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Like Netflix, music needs a ‘second screen’ strategy

Cover image for Like Netflix, music needs a ‘second screen’ strategy

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio

Photo of Tatiana Cirisano
by Tatiana Cirisano

The attention economy is more competitive than ever, with all entertainment types increasingly competing with each other for the same finite time. This has led to new levels of multitasking, like listening to a podcast while doing the daily Wordle, or online shopping from your iPhone while catching up on The Crown

Netflix is keenly aware of the latter. A major focus for Netflix’s new chief product officer, Eunice Kim, will be dominating the “second screen” — consumers’ phones. Rather than using the Netflix mobile app to replicate the TV or desktop screen experience, Kim wants to turn it into a companion for shows and films, where viewers can read explanations of plot twists or shop characters’ outfits while watching. It seems a new phase of the attention economy is on the horizon, where companies across entertainment are competing to develop immersive experiences that either require the consumer’s full attention (e.g., gaming, TikTok) or occupy both the foreground and background (e.g., Netflix’s new “second screen” strategy). This will only heighten cross-entertainment competition — and pressure the music industry to cement its place.

Passive is out, immersive is in?

During the period MIDiA termed “attention inflation”, multitasking was a double-edged sword for the music industry. Of course, the goal is to have consumers’ full attention, but it is better to be relegated to the background than not consumed at all. Thus, the ability to be “background-able” is part of what has allowed music to thrive in this hyper-competitive landscape. 

In addition to Netflix’s new strategy, gaming and social media are also increasingly immersive. Games can be enhanced via headsets, adapt music to users’ gameplay, and extend to Twitch streams and Discord servers. Unlike the social apps that preceded it, TikTok requires your full eyes and ears, which is a major reason for its rise to dominance. Moreover, if it turns out that new generations actually prefer these types of immersive digital experiences, then passive listening is no longer a sneaky benefit. The music industry needs its own “second screen” strategy for harnessing attention.

The TikTok agenda

Live music is obviously immersive — and one of the last “scarce” entertainment experiences we have left — but the music industry also needs something more scalable and digital. Livestreaming was at one point thought to be the future, but it is perhaps not immersive enough, unless fan participation is layered in. Of course, there are ample opportunities for music to be a part of Netflix’s own “second screen”, through features like episode tracklists and additional content tied to music documentaries.

But aside from watching social video and gaming, guess what else requires consumers’ full attention? Creating content, which is one of the fastest-growing activities on MIDiA’s entertainment time tracker. So it will come as no surprise that TikTok is a strong contender for music’s more immersive future. In a new Music Business Worldwide interview, TikTok Global Head of Music Business Development, Ole Obermann, laid out his plans (well, at least, if you read between the lines) for TikTok’s music ecosystem. While TikTok now links out to Spotify and Apple Music, it will likely prioritise TikTok Music in the future, so, fans who discover songs through TikTok clips can listen to the full versions without leaving the ByteDance umbrella. Obermann also envisions the inverse, where a fan listening to a song on TikTok Music can click a button to make a TikTok using their favourite section of the song. 

The longer-term goal is to “build a music ecosystem where discovery, promotion, engagement, consumption, live, merch, tickets, live streaming, all those things can happen,” Obermann said. Of course, YouTube has a similar opportunity, and similar aspirations, with Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen aiming for a “healthier ecosystem” where Shorts, YouTube, and YouTube Music intertwine. That word — ecosystem — came up a lot in 2023. Expect it to become a full-on buzzword in 2024.

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