I updated my iTunes today and was finally presented with Ping as an option. For those who aren’t familiar with the service is, Steve Jobs described it as a tool for “social music discovery”. So, I excitedly clicked and set up my Ping profile. However, much like Alexander Graham Bell with the first telephone, I had no one to call. With no friends on Ping and no ability to connect to Facebook where the rest of my social network exists, I wasn’t sure where the “social music discovery” is going to happen.
Not to be deterred, I started my own exploration, “follow”ing artists I like. However, I had to skip a number of artists initially presented as “recommendations for me to follow” because I don’t own any Lady Gaga or Britney Spears which were amongst the top of the list. I began to worry the iTunes Genius was losing its touch. As I sifted through the artists, following the ones I liked, I began to see “my feed” develop. It was full of communication from the artists. So, this is what Ping is for. Its a tool for artists to grow relationships with their fans. While this makes sense, I’m not sure how it differs from music efforts long underway on Myspace and Facebook.
Sadly I found out one way it differs, is that in Ping, I can only access artists who’s music is sold in iTunes. The reason became painfully clear when I realized most of what was in “my feed” were simply pushes to buy artist content (albums, videos, etc). The most social post I saw was that Tim McGraw liked an artist… Faith Hill. I’m sure Tim’s wife is happy he likes her music, but I’m not terribly interested.
I loved iTunes as a music shop and praised the evolution of Genius to introduce me to new music. Apple revolutionized music retail. However, as a social network they seemed to have missed the mark. I know the concept of social shopping is hot right now, but what shoppers don’t want is more complications. Why must we force shoppers to maintain multiple social networks, rather than aggregating things for them?
My hope is that as more of my friends join and we connect, that iTunes will provide some truly interesting tools for social music discovery. They could start with the ability to connect Ping to my current social network. But, for now, its pretty lonely in here.