Will a song be worth more than 140 characters to Twitter users?
After testing out a new music discovery service with celebrities such as Ryan Seacrest, Blake Shelton, Ne-Yo and Moby, Twitter is clicking play on Twitter #Music.
The free service will be available starting Thursday at https://music.twitter.com and as an app for the iPhone in the App Store in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, Twitter said. There is no Android app yet, but Twitter is working on one.
Users will be able to find tracks that are popular on Twitter, tracks from emerging artists and tracks that are popular with their friends. They can also check out the music of the artists they follow and the artists that those artists follow.
Last week, Twitter bought music recommendation and streaming service We Are Hunted, which shut down its operation.
The social media company is also reportedly negotiating with Viacom Inc. and Comcast Corp.'s NBC to get additional video content for its Twitter TV effort, Bloomberg reported.
The music service's debut comes less than three months after the release of a Twitter video app called Vine that lets users make six-second clips that can be played in a loop.
"Twitter and music go great together. People share and discover new songs and albums every day. Many of the most-followed accounts on Twitter are musicians, and half of all users follow at least one musician," Stephen Philips, founder of We Are Hunted, wrote in a Twitter blog post.
Twitter tried to get a head start on building an audience for the music service by letting celebrities play with it first. (Wiz Khalifa last week tweeted: "Man this new Twitter music app is insane!")
Twitter users will be able to listen to previews of tracks from iTunes or subscribe to Spotify or Rdio to listen to full-length tracks. Other subscription services are interested in partnering with Twitter as well, according to one industry observer who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"We will continue to explore and add other music service providers," Philips said.
The San Francisco company is expanding beyond chatter and photos into other forms of media to broaden its appeal and step up engagement with its more than 200 million monthly users in order to gain more opportunities to show ads.
Twitter is expected to more than double its advertising revenue this year to $583 million, from $283 million last year. Twitter does not disclose its financial performance but is widely believed to be gearing up for an initial public stock offering this year or next.
Chief Executive Dick Costolo has downplayed those expectations, saying the company has raised more than enough money to remain private for the foreseeable future.
Just like Facebook before it, Twitter launched its music service without striking deals with music companies. Instead, the company used existing deals the labels have in place with subscription music services, choosing to partner with Spotify and Rdio. The earlier Facebook integration allowed Spotify to expand its reach.
Twitter's new music service could ultimately pay dividends for the artists and the music companies. Smartphones are increasingly the music player of choice for consumers.
Alice Enders, a senior media analyst at Enders Analysis in London, said musical artists enjoy some of the largest followings on Twitter.
"So the fans that follow these artists will enjoy sharing the snippets of tracks that Justin Bieber recommends to his followers on Twitter, rather than popping on to Vevo to check out his latest videos," Enders said in an email interview.
Enders said she sees the Twitter music offering as complementary to Facebook's artist pages, which offer a richer experience -- containing photos and information about upcoming tour dates. Because tweets already can contain links to music on Vevo, it's not a game changer in terms of how Twitter is used to share music socially, she said.
"Twitter music is for snippets of tracks. To listen to the whole track, you have to go off the platform to Spotify or Rdio," Enders wrote. "I think snippets and tracks are feature-poor in relation to the music videos on Vevo. I am doubtful tht YouTube will be dethroned by Twitter as the leading site for music in general in the U.S."
Anthony Mullen, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, said Twitter's music service will provide a much-needed shot in the arm for music discovery.
"Apple [is] poor at discovery and especially poor at Social (remember Ping?)," Mullen wrote in response to emailed questions. "Twitter excels in both of these areas, so their impact on discovery will be considerable."
Mullen said it will be interesting to see how people use their connections through social networks for music recommendations.
"I notice from my own behavior that the people I friend on last.fm and Spotify are often not my Facebook friends," Mullen said. "Leveraging the pre-existing social graphs of consumers for recommendations will be interesting as some people use Twitter in a themed manner. ... I wonder how many people will create new accounts to steer their recommendations pool more effectively."
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