With iTunes 10, Apple added their “musical social network” Ping. It’s gotten a fair amount of criticism (including from me). Apple then released an update to iTunes to fix a few bugs and add some new Ping features.
As Adam Engst points out in an article about the Ping upgrade on TidBITS, “It just doesn’t seem very friendly to ‘share’ my favorite music via 30-second previews that require my friends to ante up just to hear the full track.”
I think Adam has found the weak point of Ping. Sharing musical tastes has always been something that music-lovers have done spontaneously, yet copiously. I can remember many long evenings spent at friends’ houses listening to music: a song from this album, a side from that one, a B-side from a single, then a track from a mix tape. Flitting from one style to another, checking out obscure artists and intriguing collaborations, we’d find many artists, albums and songs that we had never heard before, yet which grabbed us.
So hearing a 30-second snippet of a song is not going to convince me; I need more. What Apple needs to do to get Ping to take off is let people listen to songs for free. Imagine if Apple were to allow every friend of someone who has “liked” or “posted” about a song to listen to that song, in its entirety, for free, just once. How many more people would actually listen to songs if they could hear them in extenso? I know that I haven’t listened to a single preview via Ping, but I’d certainly try listening to some songs if I could hear all of them.
While Apple would certainly have to rejigger some stuff in the iTunes Store for this to work, it’s not impossible. However, I can see the RIAA and the rights-holders getting antsy about it, and expecting Apple to performance rights. If this could be solved, though, Ping would become not just a place where people see tiny ads for music, but more like a radio station programmed by all your friends where you could really discover new music.
Learn more about iTunes 10 in my ebook Take Control of iTunes 10: The FAQ.