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Facebook’s Gift of Music Giving

For all the Facebook Lovers:

October 21, 2009 – Digital and Mobile

By Antony Bruno, Denver

Facebook later this week will launch a new content gifting service that will allow members to, among other things, buy and give digital music tracks to their friends.

The music element will be powered by Lala, which is the exclusive music vendor. Lala’s service allows users to stream any song in its catalog in full for free once. After the free taste, users must either buy the full MP3 for 89 cents or a “Websong” streaming-only version of the song for 10 cents.

All of these options carry over to the Facebook gifting service. Facebook users can buy either MP3s or streaming-only songs through the gifting system, paying a fee for each Facebook friend to whom the gift is sent. Facebook will handle all the billing via a credit system. Web-only streaming songs will cost 1 credit (the equivalent of 10 cents) or 9 credits for an MP3.

Once gifted, the action will appear in members’ news feeds, where other friends can see what song was gifted and have the opportunity to sample it in full for one time at no charge.

Web-only songs can be played on either Lala.com or via the gifts section on Facebook, while MP3s can be downloaded and played in any fashion and on any device.

Facebook will make the gifting service available to a small segment of Facebook members as early as today, with plans for the full membership to have access in a matter of weeks. Facebook typically rolls out new services very slowly in this fashion.

Facebook revealed details on the broader gifting program on its blog late Wednesday afternoon. In addition to music, Facebook users can gift charity donations, e-cards and other things. A company spokeswoman said it looked at a number of digital music providers, but ultimately settled on Lala. It’s possible other music services may be involved in the future, but there are no immediate plans for including them.

This is the first real stab that Facebook has taken into the music space. The popular social networking service has been rumored for years to be interested in adding a music platform, but licensing issues and data reporting requirements have been said to stall the deal.

If anything, it’s a bigger win for Lala. The digital music service has quietly inserted itself as the back-end music engine for a number of Web sites this year, including the relaunched Billboard.com and Pitchfork, not to mention the rumored music search service expected from Google. Additional content streaming partnerships are expected in the weeks and months ahead.

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