The Return Of The Social Music Network: 4 Sites & Services To Watch In 2013

Posted December 7

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to be more social in 2013, the music/tech scene totally has you covered. As the new year creeps ever closer, more and more social networks entirely dedicated to music are either adding new features of tossing off their shiny, beta wrappings, allowing fans and bands to interact more than ever before.

Let’s face it, since the sale/downfall of MySpace as we once knew it in 2011, there’s been a bit of a hole in the social media world: Namely a place where people could go listen to music whilst interacting with bands and fellow fans has been lacking. Sure, Facebook has become that place in some respects — especially after music/tech developers started pumping out more and more music apps for bandpages and Facebook integrated deeply with apps like Spotify — but, on the whole, it’s not a musical social network. It wasn’t meant to be. That is not its main purpose or goal as an entity.

Now, at the tail end of 2012, a cadre of sites and services is rising up to take MySpace’s vacant space — including MySpace itself — offering users a place for music AND friends. Read on for four contenders:

Spotify Goes Even More Social

At an event in New York Thursday, Spotify unveiled what’s next for the music subscription service, the most intriguing aspect being: It’s about to get a lot more social and fan-friendly.

Taking a leaf from Rdio’s book, Spotify will be adding a “Follow” tab, allowing fans to follow artists, friends, music influencers etc and keep up to date with their music listening habits and tastes. Users will even be notified when bands that they’re following release new music on the service — a complete boon for people who might be prone to forgetting album releases.

In the past, users could easily check out what Facebook friends were listening to (thanks to the subscription service’s integration with the social network), and they still can — but now they have the added bonus of broadening their horizons. Yup, Spotify has essentially become it’s own, musical social network, complete with brand-new profiles.

Spotify’s facelift isn’t just about being more social — the service is also adding a lot of utility in the form of a new “Discover” tab. Last year, Spotify launched its new Apps platform, adding a bunch of tools to the desktop version of the service (including lyrics, games, editorial content, etc). The idea was great, but, unfortunately, not a lot of people knew that the apps existed. Spotify is now solving that issue with an easy-to-find tab that pulls together concert dates for your favorite bands (via the Songkick app), editorial content (via Pitchfork, etc) as well as album releases from your favorite bands and personalized recommendations. By including this tab, Spotify defines itself more as a location for discovery than just a music player — a place you visit to search for a particular album, push play, and surf away.

Spotify also introduced a few nifty extras to make the experience even more deep-dive: 1). Audio preview: Now you can surf around and test out music without losing your place in a song, 2). User collections: Now users can save tunes for later without having to create a new playlist and interrupt their listening/exploring experience.

This past year, Spotify definitely established itself as the music subscription service to beat (hello, $100 million investment). Next year, it could very well be a hopping social network, too.

These updates will be rolling out first on Spotify’s new Web app, followed by all other platforms.

SoundCloud: Not Just For Bands, Anymore

Way back in May, SoundCloud revealed its brand-new, much more social platform — Next SoundCloud — to a group of beta testers. Now, that platform is available for all — and SoundCloud is citing some pretty impressive numbers.

SoundCloud has long been a favorite tool among sound creators — it currently reaches 180 people per month — however, it has never really been that strong of a social network. Well, if a new update to the service is any indication, that’s all about to change.

Since its inception back in 2008, SoundCloud has done everything from roll out apps for Android and iOS to partner with a variety of companies in order to make it easier to share sound around the web.

Still, when it comes to the service itself, it has always seemed more like a distribution platform than a place to stay and listen to tunes. Recently, though, we began to see a shift in that MO when Soundcloud rolled out a brand-new version of its web and mobile apps.

The new update includes the following features, according to a release:

Streamlined Discovery

“A simplified onboarding experience and new Explore page invites new users to discover original music and audio from SoundCloud’s community of sound creators, hosted on the platform. In addition, improved search, related sounds suggestions, and Continuous Play encourage users to find and hear more.”

Most exciting innovation: Continuous play. Now, you can listen while you surf — a major update from the previous version.

