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“I’m not part of the past—I’m part of the future.”
——Lucian Grainge

THE LOWDOWN ON FACEBOOK & THE SUB SERVICES

Highlights From an Informative New Essay by Wired’s Steven Levy
Everyone, it seems, is talking about Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson’s speedily published authorized biography of the Apple visionary. But there’s another newly published (make that “posted”) tech story worth reading. “Steven Levy on Facebook, Spotify and the Future of Music” is a New Yorker-length, extremely informative examination of the latest chapter in the turbulent romance between music and technology, which began in 1999 with the appearance of Napster.

Levy’s piece, on Wired.com, is loaded with great quotes; here are a bunch of them:

“I’m not part of the past—I’m part of the future,” says UMG ruler Lucian Grainge. “There’s a new philosophy, a new way of thinking.”

Napster co-founder/Facebook investor/Spotify crusader Sean Parker—who describes himself as “a Chinese hamster that has been fitted with an experimental math co-processor, wet-wired into my brain by Ray Kurzweil”—says of Napster, “We never intended to break the music industry. We were just the forcing event that accelerated that whole process.”  

“I’d never even heard of Spotify, but Sean mentioned it to me one day,” says Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (whom Levy dubs “the Pope of Poke”). “I was like, wow, this person has built a really cool music product and also understands how you can integrate social things in it.”

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek claims that Napster changed his life when he discovered it as a teenager: “Before Napster, I didn’t listen to the Beatles. I didn’t listen to all the guys that are my favorite bands now.”

After checking out Spotify early on, Parker wrote a 1,700-word love letter to Ek. “To create the next revolution in digital music I believe that you must both meet and exceed the bar set by Napster a decade ago,” he noted. “You guys have finally done it.”

Although Facebook hasn’t been directly involved in delivering musical content, music as a social activity is a big part of Facebook’s strategy, according to CTO Bret Taylor: “Music is such a great example of this, because it’s uniquely tied to people’s identities. People wear T-shirts with their favorite groups on them—in high school I had patches on my backpack of all the punk bands I listened to.”

And just as Facebook empowered developers—like Zynga—to create social games, the company hopes to empower developers to create social music. “There’s no way Facebook is going to ever build those services itself,” Zuckerberg explains, “so we’re trying to enable an ecosystem of developers to build great experiences in different areas. We’re not trying to make a music product. We’re trying to make something so that people can learn stuff from their friends and can share with them and express themselves.”

Spotify had to accept the fact that it wouldn’t be Facebook’s only musical friend. “We were up-front from the very beginning,” says Zuckerberg. “We said, ‘It was cool to talk to you guys, and we want to build something, but this is going to be an open platform, and we’re going to work with your competitors.’”

Says Billy Chasen, the CEO of Turntable.fm, one of those competitors, “We see ourselves as this discovery platform that’s better than anything out there, because it’s human-curated.”

But Trent Reznor isn't sold on the idea of social recommendations. “I don't care what my friends are listening to,” he says, setting up the punch line: Because I'm cooler than they are.” But after listening to Parker’s spiel, Reznor changes his tune. “I’m on board,” he says. “You can be the great radio station of the world.”

Interestingly, as recently as five years ago, Jobs was mocking the subscription-service model. “We just don’t see a demand for it,” he told Levy in 2006. “We’ve seen all the subscription services crash and burn. People don’t want to rent their music.”

We’re about to find out whether he was right or wrong about that.


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