I love music. In addition to serving great coffee and showcasing fantastic local artists, my favorite café, Red Rock Coffee, is always spinning an amazing mix of music. This morning's mix was so fantastic I finally asked one of the baristas where they find the music they play. He told me each of the baristas create their own iTunes playlists and play them when they are on shift. I mentioned that they should consider selling the CDs of the artists they play, or at least sharing their iTunes playlists with their patrons through their wifi network. To my disappointment, he replied "Our IT guy is a nazi about security".
This got me back to thinking about a topic I have frequently pondered. When will Apple move out of the dark ages and create a community through iTunes? To me, the best feature of the original Napster site was not the peer to peer free file "sharing" (although that was fun while it lasted). It was the fact that I could search for any of my favorite songs, instantly see all of the kindred spirits who had my favorite songs in their music collection, and delightfully discover even more amazing music along the way.
Apple notoriously does not use social media. No blog, no Twitter presence. They finally created an iTunes Facebook page just one month ago. It is not surprising they don't use social media for corporate communications given their hyper paranoia around product leaks. But just because they don't want to use social media to communicate with the public doesn't mean they can't enable their customers to communicate with each other.
True, you can create and publish an iMix in the iTunes store. After extensive digging through the iTunes Store, as far as I can tell these iMixes are featured in just two places:
1) As alleged "Top Rated Mixes" on some album pages, which seem to be automatically generated by simply displaying iMixes that contain a song from the featured album
2) Deep in the bowels of iTunes as a quagmire of anonymous iMix listings I could only find by searching for the term "iMix"
Essentially, Apple expects you to create an iMix and distribute it on your own while they reap the benefits. Your friends and family download the fabulous compilations you created and marketed on iTunes' behalf through your own blog or Facebook page, and they cash in on the song sales. How Web 1.0 is that?
Here is what the folks at iTunes need to do to blast into the new millennium and create a global iTunes sales force (aka community):
- Enable users to tag iMixes so the iTunes community can browse iMixes by genre, mood, artists, etc.
- Enable users to extend their personal brand by displaying personalized usernames when they publish their iMixes, not just list iMixes by name
- Enable users to display their most recent purchases as part of their profile, then
- Instead of displaying "recommendations based on the items in your cart", display other users who have purchased or created iMixes from the same songs or albums
- Create widgets or opt in to the Facebook Beacon program to allow users to publish their new iMixes to their blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc. automatically
- Promote the people behind the top iMixes, not just the top iMixes. Highlight those users with the best mixing abilities. Allow the community to learn more about their favorite iMix DJs
- Apply the App Store model to iTunes and cut each iMix publisher in on a percentage of the revenue when members of the community purchase music from these playlists
The social media product feature list for a new iTunes community could go on and on, you get the idea. But imagine the new revenue stream Apple would recognize as iTunes users world wide harness their iTunes libraries and social networks to create and share iMixes. Red Rock would have an incentive to create Red Rock iMixes to earn incremental music sales revenue, Apple would sell even more music, artists would develop new fans, and I would be able to add all of Red Rock's fabulous music mixes to my library. And everyone is happy.
That's what Apple iTunes needs to do. How will you create a global sales force (community!) to distribute your products using social media?