September 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

Real-Time Group Listening for Facebook: Myxer Social Radio

We’ve learned of another music twist for Facebook’s F8 announcement on Thursday: Myxer Social Radio, from the six-year-old MP3, wallpaper, and ringtone company Myxer. It plans to join the social, smartphone world with a real-time group listening streaming radio service that will let friends listen together via Facebook — not only that, but it will sculpt the group listening rooms based on music it thinks people there will like.

Facebook, we have confirmed with multiple sources, will launch an initiative tomorrow to let music services put deep hooks into its social network, allowing friends to join each other to listen to the same song in real time, which will, of course, give them yet another reason to use Facebook, either to log in to those services or see what their friends are listening to. Most of these services are unlimited on-demand music subscriptions (see: MOG), but Myxer’s offering will be 100-percent-free, ad-supported streaming radio.

Myxer Social Radio will offer group listening rooms somewhat along the line of those in Turntable.fm, but without users having to select which songs play. Instead, the service will analyze their Facebook Likes and possibly other information like Last.fm accounts in order to spin an appropriate selection of tunes for friends to enjoy together and comment on, using music from its ten-million-song-plus catalog.

Some of these features will launch soon, Myxer founder and CEO Myk Willis told Evolver.fm, while others will wait until the fourth quarter.

“We’re not trying to build the largest listening rooms in the world — we’re trying to build rooms for people who actually know each other, for the most part,” explained Willis. “We’re steering the programming in those rooms based on who is actually listening at that time. Turntable.fm is a great, fun activity, but it’s an active thing… this is very passive and lean-back, when it comes to programming.”

All of Myxer’s group listening rooms will be free on the web (via Facebook), iPhone, and Android, unlike some (but not all) of the other impending Facebook music services. All three versions will require a Facebook log-in and include visual ads, audio ads, and sponsored rooms. Some of these audio ads will only be two-seconds long, which should be short enough to stop people from reaching for the mute button.

Turntable.fm already has one super-faithful copycat, and as Facebook rolls out its not-so-secret music initiative on Thursday, we expect more of them to come. To try to compete, Myxer has one feature we haven’t seen elsewhere: Song Stories, which are basically crowdsourced DJ moments. Users can shoot a short clip of themselves talking about a particular song, and when other people hear that song in a group listening room — even a roomful of strangers — that clip could play before the song.

“Song Stories is something I’m hugely excited about,” explained Willis. “I don’t think people will ‘get’ it until they experience it, but it’s a way for people to record 30- or 40-second clips with their cameraphone or webcam that are associated with the song. Myxer Social Radio takes care of cataloging it and figuring out when to show that, and who it would be appropriate to show it to. These stories can be anything from funny to authoritative, and in some cases the artist will be leaving song stories. Some of them are very sad — they add an emotional dimension that I think people will think is very powerful. And in an advertising context… [the as-yet-unnamed launch sponsor] has some brand assets that lend themselves to stories about songs.”

Myxer Social Radio will require Facebook to log-in, in part so that you see rooms where your friends are when you launch the app, and in part to power the Myxer Social Boost feature, which tailors the music in any room to the Likes of the people there. And when you notice that a friend is listening to something in a particular room, you can join them at the same point in the song.

“You sync up exactly, when you hop into a room in Myxer Social Radio,” explained Willis. “We really stress the idea of listening with your friends, and when you listen together, it’s in real time, for each part of the song, and you can interact via chat — and it doesn’t matter what device you’re connecting to the service with — iPhone, Android, [the web], or whatever.”

This is Myxer’s first foray into streaming radio on all three platforms (iPhone, Android, and the web-via-Facebook). Myxer founder and CEO Myk Willis told Evolver.fm that he’d waited until this moment, in part, to coincide with Facebook’s big music plans.

“The intersection of mobile, social, and free, despite the cliches — that’s the sweetspot for us… The real-time group listening is one of those things that we kept coming back to,” he said. “We want to bring people together around music, and that is such a clear way to do it.”

We already considered 2011 to be the year of the group-listening app, even before tomorrow’s Facebook F8 announcements. But if Facebook succeeds in providing the connective tissue for music services, real-time group listening will prove to be much more than a passing fad.