Does Facebook's New Soundbite Feature Actually Help Musicians?

What bands looked like in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Remy Reilly, Ryan Berg, Camden Gonzales, Luke Callaway and Patrick Smith.EXPAND
What bands looked like in 2020. Clockwise from the top left: Remy Reilly, Ryan Berg, Camden Gonzales, Luke Callaway and Patrick Smith.
Ryan Berg
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Your Facebook menu will be getting a lot more crowded. New audio tools and monetization for creators — lamely called "Soundbites" — will be available soon through Facebook and Messenger.

Like the copycats social media platforms Facebook and Twitter are known to be, (first Snapchat-style stories, then “reels” mimicking TikTok) Facebook ripped some notes from audio room platforms like the invite-only chat app Clubhouse. These kinds of audio rooms emphasize talking with others over posting on feeds, which means more opportunities to hear trash takes live. Twitter did something like this with their own Clubhouse copy, Twitter Spaces.

Creators will also be able to monetize their audio content, which could be an outlet for local music artists when the option becomes available. According to Facebook, the new audio features will allow monetization for creators from supporters through donations, subscriptions or one-time payments.

During the pandemic, livestreams on platforms such as Facebook became a widespread trend among musicians. Most commonly, however, performers were requesting tips through separate apps CashApp or Venmo.

“When Live Audio Rooms launch, fans will be able to support their favorite creators and public figures through Stars, or donate to causes they care about," Facebook said in a recent announcement of the changes. “Soon after launch, we’ll also offer other monetization models, like the ability to charge for access to a Live Audio Room through a single purchase or a subscription.”

The Stars option was rolled out in 2018 for the Facebook Gaming community when the company was competing with game-streaming app Twitch. Stars, which are given by users, amount to just one cent per star, so creators would have to be scooping all the stars in the night sky to make a profit. On top of that, creators wouldn’t even see that profit until 30 days after their streaming event.

Among other new functions that Facebook will have available for content creators on Soundbites is the ability to post short audio clips and podcasts. Audio rooms will be available to anyone with a Facebook account. Yeah, kind of unnecessary with all the podcasts and audio rooms already available, right? Well, maybe it's not all bad. Sean Seybold, a Dallas musician, doesn’t think so.

“I’m happy to see more support options for musicians,” Seybold says. “That will always be a good thing. But if people prefer to stay home instead of going out, it’ll be hard to book those live experiences. Then again, a digital audience is better than no audience at all."

Some artists say otherwise, and aren’t too excited about these audio additions, even holding hopes that they fail.

“I’m excited about the future where Facebook has a rapid succession of failures because their platform is uninteresting and dysfunctional,” writer Hank Green said in a tweet. “And they refused to fix it in order to prop up multi-year, double-digit growth.”

There were also those who pointed out that more important things could be improved on the app, like account issues.

“While this is exciting…” @ChikaUmeadi said in a quote tweet in response to the reveal, "Seems like if you read the comments, some people would rather have their accounts unlocked than new audio features."

All of this audio content is expected to launch on Facebook this summer, because we're all just dying to spend more time scrolling through Facebook. At least you can support your local music artists and podcasters in the process, right? Right.

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