Twitter #music: More noise, less signal
Twitter got a little bit noisier last week. The social-slash-information network introduced Twitter #music, a music-streaming service powered by Rdio and Spotify that allows Twitter users to listen to songs that are popular among other users, discover new artists, and listen to tracks from the artists and bands they already follow. Now the question is whether Twitter just played the opening notes to its social crescendo or simply added another instrument to its informational cacophony.
Who would have thought that a service built for feature phones and limited to just 140 characters would become one of the primary contributors to the "fear of missing out" pandemic? Yet here we are, six years after Twitter's SXSW-enabled rise to dominance, and those 140 characters have evolved into snippets of articles, songs, videos, photos -- galleries, even -- apps, and who-knows-what-else Twitter decides to release next. What was once easily managed has become an organizational nuisance.
I won't bother reviewing #music in its entirety; that's a fool's game, as others have pointed out. But it's worth considering how #music might make it even harder to suss out the signal from the noise, because #music faces a different problem from other social network services, which suffer from users wanting to eavesdrop on other people's listening, reading, and viewing habits without sharing anything about their own activities. Rather, #music's problem is the fact that enough inanities are posted to Twitter that an influx of music-related Tweets would only add more crap for users to wade through.
"We are increasingly struggling to stay afloat in our data streams. Increasingly, we’re drowning in as-it-happens data," writes Wired's Mat Honan, adding that "Right now the easiest way to get a grip on conversation overload is to simply walk away from it, to a quieter place."
Put another way: Twitter is now so loud the only way to avoid damage is to stuff your fingers in your ears and go "La la la la la la" while sprinting in the other direction. And Twitter's solution to that problem is to try and convince users to share music via its own network, instead of on Spotify or Rdio? While that might increase engagement, the buzziest of buzzwords and did-we-invest-properly measurement for social networks, it also seems it might get drowned out by the noise.
"Twitter at its best is when you're using Twitter itself and engaging with people," says OneThirtySeven writer and entrepreneur Matt Alexander. "Twitter at its worst is when it's trying to put itself at the forefront of what you're discussing. Twitter's trying to be the object of discussion rather than the mediator," with #music, he says, and therein lies the problem.
But then, perhaps #music is similar to Facebook Home in that so-called "geeks" might not appreciate or see the need for it, while others -- let's call them "normals" -- see its value and become more active Twitter users. These are the people who use Twitter to let people know that they're "clubbin' it up" or to share pictures of them cozying up to celebrities. (Or, you know, do normal things like talk to their friends or allow brief glimpses into their everyday lives.) Twitter wants those people to post more often, as it's already ensnared users who have the AIR version of TweetDeck installed on their laptops, know what HootSuite is, or only use hashtags to be ironical.
Maybe it's best to think of #music as just music. While younger, more hip users might be happy to play it loud and share it often, people who grew up experiencing something different -- less-glitzy pop, a simpler Twitter -- are left wondering how in the hell they can make that infernal noise stop.