Fans as music-sellers on MySpace

You’ve likely heard the news that MySpace is going to enable selling music. Particularly interesting is that they are letting the fans sell the bands’ tunes through their own profiles:

A handful of bands have been testing the MySpace online music feature for several weeks. One is The Format, an indie rock band from Phoenix, Ariz., that boasts more than 99,000 “friends” on their MySpace page.

Terry McBride, chief executive of Canadian label Nettwerk Records, which manages the band and handles their marketing and promotion, said having fans help sell the band’s music is the wave of the future.

We have a strong belief the next major retailer in music is the consumer themselves,” McBride said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

I guess it’s not that different from being an Amazon affiliate, except it looks to me like the fans aren’t getting any of the take for sales made through their profiles. Anyone know for sure?

I wondered before about where the line is between empowering and exploiting fans, also in the context of the Murdoch empire, and this is another example. Yeah, I would love to be personally responsible for selling records by my favorite artists (I confess that I’ve been known to count how many copies of records I know were bought because of my recommendations). On the other hand, if I had a thriving little media sales empire taking place through a web profile I expended considerable energy on maintaining and keeping filled with current and compelling content, I think I’d feel a wee bit resentful if I weren’t seeing any of that income. Of course, I’d want a cut of MySpace’s profit, not the band’s.

A pair of nice reads on Snakes on a Plane and online fandom

Here is a somewhat-less-hypefilled-than-the-norm look at some of the questions raised by The Snakes on A Plane/Snakes on A Blog phenomenon:

Regardless of how the movie turns out, a line is being crossed here, and it raises questions that don’t have quick answers. Should audiences have a hand in how a movie is made, even an out-and-out crowd-pleaser? At what point does a director become part of the marketing team? Is this a bad thing or does it just rubber-stamp a practice increasingly part of the cost-conscious film industry? Can studios even hope to control the use of the blogosphere as a marketing tool? They’ll certainly try.

“I’ve gotten calls from filmmakers asking how we can do this again,” says‘s Finkelstein.

“I’m sure you’ll see other movies with silly titles. The very smart thing New Line did, though, was to do nothing. No posters, no trailers. They recognised people were attracted to it on their own. And people, online especially, are very aware of what’s organic and what’s false, and if it’s false they shy away.”

For a sharp academic analysis, see Henry Jenkins’s take on how this phenomenon combines fan power, trash-media aesthetics, fan-made media, and a Hollywood that was game to play along.

Samuel L. Jackson on the wisdom of online fans vs. “people who sit in offices”

Samuel L. Jackson, whose new film Snakes on a Plane owes more to bloggers than any film in history, envisions a new world of film making in which producers work with fans from the start:

“It’s the next step in what’s going to happen. There are so many people who are aware of films because of the information highway and most times people who sit in offices have no idea what’s going on in the real world.

“Fortunately for New Line (studio), this happened and was out of hand before they were even made aware of it. The fan demands made them understand what they had.

“Eventually I think there’s going to be films like this that are of a certain genre that some smart person will invite that type of input.

“Someone will say something like, ‘I have an idea for a film, and here’s my idea. How do you think this should play out? Who should be in it? How long should it be? Should it be one parts, two parts, or three parts?’

“The interaction from the fans will fuel this whole thing and make those people feel like they are such a part of the film. If you got a dollar from all those people you can make the film.”

Great to see someone recognize fan creativity as a business asset rather than a threat to intellectual property rights.

On the limits of fan power

One of the core issues in fandom is the ongoing power struggle between fans and those who produce the materials around which they organize. Analysts tend to focus on how the internet has empowered fans, but as this piece by Tom Dorsey on fan efforts to save cancelled tv shows points out:

In the old days of snail mail it was harder to whip up a save-our-show campaign because there was no central meeting place for outraged fans to assemble.

Now the Internet serves as the perfect gathering spot to try to raise a ruckus. There are several sites that allow people to select their killed-off show from a laundry list and sign the online petition.

Some offer people a place to pen their frustration. is one. You can Google TV show petitions for others or search by show name.

But there is little reason to believe that network executives ever visit any of these sites. They’ve made up their minds by the time the ax falls, and there won’t be a change of heart for several reasons.