Ping, Apple's half-hearted attempt at its own music-focused social networking site, has finally received an update worth noting: Social Playlists. On Friday, the iTunes-only website Ping added a new feature which lets you create a playlist of your favorite songs. Those playlists can then be published for your Ping followers to rate and review or even collaborate on with you.
How Social Playlists Work
To access the new feature, click on the "Ping" icon in the left-hand sidebar in iTunes to be taken to the social networking site. From there, look for the "Ping Playlists" section on the right side and click on "Create a New Playlist."
On the Playlist creation page, you fill out a title, description and can check a box that reads "Allow people who follow me to add songs" if you want to create a collaborative playlist with friends. However, in typical Apple fashion, the songs for your playlist can only come from the iTunes store - there's no option to add your own MP3's from your music collection.
Ping: Dead in the Water?
While this update brings what's now one of the only notable features for Ping, as a whole, the social network is incredibly unremarkable. Although iPad integration and Twitter connectivity was added last month, Ping still lacks Facebook connectivity for finding friends or sharing music socially. And even the Twitter integration did not seem to pay off for Ping - our analysis of Twitter revealed a low volume of tweets and no re-tweets shortly after the feature was launched.
As our own Marshall Kirkpatrick described it, the Ping user experience is "totally focused on commerce not community."
The new social playlists feature again confirms Apple's stance on "social" once again is about money, not users. Without options for users to add their own esoteric, indie tracks from unsigned artists, Ping isn't serving as a place where music fans can find the next big thing, it's serving as yet another pointer to the virtual cash registers on iTunes.
What's more, according to a recent article from music technology blog Hypebot, Ping to date only has around 2,000 artists on board, an incredibly low level of participation considering the network's potential to reach iTunes' 160 million users. At launch, Apple said artist profiles were invite-only but "any iTunes user can create a profile on Ping, artist or otherwise." Distributers like Tunecore and CD Baby who serve indie musicians are now helping artists create Ping profiles. So why haven't more done so?
Where are the Artists?
According to a comment on Hypebot from Peter at TuneCore, the company has set up more than 1,000 of its artists with Ping accounts...which begs the question, if half of the 2,000 are from TuneCore, then how many has Apple actually "invited?" Where is everyone?
Perhaps. Fast Company said that the flailing News Corp-owned social network hosts eight million artists currently, while Apple is slowing adding "worthy" artists one-by-one. Meanwhile, Apple also posted a 9-page rule book for any other artists interested in joining the Ping network. The book includes a bizarre list of no-no's for artists on Ping like a ban URLs in the About section of a Ping profile (artists can't mention their own website?) and no posting links to other content providers or ads for sites outside of iTunes. It even recommends artists don't recommend only their own songs to their fans. It's likely that the limitations put into place have discourage some artist participation, but ultimately, it's Ping's overall lackluster appeal that is dragging it down.