Twitter’s latest experiment in music is with Rhapsody

Maybe they’re all tweeting about music.
Maybe they’re all tweeting about music.
Image: Reuters/Kacper Pempel
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Twitter is experimenting with music again.

The real-time communications platform has signed a deal with Rhapsody, which will allow Twitter users, whether they are Rhapsody subscribers or not, to listen to and share any of the 34 million songs in the streaming service’s library. Like iTunes tracks and SoundCloud songs, this will happen via an audio card integrated with Twitter (rather than having users click on a link that sends them to an external website or app).

Truth be told, this is a much bigger deal for Rhapsody than it is for Twitter. But it remains interesting for the latter, which has had a good bit of difficulty figuring out a way into music.

Rhapsody, the oldest streaming service, hit 2.5 million subscribers earlier this year, and hopes that exposure to Twitter’s 288 million monthly active users will rev up its growth. “It’s a brand new way to understand the power of full, on-demand streaming,” Rhapsody CFO Ethan Rudin tells Quartz.

“Music has become a fairly individual experience,” Rudin says. “In the past you used to buy CDs, your buddy would steal them, you would wonder when you are going to get them back. In the digital world it isn’t easy to replicate that.” But music can return to its roots as a shared experience, he says, when it’s shared on a social media network.

Here’s how the arrangement will actually work.

Rhapsody users will be able to share any of the service’s tracks with their followers. Non-Rhapsody users on Twitter will be able to listen to these tracks and share them with their own followers, and so on. Artists also will be able to use Rhapsody to disseminate their tracks on a fully licensed basis to fans. Wiz Khalifa, Pearl Jam, Fifth Harmony, and Flo Rida will be doing that this morning.

Think of it like a leaky paywall for news websites.

Rhapsody has thus far resisted anything resembling free music and, with labels and high-profile artists increasingly concerned about giving the work away for nothing, it will fund royalties out if its own pockets, Rudin says. So the deal is interesting in that sense. Whether it actually catches on with users is, of course, an entirely different question

Twitter has experimented a lot with music. About a year ago, it discontinued its own, separate music app, which never really took off with users. It has since been linked with a rumored acquisition of the free music-upload service SoundCloud, but a deal never materialized. Twitter hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment on the Rhapsody deal.