Twitter killed its #Music app softly last week after failing to deliver what the people want: free song streaming. But that musical mistake doesn't mean Twitter is giving up on its mission of helping the world discover new artists. The network on Thursday announced a partnership with Billboard that will give Twitter its own chart in the famed publication.
The Billboard Twitter Real-Time Charts will offer rankings of the most discussed music on the network starting in May, the New York Times reported. The deal cements Twitter as a place to discover what's hot and what's new without requiring the network to power a stand-alone app. It will also make Twitter more valuable to record labels and artists who might want to pay the network to promote new songs. Twitter could essentially strike the same deals with music companies that it has with TV networks as part of its successful Amplify advertising program.
"We want music decisions to be based on Twitter data, and we want artists to know that when they share songs and engage with their audience on Twitter, the buzz they create will be visible to fans and industry decision-makers," Twitter music chief Bob Moczydlowsky told the Times.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter is also discussing potential partnerships with Beats Music, SoundCloud, and Vevo to stream songs and video clips in-app. Those partnerships would drive subscriptions to those partner services without Twitter having to do any of the licensing legwork that hamstrung #Music from the start.
Why #Music struck a wrong chord
Twitter pinpointed the exact moment Beyonce blew our collective minds by dropping a surprise album on iTunes last December. The network even created a sparkling map to show where and when people discovered the album by breaking down geotagged tweets with Beyonce references. It's the exact sort of thing that Twitter is great at: Helping people find new music through conversations with friends and strangers. What it's not so great at: Helping people listen to new music. So when Twitter announced that #Music was fading away, no one even raised an eyebrow.
Wiz Khalifa and Ryan Seacrest were huge fans of Twitter #Music when it launched in April, but they were the only ones.
Insanely misguided, perhaps. #Music was an iOS app and website designed to help Twitter users find new music by tracking trending acts and uncovering musicians your favorite artist follows. So, what do you do with that information? Well, that's where #Music went awry. You could only preview songs in iTunes and Spotify, not stream full-length versions or playlists. Artists were obviously huge fans of #Music when it launched, because it encouraged users to buy music.
It may have seemed like a good idea--people talk about music on Twitter all the time. But an isolated music discovery app that doesn't let you stream songs just doesn't work in the era of Spotify and Rdio.
Twitter #Music was far too limited in its appeal to gain traction. You couldn't save artists to listen to later or view your search history unless you tweeted every song you were jamming to--which was an option, but not a great one. You also couldn't follow artists within the app without following them on Twitter, so there was no way around following Lady Gaga's Twitter rants if you just wanted to preview that bizarre R. Kelly duet.
Twitter tried to make the recommendations more relevant with a June update that added new genres and charts that separated major acts from indie talent and music popular in the blogosphere.
But at the same time Twitter #Music was building out its recommendation tools, streaming services like Spotify and Rdio were gathering steam--and offering free, full-length songs, to boot. Both services integrated Twitter #Music functionality, which let users find songs trending on Twitter and then stream full-length versions for free. Suddenly, there was no reason to open the Twitter #Music app at all.
The Billboard partnership and discussions with other players like Beats Music and Vevo can help Twitter do what it does best, encourage conversations, without having to divert its attention to nonsensical side projects.