The Story With Twitter And Music
Reports out of CNET today indicate that Twitter purchased music discovery site We Are Hunted sometime last year with the idea of building their own music app. We Are Hunted is both a builder of music products and apps as well as a destination for discovering what music is currently being talked about online. Stepping back for a second, the obvious first question, why is Twitter so interested in music?
Twitter's first jump into 3rd party services was when they created their own image hosting service a few years back. Even then it just made sense that Twitter wanted control over a media format that has always been heavily traded on the service. Twitter's recent venture into video with their Vine app also makes sense, but creating an app to discover music still leaves more than a few questions.
We Are Hunted is a data driven site. The service looks at what music people are talking about online by looking at blogs and different mediums, collects the data and then ranks rising artists. A Moneyball take on the music industry. Looking back over my interviews with We Are Hunted founder, Stephen Phillips, some of the pieces begin to align with why Twitter would want them, why Twitter wants music and the big picture for all these questions.
If Twitter is getting into music, We Are Hunted was the right company to acquire. Twitter has data. They don't have as much personal data as say Facebook, but I'm willing to bet they have just as much media related data as Facebook. Twitter lends itself to recommending music, movies, books and other items. Putting that firehose of music data into We Are Hunted's algorithms could be a powerful resource for creating a better Pandora. A music service run on the stream of all the users.
Pillips has stated before that We Are Hunted's reason for existence is to help people find their next favorite artist, to be the best discovery service in the world. With the acquisition by Twitter, that now is an accomplishable goal. In early 2012, asked if Phillips felt any pressure from other discovery services, he said no. “Music discovery is not a zero sum game. People use a whole range of sites to discover new music. People’s needs and expectations of discovery services are as eclectic as their musical tastes. It is a huge, huge space, and no one service will ever satisfy it.”
If Twitter is getting ready for an IPO, they could want different revenue sources – beyond ads – in the pipeline and music could be that first step. There are plenty of monetization aspects for music, but stretching your imagination, Twitter's real interest in music could be pinned on the commerce aspect. Plenty of companies are currently experimenting with selling items on Twitter, which they then take a cut of the sales. Google has been more overt in their desire to control the wallet because it's a lucrative business. If this is Twitter's end game, it eventually puts them in direct competition with Google, Paypal, credit cards, and Square. Remember, Square founder Jack Dorsey is also a founder of Twitter.
There's also the theory that Twitter just likes music and wants to offer people a good way to discover new artists. But with all the changes to the API and Twitter cutting off developers in unusual ways, it's hard not to see those moves as them building to something pretty big. Something big like merchant services.
Though music is often thought of as a tired and old form of media compared to video, companies continue to fight for music dominance like its the key to bigger success.