Swedish Pop Invades Facebook!

In the last few weeks, the Swedish indie music scene has come on to Facebook in droves. When I started writing about how distributed this scene was across various spots on the internet last March, there was nothing going on on Facebook. When I did the final proofread of my paper on that subject in early August, there was enough that it needed to be mentioned. Now the scene I wrote about there is all over Facebook.

For instance, Magnus Bjerkert of Adrian Recordings, has created an Adrian Recordings group. There is a group for Hybris records, an inside job by their own Mattias Lövkvist (I confess to a wee bit of inadvertent intervention there since the Hybris persona appeared on Facebook within a few hours of my asking him in an interview whether he was using Facebook for Hybris, to which he responded that he was only using it for himself). In the last two weeks I’ve ‘friended’ a few of my favorite Swedish musicians – no one famous, but people whose music I really love.

Magnus at Adrian is doing a particularly good job of using Facebook. He’s made a group for the label, but also for its most successful artist, Familjen, and is currently using the site to encourage people to vote for Familjen in a contest with a large cash award. He’s putting up videos left and right. He’s sending out event invitations for upcoming Adrian artist events.

Now one might say “isn’t this just the MySpacification of Facebook?” and maybe it is. But I think it’s different, at least for now. And here’s how: on MySpace, from the start, bands came on as bands, and fans friended them as fans. The band/fan distinction was really clear. People in bands may have had individual accounts as well, but they were a different entity.

In contrast, Facebook has a culture of profiles representing real individuals, and though that is increasingly getting watered down by organizations (including bands) creating Facebook profiles, I think that when an artist or record label person creates an account on there, there is still a sense that this is the person, not just the persona. On MySpace I could be friends with Hell on Wheels. On Virb I am friends with Hell on Wheels. On Facebook, I’m friends with Rickard from Hell on Wheels. That feels different. This is enhanced by the fact that most profiles are not visible unless you are in someone’s network or already friends. That is part of what was so disappointing about the REM member profiles.

It may be that accumulating large numbers of Facebook friends will become important for bands as it is on MySpace, but for now, it seems less like people are paying attention to how many friends someone has and more like people are linking to people with whom they have some kind of pre-existing connection. The promotion is happening for the people who are already into it, not to recruit new fans.

Today I created an It’s A Trap group on Facebook. IAT, as you may know, is a website that promotes Scandinavian music internationally. I write occasional reviews for the site and now and then I get to push an mp3 as well. Here is an interview with the site’s founder and workhorse extraordinaire, Avi Roig. He, understandably, feels like he’s got enough internet stuff going on without taking on Facebook as well. But I felt that as the scene grew and grew on there, the absence of IAT was more and more significant. Did we need a group? Well, no, we’ve got one in the IAT site. We’ve got one on Last.fm. But it just seemed like where the action is, It’s A Trap should be. And I guess it speaks volumes in regard to my own identification with the scene, and IAT, that I’d go and set it up (after running it by Avi, of course). I’m becoming an action ethnographer without even trying. I like it.

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Spreading the Wealth with Widgets

Reverbnation has been consistently ahead of the curve on thinking about how online band promotion needs to be easily distributable amongst different sites and platforms. I’ve written about their “spread and track” philosophy here, their street team organizing tools here, and their Facebook application here. All of these are at the forefront of a business model based on giving musicians portable promotional tools that both they and their fans can embed all over the place and taking a cut of the profits the bands get, so they don’t make any money unless the bands do.

They’ve now let me know about a shiny new widget they’re calling TuneWidget, that does a heck of a lot of things in one: lets you play a band’s songs, videos, get info on them, sign up for their mailing list, see what other bands they recommend, gives the bands tracking feedback so they know how and where it gets engaged, and last but never least — lets you share the widget, so fans can put it on their own sites. Plus it’s free! Brilliant!

tunewidget.jpg

They claim that in beta testing:

• Fans played the music at double the rate of other music widgets

• Fans stayed engaged longer with TuneWidget than other music widgets

• Fans switched to view recommended artists almost 50% of the time if they had played the primary artist’s music

• Fans tended to listen to a significant portion of the song from the recommended artist when they switched to them

The use of recommendations as part of this has tremendous potential for music discovery. There is nothing like getting a recommendation FROM A BAND. (Says she who ran straight to Theoretical Girl when The Fine Arts Showcase‘s Gustaf Kjellvander raved about her — have I mentioned how much I am loving my current project interviewing people involved in the Swedish music scene? More on that another day.)

They are adding lots of bands and songs (1500 they say) each day. I have yet to hear from any musicians using their tools, and suspect their name recognition is nowhere near what it should be, so if you’re playing around with what they offer, please let me know.

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Does CBS get it?

First they go and buy Last.fm, and have the sense to leave it in London with the current crew still in charge, and now their CBS Interactive president, Quincy Smith, is talking major sense about how CBS tv and the web ought to get along, as seen in a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. In the article he discusses their internet strategy, and it hits all the points I have consistently argued for: respect for the audience, giving the audience ways to spread the word themselves, giving them little bonuses for engaging your shows via the web, and encouraging discussion about you to flourish wherever it may.

The idea is to let their online material be promiscuous: Instead of limiting their shows and other online video to CBS.com, the network is letting them couple with any website that people might visit.

