Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
April 5, 200810:12 PM

Note To Marketers (And Musicians): Online Social Networks Owe You Nothing

David Usher started a new Blog called, CloudiD, where he plans on Blogging about all things art, technology and communications. He's got my attention and, based on the many comments he's getting on every Blog posting since it launched, others are paying attention to.

Just the other day he had a Blog post titled, Mike Arrington Should Shut Up And Sing, But Who Would Pay Him To Do That? (Dave, you figured out the gentle art of link-baiting pretty quickly ;) The crux of the Blog posting revolves around an op-ed piece Billy Bragg wrote for The New York Times titled, The Royalty Scam, and Michael Arrington's response on TechCruch titled, These Crazy Musicians Still Think They Should Get Paid For Recorded Music.

The crux of the back and forth?

Bragg argues that musicians should get a cut of the money that online social networks make (akin to royalties). Arrington says: "Note that Bragg neatly sidesteps the fact that music was uploaded to the site by artists (or their labels) themselves, with full knowledge that they would not receive payments of any kind (except free marketing, of course, and access to Bebo’s tens of millions of music loving users)."

And here's what David thinks:

"Artists signed and understood the terms when they joined MySpace or Bebo and they get to use this great network so they shouldn’t expect to be paid. Artists have been signing and getting screwed forever by the old model but that doesn’t mean they should, doesn’t mean its fair and it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push for something better. The money is still in music, its just moved from the record companies to the ISP’s, mobile and social networks. It’s gone from copyright holders to ‘the pipe’."

Three sides to every story.

In the comments, I posted the following:

"...Should artists give a cut of ticket sales, sold out shows and merchandise back to social networks if that’s what they used - as their primary source -to promote the shows and drive people to buy tickets and merchandise?

I mean, after all, these social networks are giving them access to millions of people that, traditionally, they needed the record companies for.

Should Tila Tequila kick back some of the money she’s making off of her TV show, appearances, songs sold on iTunes to MySpace for the space and, more importantly, audience they gave her to promote herself?... The artists need the social networks to connect with their audience, and I believe artists are being 'paid' by these social networks through free web pages, access, etc… - a totally free environment - that’s pretty cool. As you know, it’s not cheap to set-up a web page with hosting and streaming media and then drive traffic there. These social networks are giving this to artists for free (which, the last time I looked, is much cheaper than what the record companies were charging for promotions, audience, etc…).

The rationale behind Bragg’s comments is like saying: 'the social networks should pay each member a portion of the sale because they would not be able to sell it if it weren’t for us - the individuals - who use it.' It’s a little bit of a long stretch (if you ask me)."

I know it's easy to slide into a debate about what the music industry should, could or would do, but that's not what I'm here to debate. I'm looking at you - the Marketers of the world - and saying: when we get involved in online social networks, be very aware that they are mostly used by individuals to connect to friends. If you think a Marketing play is going to be fully embraced, you may well be kidding yourself. All Marketing efforts need a net net result of keeping those you are connecting to interested in whatever it is you're doing. And, if you're successful (like many musicians are), enjoy everything that comes with it, without expecting some kind of additional revenue from the online social network.

Online social networks are an unforgiving space for Marketers (and musicians). If your message really doesn't connect, it will die (and it will be fast and painful). If it does connect, enjoy the fruits of the opportunities that come out of it, and nurture from there. Bragg argues that Bebo would never have been successful without the help of the musicians, and that's why AOL was quick to acquire them for 850 million. If Bragg feels like Bebo could not have done it without the musicians, then why did the music industry use Bebo instead of building their own online social network?

Apparently, Radiohead agree. They just launched their own online social network here: w.a.s.t.e. central.

By Mitch Joel