Music WithMe, which already syncs your iTunes playlists to your Android or Blackberry smartphone via Wi-Fi (try that with your iPhone), unveiled an important new feature to its Music WithMe software: the ability to post music from your iTunes library to Facebook so your friends can hear it.
Music WithMe faces major competition in its bid to become Facebook’s music-sharing-app of choice, because YouTube already makes it incredibly easy to post nearly any song you can think of to Facebook, merely by sharing the YouTube URL as a link. And anyone else can play the full version of the song there as many times as they want, without leaving their Facebook feed, for free.
What’s not to like? Well, for starters, there’s no way to create a collection out of all of those links, see the songs shared by your friends, share the (increasingly rare) song that’s not on YouTube, or do much else beyond just clicking Play.
Music WithMe hopes that instead of YouTube, you’ll choose the Music WithMe Facebook app for your music-sharing needs. As mentioned, another benefit to Music WithMe is that it lets you sync your iTunes playlists to your Android or Blackberry smartphone’s local memory via WiFi or your cellular data connection (updated), so you can listen to them even without a connection (the smartphone app is free for 30 days, after which it requires a one-time fee of $15).
But Music WithMe has pitched its latest battle on the Facebook front, and with good reason.
Facebook, which lacks an integrated music service, is now the second most popular website in the world after Google’s search engine. It accounts for nearly one out of every four U.S. page views. Equally impressive, for a site of Facebook’s reach, the average visit there lasts a full 32 minutes.
What is everybody doing on Facebook for all that time? A fair amount of it is spent watching videos embedded on the site — and in the case of people who care about music, that usually means music videos from YouTube. In most of these cases I’ve seen, the point is not to embed the video — it’s to embed the song. And YouTube happens to be the only legal source for full songs that can be embedded on Facebook for free.
Rumors of an upcoming Facebook music service that could tackle this issue in one fell swoop appear to have been unfounded, as the company pursues an app-based approach similar to that of Android smartphones. Rather than building the entire music experience itself — and paying the expensive licensing fees that would go along with that — Facebook appears content to let companies like Music WithMe create apps for that, in addition to allowing YouTube, Vimeo and other sites to display full songs and videos.
Music WithMe adds some features that elude these random collections of shared YouTube links. For instance, your friends who also have the app installed will be able to see your most recently added, most recently played, top 25 played, and top-rated songs. Aside from its tortuously slow operation with my admittedly large iTunes library, and the fact that you have to choose specific friends (up to 15) to share a song with rather than posting it to your main feed, this is a solid enough app. But as a real music sharing service with which to share music on the regular, it strikes out for one big reason: the 30-second sample limit.
YouTube: whole song. Music WithMe: 30 seconds. Game over.
Or rather, game over… for now. According to a Music WithMe spokesman, music labels could force Facebook to prevent full-length YouTube music videos from appearing on Facebook, which is one reason the company didn’t just use YouTube as its music library instead of peoples’ iTunes collections:
We’re not relying on YouTube videos because we’re focused on providing a better experience for our users. With iTunes previews we know what quality and search accuracy our users can expect, that’s not the case with YouTube. Technical limitations preclude us from being able to guarantee that official videos, instead of user generated videos, will be available to Music WithMe for Facebook [ed. note: This wouldn't matter].
We’re also not relying on YouTube previews because while Facebook is allowing the practice now there is now guaranteed that a strong lobby from the RIAA won’t make Facebook change their position on this issue. It’s a murky copyright area and since we’re building services that our users will be able to depend on in the future we’re aren’t going to build functionality around practices that are legally ambiguous at best.”
Be that as it may, we’re still holding out for something that lets us share full-length songs on Facebook in a more organized way than is possible with randomly-hunted-down YouTube links. A few other observations, including the possible answer to this quandry (hint: it starts with an “S”):
- You’ll need to give the app access to your Facebook wall, use iTunes, and install a Music WithMe desktop client (Mac or Windows) that keeps your iTunes collection synced to the Facebook and smartphone apps. (Meanwhile, YouTube is just a regular website with links.)
- Searches within the Facebook app of your music library are lightning-fast, but it takes a while to load your list of friends in order to share a song.
- In order to upload my iTunes library metadata using Windows 7, I had to kill the process using Task Manager and restart it.
- Apple recently licensed the right to play 90-second samples within the iTunes store, which could help enable music sharing that’s three times better than these 30-second samples. If it had those, Music WithMe would be much easier to recommend, although really, full-song sharing is the way to go.
- For those in countries where Spotify is allowed, it represents a better Facebook music-sharing app than Music WithMe. Like YouTube, it has just about everything, and allows sharing with a single link. And like Music WithMe, it lets you share music based on what’s in your local collection, and helps you organize which of your friends have shared what.