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In the movie Amadeus, Mozart eagerly asks the Austrian Emperor for his opinion of the composer’s new opera, The Marriage of Figaro. At first the Emperor is evasive but upon Mozart’s insistence he responds that “there are too many notes.” An offended Wolfgang sarcastically asks “which ones should I exclude?”

Download audio narration to iPod, iPad, and iPhone here.

Evidently somebody in authority decided the tenth version of iTunes that Apple released today would also benefit from a mystifying exclusion. It’s “Ping” social networking is probably the most significant innovation to promote artists and record labels in the last decade. New release popularity was suffering because digital music forced a decline in radio, the chief recorded music promotional vehicle of the past sixty years.  As radio’s successor, Ping permits 160 million iTunes users to spontaneously join affinity groups enabling them to discover new music and artists from one another. They can share recommendations within invitation-only groups, or among people with similar tastes from anywhere in open groups.

Yet somebody – somewhere – failed to enable Ping users to share entire music tracks. Instead sharing is limited to thirty second samples. That’s like asking a visually artistic friend to appreciate the Mona Lisa upon viewing only the top twenty percent of a copy. As radio demonstrated, popularity is advanced by repetition. If two Ping members are instead empowered to share full songs the first member might get the second one addicted. When shared as streams the songs might include behaviorally-targeted commercials, which have proven to be much more effective than conventional ones. Not only might the practice generate ad revenue, but it could motivate consumers to buy MP3 versions of their favorite newly discovered tracks.

It’s unimaginable that full-track sharing was an overlooked concept during the planning for Ping. We assume somebody killed the idea out of concern that it would promote piracy, or discourage MP3 sales, or from a desire to avoid commercials. Whether the decision was by Apple, the labels, the publishers, or some combination, it was a mistake for at least two reasons.

First, among those so inclined the sharing restriction to thirty second samples is unlikely to inhibit piracy. For example, one Ping member can merely purchase an MP3 track and email it to other members of her affinity group. In point of fact, she may feel even more motivated to do so since by default it becomes the easiest way to share a full song for free.

Second, streamed commercials need not be obnoxious to be effective. For example, songs might be preceded by short biographical information on the artist or his upcoming concert dates. There could also be short audio announcements recommending similar artists.

Perhaps the decision-makers assume that artists and labels themselves can individually provide free streams or downloads as means of self-promotion. It appears that Ping enables such features. For example, I might become a Cold Play follower, thereby getting steady updates from them on my Ping feed. Such updates might include free songs. Nonetheless, that’s a half-way measure. Full track streamed sharing among Ping members would be much more powerful.