Facebook Launches Music Dashboard That Shows What Friends Are Listening to Across Services

Thanks to the integrations Facebook launched with Spotify, Rdio, and many other music services at yesterday’s f8 conference, users are now finding out what their friends are listening to in the home page’s Ticker. To make it even easier to discover music, Facebook has launched a “Music” dashboard that shows users trending albums, top songs, featured music services, and a stream dedicated to the recent listens of all of a user’s friends. Clicking through to a playlist appears to be one way to activate the dashboard and make its bookmark appear in the home page’s left sidebar, though this direct link also works.

The Music dashboard will allow users to actively and efficiently seek discover new music in addition to passively seeing what friends are listening to while browsing the news feed. The “Featured Music Services” panel could be an important driver of growth for Facebook’s lesser known music partners, and it could also become a way for Facebook to monetize music by charging for placement in the panel.

Rather than showing bookmarks for individual music partners, it seems that Facebook has decided to aggregate all the services into a single hub. In the future, it could gain more engaging features such as the ability to set up simultaneous listening between friends similar to Turntable.fm. It could also serve as a payment portal through which users could buy their subscriptions to partnered music services with Facebook Credits. This would provide a direct way for Facebook to get a cut of the revenue partners are earning from the exposure and user growth they get on the site.

It’s unclear whether the Music dashboard would preclude partners from developing native versions of their services that live within the Facebook chrome as canvas apps. Such apps could silo users, and make them less likely to discover music from friends that use a different service than them. With the dashboard, a Spotify user could see a friend was listening to something on Rdio, click through the story and download Rdio, find it better fits their design and music library needs, and end up becoming a paying Rdio user.

However, Facebook also allows users to discover a song from a service they don’t use and rather than having to download that partner’s app, they can play the song in an app they already have. For example, a Spotify user could see a friend had listened to a song on Rdio, click the play button in the Music dashboard story, and use the small link in the prompt to launch or download Rdio to instead listen on Spotify. The relatively small size of the link to play a song in one’s native service could be Facebook’s way of getting users to try out multiple services, and prevent an app with an early lead such as Spotify from pulling back users who might have been prepared to try a different service.

Current Dashboard Features

The Music dashboard dynamically displays different content depending on the recent activity of a user’s friends. The Friends’ Music section of the dashboard shows full size rich media stories about the listening activity of friends, complete with play buttons on songs that launch their corresponding desktop or web applications. Most of these stories otherwise only appear in the Ticker as simple text activity stories that must be hovered over and expanded to reveal play buttons.

With the Playlist section, Facebook will reward music services that make it easy to create and publish mixes. As playlists automatically continue to play without users have to select the next song they want to hear, this section of the dashboard will facilitate a laid-back listening experience. It could also get users to burn through the free listening time users get with the unpaid tiers of some music partners, which could lead users to hit their limit faster and get them to buy subscriptions.

Users have begun to receive notifications when a friend sees a story about their listening activity and clicks a play button on of the songs. These notifications direct users to an Activity section of the Music dashboard, which encourages them to comment in order to start a conversation about a song them and a friend both listened to. Right now this is the closest thing to real-time social activity around music, but simultaneous listening or dedicated listening Chat could be on the way.

As part of its partnerships, Facebook may have promised free placement in the Featured Music Services panel in the right sidebar of the Music Dashboard. This could give services that haven’t gained any users in a network a way to gain a foothold and begin growing through exposure in the Ticker. However, Facebook could also opt to charge music services for this real estate. We’re waiting to hear back from Facebook about how services are chosen for placement.

Even without more engaging features, the Music dashboard could become stop on users’ routine browsing flow around Facebook. While the Ticker may remain the primary way users discover new music because of its prominent presence on the news feed and its eye-catching movement, that Music dashboard could become the place users to go to find something to listen to right now.