“CBS is all about open, nonexclusive, multiple partnerships,” said Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive.

[...]

“The key lesson from Silicon Valley is respect for the audience,” said Jonathan Barzilay, senior vice president and general manager of entertainment at CBS Interactive.

But the approach also includes that “Swingtown” element: CBS offers software to let fans of shows such as “Jericho” get production updates, photos, exclusive video and insider commentary, then post them on blogs and social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.

[...]

He also is moving away from earlier strategies designed to bring people to CBS.com, such as the Innertube online service, which offers full streams of prime-time shows, clips and Web-only videos.

With the Audience Network, Smith’s strategy could be described more as “outertube.” The idea is to send CBS shows to other websites where people are already hanging out, to ensure that viewers don’t have to go far to find them.

[...]

That’s one reason why CBS is spreading its programming to other websites. For its “Big Brother 8″ reality show this summer, CBS offered photos, participants’ diaries, show recaps and full episodes on its website. But it also created software, known as a widget, to let fans post those things on their own blogs, computer desktops or Facebook and MySpace pages.

The network says that about 25% of the interaction with that programming happened somewhere other than CBS.com.

[...]

Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff said CBS’ new approach recognized that TV shows are social — fans talk about shows, so the key for networks is to make sure that conversation happens on their websites.

“It takes an awful lot of humility to recognize that it’s better to distribute the stuff off your site than to try to attract people to it,” Bernoff said. “That means if the viewer community wants to talk about it somewhere else, let them take it somewhere else.”

This represents pretty much the exact opposite of what the NFL is doing. It’s great to see mucky-mucks in a big media conglomerate recognizing that their role is to give the audience what they want and let the fans work their magic with each other rather than trapping eyeballs and trying to control everything themselves. Media do best when fans get talking. The internet lets that thrive as never before, and the smart media companies are those that figure out how to facilitate talk, wherever it may be.

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About that Camping Trip

Well, the night weather did not cooperate too well with last weekend’s camping trip, but I thought you regular readers might enjoy some pictures from the glorious days.

We woke up after a tremendous all-night downpour that seeped into the inside of our tent to find a super-dramatic smoke on the water scenario, with the entire lake covered with rising fog:

Smoke on the water

Smoke on the Water

Later in the day, I discovered some areas with very psychedelic rocks and my son and I had fun making rock faces:

Rock Face 1

Rock Face 2

If anyone knows what kind of rocks these are please tell me. They were found in a very thin layer of the sandstone (limestone?) cliffs.In some areas they were flat and swirly. In other areas they were little balls like marbles and flat like the eyes in the first face up there. In other areas they were little bowls. Very very cool stuff. I brought a lot of it home.

And here’s a shot of Kansas looking just the way Kansas ought to look:

Kansas!

Have a super weekend.

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How People Discover Music

I missed it in July, but today The Listenerd drew my attention to a survey conducted by mp3 blog aggregator, the Hype Machine which asked people: How Do You Discover Music?

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in social sciences (I hope!) to spot some immediate reasons to question the survey’s validity — it was conducted at an mp3 blog aggregator, which ought to skew it toward mp3 blog readers in a big way, and it was not open-ended (apparently they didn’t include “radio,” as was noted in the comments — 7.6% said they used the radio in the ‘other’ category, but would more have said so had it been asked?).

At any rate, though, here are the results of the 1,430 answers they got (people could check all that applied):

Total Responses: 1430

chart

These findings have some interesting implications, though I think we have to discount the fact that “online editorials” (i.e. mostly blogs), came out as the first given the nature of the sample.

(1) Friends rule. Still. In their own interpretations, they go right to Last.fm, but I am not convinced — especially after seeing the role of music in friending on Last.fm in my survey data (still working on that stuff) — that it’s really online friend connections where most meaningful recommendation is happening. If it is online friends, I think most of those friends, or at least a very substantial proportion of them, are friends offline with whom one also connects online rather than friends formed online for purposes of sharing musical taste.

(2) Algorithms such as Last.fm and Pandora’s (“Online Mechanical”) have a long way to go. This may be on account of people not using them, but I suspect it also has to do with the difficulty of capturing just what it is that makes Band A appeal to someone when Band B doesn’t. Last.fm has spent the last 2 years recommending me people I know I don’t like, to the point where I quit checking my Last.fm recommendations. Lately though it seems to have gotten somewhat better (except for that it now recommends bands I already listen to!).

This really suggests the tremendous potential of things like iLike and Last.fm applications on Facebook for spreading the word. If you get the music recommendations where the offline friendship networks are already mirrored, word spreads. This has been happening on MySpace already for a long time, but people have acted as though it’s a straight band to fan phenomenon when it’s always been friend to friend, with the band as a social commodity exchanged between them.

It also means that the more ways that labels and bands can make their music portable so that friends can ship it around easily to one another, the more they’re going to thrive.

It was funny to run across this because just yesterday I was thinking that someone really ought to do a study where they ask a large random sample of people how they heard about the last artist whose music they got into and whether or not they had purchased the music. That’s what you’d really need to do if you wanted to know how people are getting turned on to new music. Unless someone wants to hire me to do that study on their behalf, I doubt I’ll ever do it myself, so please steal this idea (or hire me!) because I want to know the results.

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