Better Connections

“Creators are at the heart of SoundCloud, with a simpler onboarding and landing page to educate and inspire. An enhanced Facebook sign-up not only allows new users to find their Facebook friends on SoundCloud, but also lets them find music and audio creators they’ve ‘liked’ so that they can follow them on SoundCloud as well. In return, Facebook Connect helps creators build and reach their audience and the wider SoundCloud community.”

Most exciting innovation: The ability to follow bands you already like on Facebook. Not having to start over from scratch when joining a new network is a major plus. The biggest failing of music on Facebook is that it’s not a focus — you can’t listen to tunes while you surf, etc etc. Being able to follow all your favorite bands on a platform dedicated to music and sound is a gamechanger.

Improved Sharing

“Sets allow everyone to curate sounds they like in a single waveform, while reposts let friends, fans and followers easily share sets and sounds within the community. And sound creators and curators can now get real-time notifications of comments and reposts.”

Most exciting innovation: Improved sharing for non-music makers. This move truly takes SoundCloud out of the “just for musicians” realm and makes it a place for curators and fans to flourish and find tunes.

Bandcamp Adds Fan Profiles

Back during the days when MySpace was tanking and folks were trying to find a replacement, Music ecommerce platform Bandcamp its supporters when it came to deciding who would ascend the throne. Still, the service never seemed social enough — consumer-facing enough — to really catch on as a place for the Average Dude to surf around and find tunes. That could all be changing soon, however, as Bandcamp is primed to launch fan accounts, allowing non-music makers to surf the site at will.

Fan accounts are still in private beta, so we’re not yet able to do a deep-dive on their attributes, but we can tell you this:

1). Users will get a page where they can show off music that they’ve purchased on Bandcamp.

2). You can follow bands to get the latest updates.

3). When you follow a band on the site, your image will appear on their page (ala Facebook).

4). You can also follow other fans and check out their collections.

5). You can create a wishlist of tracks you want to buy.

6). You can share other people’s pages.

Like SoundCloud before it, Bandcamp has finally taken the plunge into the world of fan interaction, and given the fact that a lot of bands release their tunes via the site, we could see Bandcamp blowing up in the new year.

MySpace Is The New MySpace

It very well could be the biggest “Phoenix from the ashes” story of next year: In 2011, MySpace was sold for a pittance to advertising network Specific Media, and the Web shed one collective tear for the one-reigning social network, assuming that it would never come back from its mighty fall. When Justin Timberlake got involved in its revivification, however, it seemed like there might be hope afterall. Eyebrows were raised, shoulders were shrugged, myriad “sexy back” jokes were made.

Now, however, months later, we’ve had a chance to play around with the still-in-beta site, and we must say: We’re impressed. The whole thing has been essentially gutted, leaving behind what has always been the service’s greatest asset: 53 million tracks from artists both established and indie. That’s a hell of a lot more music than any of the subscription services on the block can boast. In the past, however, MySpace didn’t know how to use its store of music to the best effect. That’s all about to change.

The new MySpace is sleek and easy to use, social and packed with content. After logging in via Facebook or Twitter (and thus bringing all your content with you), you can create your own profile (complete with MySpace’s signature “profile song”) and start connecting with friends and bands. That experience is like Facebook meets Pinterest — social, but visually lovely (see my profile above). Users can put up status updates and write on friends’ “Walls,” which is all well and good, but the real gamechanging aspect here is music.

To throw another “this meets this” comparison in there, the new MySpace is Facebook meets Pinterest meets Spotify. Along the bottom of the page, you’ll find a persistent player that follows you no matter where you go on the site. So, basically, you can visit a band’s page, start listening to some tunes, and surf around, without interrupting your jams. You can also create your own mixes — complete with pictures if you so desire — which friends can later check out, as well as listen to artist radio and get recommendations.

We’re not going to go into a whole feature-by-feature breakdown of the site here — we’ll wait until everyone has access — but suffice it to say, MySpace is social without being cluttered, and now throws the focus on the one thing it always did best: Music.

Image courtesy of Flickr, craigCloutier