Apple Creates 160 Million Matty Singers

Apple CEO Steve Jobs did it again yesterday when he announced more product and service upgrades for his products.

Radio people are no doubt celebrating the fact that the new Nano will still have an FM chip in them although Touches and Shuffles will continue to have no FM. It may be a moral victory but the Nano/FM has not really increased radio listening.

But focus for a moment on the brilliant move Jobs has made in the area of social networking for music.

Now there is Ping for iTunes.

From day one there are 160 million card-carrying iTunes users available to share music preferences and passions.

Jobs calls it "Facebook and Twitter meets iTunes ... but it's not Facebook, it's not Twitter. It's a social network all about music."

And all about the music is the message.

The record industry has forgotten that and the radio industry has become obsessed with refinancing and cost cutting or else they would be doing it in their own unique, tried and tested way.

So Ping for iTunes, which to this former program director is today's Tuesday new music countdown for music discovery that radio used to do, will make note of and share listener’s musical habits and then pass them along to friends for them to (using an old radio term here) decide whether the music and artists are “hot or not”.

Steve Jobs, not prone to mistakes like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tends to make, will allow Ping for iTunes to be an opt in feature. Exactly what his young audience wants. It will now be easier than ever to spread the word on new artists and songs that listeners have discovered.

In essence, it’s like having 160 million Matty Singers, the fabled and great Philadelphia record promoter whose passion to gain airplay was not limited by anything I could name. And I ought to know, since Matty often camped out in my office with a Ping of his own to share enthusiasm.

This gets better.

Artists get their own pages so it’s just plain easier for a critical mass of iTunes converts to find out more about their favorites. Of course, these artist pages can cross link back to iTunes to sell special remixes or products that might appeal to the consumer.

iTunes listeners will also be able to follow their favorite groups Twitter-style on Ping.

As an article in the LA Times pointed out immediately after the Jobs announcement, CBS’ does everything that iTunes Ping is designed to do.

“ tracks your iTunes playing habits and publishes them on a personalized Web page, and listeners can become fans of one another. But has never reached that tipping point of popularity. With Ping, all this information can be tallied in-house”.

Can you even image how Apple will eclipse Billboard and the other old school “charts” for reporting music popularity? Just as Apple has invented and enabled cherry picking of music from albums, Jobs gives more power to the people.

Keep that old historic phrase in mind -- power to the people – exactly what traditional media companies tend not to do. They tend to seek power for themselves.

I can see an iTunes Ping report that show popularity of plays but it will also be able to provide valuable information about how passionate listeners are about their music.

And they are.

New information is out that shows in spite of the popularity of paid apps and mobile games, more than half (56%) of iTunes users say they buy only music (Source: NPD Group study, 3,862 respondents). And while almost all iPhone and iPod Touch users have downloaded a free Apple app, 82% say they have paid for music on iTunes.

Are the labels listening yet?

So the new iTunes Ping will keep track of a lot of information and listeners will be able to see who their friends decide to see in live concerts.

Social networking meets Apple.

There are two issues emerging that deserve serious thought.

One, Pandora and other streaming or personalized music services have and will continue to erode radio stations that opt to drop formats for PPM-friendly hits. These Internet streaming services are very good and in many cases better than the average hit radio station who often have no local reason for existing.

Two, that radio stations had better not waste another minute entering their own specialized social networking area by hiring experts who love and know music in various genres and people who can do what streaming services and iTunes cannot do – entertain the local listener.

Radio will live or die on whether it can get back to its local roots.

So far, the big companies have tightened up and nationalized their radio stations. That is a mistake. These stations cannot compete with Apple or Pandora, but Apple and Pandora (so far) cannot compete with local radio.

If there was a wake up call from our friend Steve Jobs yesterday, it was not to launch a holy jihad for FM chips, it was to warn what will surely happen if radio continues to ignore its own unique social networking abilities utilizing local experts and personalities that local listeners can respect and relate to.

And you can take that to the bank.

Steve Jobs will.

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