So there’s this thing going around the internet lately about how Facebook is starting to deal with record labels and how they are trying to purchase rights to massive swathes of music in order to start funneling even more content through what is probably the most used website in the world that isn’t named Google at this point. Now this is a tricky one because there are a lot of layers to it, both pros and cons that mean that the music industry is starting to evolve and embrace social media but also cons that remind us that massive corporations are basically going to define the future of America and of art no matter what we want to try and do about it. There still isn’t a whole ton of information out there on this and I think it’s too early to make snap judgments, I just wanted to share a few entry level thoughts and maybe draw some conclusions about what this could end up meaning for independent bands like yours and mine.
It’s been a long time in the coming that Facebook would get deep into the streaming and music world. Ever since they discontinued the Bandcamp app on their pages it has felt like there hasn’t been a good way for bands to work within the walled garden of Facebook for people to easily hear their music. Except of course for one obvious and crucial exception – videos. Facebook has quietly become a titan in the world of video streaming with Facebook video view counts now just as, if not more, important than Youtube view counts. Nowadays if you’re trying to be an influencer and aren’t uploading unique content to both your Youtube and Facebook accounts you’re going to rapidly find yourself fading into obscurity. Simultaneously, tons of unauthorized music videos have been uploaded to Facebook which creates some very serious problems. While sites like Youtube have figured out ways to protect artists, Facebook doesn’t have that yet. Which is why it’s a good thing these labels are getting involved.
So in many ways it’s a huge plus that Facebook is smarting up and adding music streaming to their massive content funnels. In fact I’d say it’s probably pretty goddamn likely that there already are talks in the works about a full on Facebook and Spotify merger integrating the service onto Facebook in a way that makes it easier than ever to stream bands from the moment you find out about them. Being able to stay within the same app for both socials videos and streaming would be an incredibly useful step forward for everyone. It’s going to lead to a more integrated world and will have a huge impact on a lot of our marketing plans no matter what your genre is. I think that’s a valuable thing to keep in mind as we try and develop. Simultaneously it’s going to mean that artists actually get mechanicals on their recordings which is always a nice little bonus. Of course – in the long term I’m not necessarily sure what the consequences are going to be.
The issue of course is in the tendency for te new internet t have a heavy emphasis on walled gardens. It’s as if we have reverted to the AOL days where we just used keywords to get around. We are navigating the internet based on the limited world of what alogrithms decide to show us and the funny thing about algorithms is that they boost the content that the most peple like, effectively silencing a lot of smaller acts, an issue that will feel even more pressing in a world where the industry is increasingly confined to Facebook. Even as we watch Twitter tak and the integration of Instagram and Facebook has never been stronger it feels like bringing on streaming would just be another nail in the coffin, bringing us even closer to the reality of being forced to genuflect before corporate masters who now every detail of our personal lives.
I think that no one really knows what a music industry shaped by big data is really going to look ike. I mean we are starting to have hints at it through apps that can figure out the perfect song and functions that allow us to determine the relative marketability of different projects, but there are also a lot of ways for artists to take advantage of this. Simultaneously, I think that there will always be a sort of subniche for people who want to find music that fights against big data. In many ways it’s really just going to be an extension on how the industry is today with the people who really want to find the underground stuff finding it and everyone else kind of suffering through the shitty music that is dubbed ‘cool’. There still is a ways to go for this industry to find new paths forward in big data but it’s not going to be an easy road and it’s one that Facebook is going to end up spearheading simply because they have the most market share.
When it comes right down to it we all just need to roll with the punches. Facebook was inevitably going to bring in major labels and major labels would work harder than ever to garner their market share. As usual their isn’t initially going to be a lot of space for independent artists and it will be up to us to find more efficient ways to use big data on a budget and to crunch numbers in order to determine a path that is going to make sense and help us to grow this into something truly potent and exciting. You are going to have to learn a lot and you’re probably not going to like it, but that’s the bleak future of an industry that continues to evolve.