Apple, Facebook and Google, Oh My!

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This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

The big news in the music business is that Apple has just announced the launch of its own social networking site, Ping. There are many good reasons Apple is getting into social networking. First, there's Facebook. Over 500 million users strong, Facebook has changed the landscape of how people interact on the web. More importantly, Facebook has demonstrated just how significant its platform can be for recording artists. It allows bands to set up individual band pages, place audio and video clips, offer recommendations, tour dates, ticket links and blog spots -- all under the guise of coming from a trusted friend. Never underestimate the value of recommendations from trusted friends. They are the most significant marketing tools for a sale.

Apple's Ping is operating within the Apple ecosystem and, as such, is pretty limited in its scope. Users can follow artists, notate the music they like and offer comments on tracks. Artists on Ping have a bit more latitude. They can post videos and photos, and even cut and paste news. But for the most important music-driven computer company, Apple needs to step up their game if they want to lure Facebook fans.

They probably launched Ping a bit prematurely but it doesn't really matter. Apple has over 160 million registered iTunes accounts. Each one of those 160 million accounts just received an invitation to Ping when they upgraded to iTunes 10. How many other companies can instantly launch to 160 million loyal customers? How many other companies store the credit cards for those160 million customers? Apple can afford to build their social network slowly, while earning millions on their related products.

So Apple is becoming a Facebook competitor and they're not the only one. According to Reuters, Google is planning to launch their music site by Christmas. Google, Facebook and Apple – three giant companies competing for your music dollars.

Notice I didn't mention MySpace. MySpace is also revamping but it's probably too late for a recovery.

While they were once a music business giant, now MySpace is not much more than a placeholder for bands to post music. The site lost its credibility by making friendship so meaningless. Too many bands figured out that by purchasing an off market widget, a robot could solicit friends for them on the site. Once it became apparent that friends on MySpace were no friends at all, the significance of the site disappeared.

And Sony also made an announcement this week, launching a music cloud streaming service called Music Unlimited. It's not the first time Sony has tried to limit how consumers get their music. They've been involved in several operations. And it's not the first time cloud based streaming has been used; there's MOG and Rhapsody right now. Given all the choices, one must ask, does anyone really want to buy music from the Sony Corporation? I doubt it.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.