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.