of these apps to make use of its platform's power this way. In the traditional "network effect" scenario, the app gains some utility with every additional user. In this case, the Twitter #music app experience improves even if the number of users stay the same, because tweets created in other Twitter clients get sucked into #music, improving the experience.

The wealth of music data collected, processed, and analyzed by the new #music team should be worth the endeavor to Twitter even if the app only had 100 end users. Even if it's not directly through the #music app, people are still tweeting their favorite bands, trying to get people to listen to the new single. People are still watching the Grammys and tweeting about the upsets and victories. The #music app is just an attempt to organize that data and give users a sharing wrapper around their streaming service of choice. If a user has more insight into what others are listening to and sharing around them online, it may open doors to trying new music. That's how music works in the physical world. People talk about the music they listen to, they listen to it in groups, at parties—in this case, Twitter is just trying to catch the runoff from those conversations and collect it inside a dedicated app.

As for the actual app itself, there are always things that people will complain isn't yet a feature, but things like better integration of #music throughout all of Twitter, more artists available in the system, and more listening sources are features too obvious not to already be on a whiteboard.

So what if the Twitter #music keeps falling in the ranks? What if it falls to the 200th spot out of 500,000+ apps? Probably nothing. Twitter is also an advertising company in addition to being a social platform, and every ounce of data it has for different industries should only enhance its power to prove engagement and bolster its CPMs. The more it knows about bands, songs, and the music industry, the more accurately it places targeted ads in front of interested readers on Twitter. If someone discovers a new band in the process, call it a positive side effect.

Tyler Hayes contributes to Hypebot and does interviews for NoiseTrade's blog. He often writes about music and the impact tech is having on that industry, which can be often be found on his personal blog, Tyler also runs the site Next Big Thing, which ranks user-submitted links for an interesting hub of music-related content.

[Image: Flickr user Nina Matthews]