Social Media

Mark Mulligan: How Zuckerberg Is Using Music To Keep Facebook From ‘Doing a MySpace’

image from This guest post comes from independent music analyst Mark Mulligan..

Facebook is rumoured to be on the verge of integrating a number of music services including Spotify into its platform.  The ‘when will Facebook take on iTunes’ question is one which refuses to go away, but it’s the wrong question to ask.  Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t want to take on iTunes, in fact he wants to co-exist.  Facebook, as the early-follower of social networking allowed first movers like MySpace to make the mistakes from which it could learn invaluable lessons.  MySpace’s much vaunted but ultimately unsuccessful music service is one such lesson.

Zuckerberg’s music strategy is simple:

Make Facebook an integral part of the music experience without ever getting bogged down in paying to license the music from record labels.

Partnering with Spotify et al fits perfectly into this smart strategy.  Music has always been social but until the advent of social networks we had to rely on our friends and family for recommendations.  In the social age we have a much wider group of taste makers to tap in to.  Similarly we can identify ourselves and our peers by our music on a much larger scale than ever before.

Social media enriches music consumption in a way that was not previously possible.  Zuckerberg gets this and he wants to ensure the process goes further, much further.  He wants social to become the glue that holds the music consumption and discovery experiences together, to such an extent that music companies simply can’t survive without it.  And he wants to do the same for TV, movies and other media too.  Why?  It is the safeguard against Facebook ‘doing a MySpace’.

In its heyday it was hard to imagine that MySpace would ever be anything other than the world’s dominant social network.  Its rapid decline is a sobering reminder that not only is nothing permanent, but also that in the digital world it can tumble with terrifying rapidity.  MySpace failed because it was dispensable.  Thus when the new kid in town arrived the crowds flocked away in their droves.

Facebook is neither invincible nor immortal. Though it is much more deeply embedded than MySpace ever was, all that it needs is something new to do what Facebook does better and more. So in this context making Facebook a core component of 21st century media consumption is a bid at future-proofing it against a world in which mainstream social networking goes elsewhere.

Ironically if the strategy works the music industry may save Facebook but Facebook may do little to save the music industry.  That will only happen if (and hopefully when) the industry starts to truly embrace social music as the foundation stone of a new generation of music products and services.

Share on:


  1. Great article, Mark! It will be very interesting to see where this goes. And I agree with your statement that the music industry may save Facebook but Facebook will probably do little to save the music industry. I’ll be keeping a watchful eye.

  2. Facebook is already an integral part of the music experience, without licensing troubles from the record labels. A ton of artists already use YouTube to post songs/videos and promote their music on Facebook. It’s become a popular discovery mechanism for a ton of people.
    Whilst Spotify and Facebook will add a new dimension of music to our lives, taking advantage of the YouTube content is becoming more valuable everyday. There are pages that are strictly dedicated to posting YouTube videos, essentially making them dynamic playlists.
    The beauty of Facebook + YouTube is that its all free. Shamelessly I would like to plug, because its a project that I have worked on for some time now, that does exactly that. Discover all the YouTube videos you, or your pages post.. create playlists, and have them shared automatically with your friends.
    Could it get any easier?

  3. Yeah, I wonder how much of an impact this will have on the music industry. To an indie artist, it almost means nothing because you realize how much labels will start promoting bigger artists on Facebook, driving up ad prices so that indies can’t afford them anymore. Wow. I sound like a pessimist but, it’s part of me being selfish as an artist and wondering “So, how does this help ME?” Haha.

  4. @Laura – you’re so right.
    As soon as a prominent media arises, the big advertisers (in our case the big labels) are able to direct their budgets to “overtake” these new platforms.
    But I believe that from the bottom up, we can influence and use these tools. Music lovers seek new innovative solutions, and the music biz developers (such as my company) will go on producing new services to help you – the musicians.
    If you make good music, you will eventually reach relevant fans and create your own “Page” with them – not necessarily on Facebook…

  5. Music is constantly changing and evolving, and despite Zuckerburg’s attempts to make Facebook an integral part of music listening experience I believe Facebook may still pull a myspace. Technology and the internet are constantly changing and evolving, and thus changing the way we listen to music.
    I have been saying it for a little bit, I do not believe Facebook is immortal giant many believe it to be. WIthin every 10 years, I believe computer programmers will find a way to develop a social platform that will blow Facebook out of the water. Many people may call me crazy, but when Facebook goes public I may short-sell the stock. Twitter, for example is a much better way for artist to get their music out an engage with fans.

  6. Interesting thoughts Kevin.
    Would tell me why you think Twitter is better than Facebook for engaging music fans?

Comments are closed.