There are a few stories doing the rounds this morning about Facebook’s anticipated entry into the music sector. It looks set to be a more typical Social Network music approach rather than a digital distribution strategy. Basically this looks set to be Facebook’s take on Artist Pages, but with the typical (i.e. straightforward) FB feel.
So will it be a big deal? Facebook is a major player in the European Social Network space (the third largest network across the region) and is growing rapidly. So it ticks the ‘scale’ box. It has a rapidly growing developer community that will provide artists with lots of valuable tools so it ticks the ‘widget’ box too. Also Jupiter will be publishing a European report soon that shows that a large proportion of European regular Social Networkers buy music they discover on networks, so it ticks the ‘opportunity’ box too.
But the bigger question is not so much will Facebook artist pages be a success, but rather, will Social Networks continue to be successful artist promotion tools as more networks get in on the game. Each network has its own ethos, sensibilities and platform. Each requires not only different coding and programming, but different approaches, levels of fan engagement and editorial. MySpace artists pages are now, after a relatively short period of time, an accepted essential element of the music marketing cycle. Bebo has made some significant headway since entering the space and can claim a comfortable, if somewhat distant, second place. But what if all the major (and minor) networks started aggressively pursuing the strategy. One of two things could happen:
1. The landscape will get fragmented and lose effectiveness
2. Labels will prioritize on 1 or 2 networks for most artists and then use individual smaller networks for particular profiles of artist
The likelihood is that #1 will precipitate #2. The bottom line is that record labels simply don’t have the cash or resources to be actively developing and actively maintaining multiple pages across multiple networks for all their artists. Also, if it become de rigueur to have pages on 3 or 4 networks (until consolidation kicks in) then it could skew the market towards bigger budgeted majors.
So Facebook will be a valuable addition to the space if they can get enough initial momentum to kick the network effect into motion. But there is only so much room for further ‘mainstream’ players before the rest become specialist also-rans.