Facebook announced a licensing deal with Universal Music Group, its first with a major label, as the social media giant promised more personalized, interactive music features for its two billion users. The move marks a new foray into music by Facebook, which despite its global conquest had been low-key in developing music functions compared with fellow tech titans Apple, Google and Amazon. Universal - home to some of the biggest names in music from The Beatles to Elton John and Lady Gaga - billed the agreement as its latest success in securing more revenue from songs in an age of round-the-clock Internet sharing. Universal will license its music recordings and videos around the world for use on Facebook as well as on Instagram and the virtual reality site Oculus, which are both owned by Mark Zuckerberg's company. Facebook said users will eventually have access to a vast library from Universal, allowing them to upload licensed music or share it through Messenger. The two companies, in a joint statement, said they were developing more personalized functions in a bid to "develop the next generation of music products that best engage social consumers."
While music postings are omnipresent on Facebook, the company attempts to take down embedded content that is copyrighted, with fans either uploading their own videos or linking to other sites such as YouTube and Spotify. A senior executive at Universal Music Group called the agreement, whose financial details were not disclosed, a "dynamic new model" for the relationship between the music industry and social media platforms.
The announcement comes two days after Universal inked a separate licensing agreement with YouTube - long an irritant to the music industry which says the video site pays too little in compensation. YouTube, which is owned by Google, is reportedly exploring the launch of a new streaming service in 2018 to compete with Spotify, Apple Music and other on-demand music services. Facebook has increasingly gone head-to-head with YouTube on its signature turf of videos. Zuckerberg on an earnings call earlier this year described video as a "mega-trend" that will shape the future of social media. Last year, the site made a concerted push into live streaming with Facebook Live, letting users with a smartphone broadcast everything from press conferences to their dinner parties to the world at large. And in August, the company launched Facebook Watch in the United States, a sub-section on the platform that like YouTube offers unique, quirky videos by homebody presenters unlikely to be cast by television executives. Facebook's agreement with Universal - especially if competitors Warner Music and Sony Music reach similar deals - could eventually raise questions for Vevo, a site created in 2009 by the three big labels to monetize their videos. Vevo has become a key conduit to watch music videos on YouTube, with the Vevo account of Justin Bieber - another star on Universal - becoming the second most-subscribed of all YouTube channels.