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Zuckerberg 'snuggles up to Spotify'

Bubblicious? Or a SpottiFace iMode goldmine?

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Comment Facebook users can already use Spotify's streaming music service to share playlists and songs, but a new partnership will bring much deeper integration, predicts a report in Forbes. Neither company would comment.

"Clicking on the Spotify icon will install the service on their desktop in the background, and also allow users play from Spotify's library of millions of songs through Facebook. The service will include a function that lets Facebook users listen to music simultaneously with their friends over the social network," reports Forbes' Parmy Olson.

Despite the lack of official confirmation, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg did little to dispel the idea by saying that building music services isn't really Facebook's core competency.

The world and his dog are rushing to build cloud music services, but these are essentially "MP3 locker plus a bit more" – as launched by Amazon (in the US) and Google (in beta). Not one seems to offer nothing new to us punters. If anything, they remind us of all the disadvantages of trusting our music collection to somebody else – and the delivery of the music to a flaky connection ... and a server farm that will always have higher priority jobs to do than serve you.

Music lockers look to me like a solution looking for a problem – and I haven't seen anything yet to change my mind.

A Facebook-Spotify partnership (Spotiface?) looks brilliant in every way but one. Facebook becomes more attractive with a giant song catalog at its users' fingertips: the site's "stickiness", and the amount of time users spend on the site should increase, if the promises are made good. Facebook becomes more attractive to advertisers. Spotify gains an outlet to millions of users. There's just one thing missing: any new money coming into the system. Bubblicious!

Spotify pays real money for the music it uses, and this isn't cheap. It would have to meter Facebook usage even more strictly than it manages "free" usage directly. Getting people to pay something then becomes the challenge. But should this be so hard?

If Facebook is serious about becoming a "platform", and it really should be, then Spotify should be the first of many paid-for services you can access easily, with Facebook providing the underlying infrastructure, Facebook would be a kind of super-portal, drawing in the audience, and handling payment and transactions. Think DoCoMo, but with angle brackets.

The Japanese carrier's iMode service predates the success of Apple's App Store by a good few years, but operated on the same principle. It made payment easy, took a huge cut, but had application developers and services knocking on the door. No Western carrier ever replicated its success, which had a lot to do with making payment easy, keeping prices low and (initially) at three monthly tiers.

If I was Zuckerberg, I'd buy a bank and open the doors to all kinds of Spotifys. And if I was investor, I'd bet that this strategy would offer me the most lucrative, long-term growth. Google's curse is trying to monetise free stuff, which isn't very good. But nothing beats real people paying real money, then coming back for more.®

Andrew warmly welcomes your comments.

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