Can Twitter Revive Its Music App?

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Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) is rethinking its little-used music app and is set to launch an entirely new music listening function later this week, according to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to The Wall Street Journal.

Just a week ago Twitter, pulled its little-used music app from Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes Store. While the app was released to some fanfare last spring, it failed to gain much attention.

The new service will focus on how Twitter users interact with musicians via the site, which has been a popular way for fans to engage with their favorite musicians and general Twitter conversation about music. The most-followed person on Twitter is pop star Katy Perry, and she’s followed closely by Justin Bieber. Seven out of the top 10 most-followed Twitter accounts are pop musicians. The social network still hasn’t reached any agreements with major record companies, so the actual songs that will be available through the service will be limited.

The service will be powered by partnerships Twitter is working toward with streaming services like Beats Music and SoundCloud. The Wall Street Journal’s source said that the company has been in talks with both of those services for a partnership that would help promote the music streaming service while giving Twitter access to music. Twitter is also working with Vevo, which powers music videos by artists from huge record labels, including Sony’s (NYSE:SNE) Sony Music Entertainment and the Vivendi-owned Universal Music Group, to put music video clips in Twitter feeds.

Though musicians use Twitter to connect with fans and promote new work, Twitter hasn’t been able to figure out a method to provide users with music itself. Without record company deals that would give Twitter permission to stream entire songs from a wide catalog, it’s uncertain how Twitter can entice users to listen to music via the social network rather than a popular streaming service like Spotify or Pandora (NYSE:P).

When Twitter went public in November, many questioned whether the service was capable of becoming the next Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), citing concerns about user retention and monetization that the company still hasn’t answered after being publicly traded for four months. Twitter reached its eighth anniversary earlier this week, and the site celebrated by releasing a feature that allows users to look back at their very first tweets. But the Amsterdam-based Twopcharts estimates that just a quarter of the new accounts created this month will still be tweeting this time next year, on Twitter’s ninth birthday.

Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for not being cool anymore, as the site is flooded with (gasp) old people who have made it less appealing to teenage users. Some analysts have argued that Facebook has become a utility more than just a cool app, which will make the site a lasting tool for communication rather than a social media fad. Twitter has yet to prove such lasting power and can’t even seem to hang on to a significant portion of the people who create accounts.

One of Twitter’s biggest draws is that it gives users the ability to connect with celebrities like musicians directly, but it seems doubtful that the site will be able to parlay that into a successful music app without getting the rights to the actual music.

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