Musical artists are now brands. Declining physical album sales have pushed artists and their teams to think more holistically. Smart musicians are moving away from making a quick buck off of piece-meal Mp3 sales, instead looking to foster institutional allegiance from their fans, facilitating the sales of higher-priced items like concert tickets, apparel, keepsake-laden box sets and even super-premium personal experiences with the artists themselves.
Facebook Pages have the potential to deliver this deep connection with fans because they can provide a seamless on-site experience for Facebook users. They allow people to publicly come together to share their feelings for the things they love. Below, we detail how musicians are using a key part of Pages to promote themselves: the horizontal navigation tabs for third-party applications and other features at the top of each Page.
But first we should note that Pages will continue to grow in value along with Facebook’s own user base and other products. True, the company just launched the Open Graph API and social plugins, designed as ways to take many features you’ll see on the site to everywhere else on the web. Pages are a key part of this plan, though. They’re public, so fans can find them through searches on Facebook or through web search engine results. And because Pages are hosted on Facebook, they also create a seamless experience for users — Pages can publish updates to fans’ news feeds, for example, and get people to click through to the Page instead of having to go to a different site off of Facebook. The value of Pages is analogous to how users enjoy using social games and other apps on Facebook even though they can access many of the same features through developers’ implementations of Facebook Connect (now the Open Graph) on other sites.
Facebook may have launched the Open Graph last week, but it doubled down on the value of Pages when it introduced Community Pages earlier this month — a new type of Page that nobody owns, that doesn’t include some featurs, like publishing to fans’ streams. It followed up on this move by requiring all users to designate their existing interests, education history, and other information from their personal profiles as either Community Pages or as Official Pages. This comes home to musicians in a big way as lots of users who had written in the names of their favorite bands in their profiles suddenly were asked to “like” the official Pages for the bands.
We’re focusing on tabs on Pages, here, because they are a key way that Page owners can provide a customized and in-depth experience for users. We’ll look at full-service applications currently being used by musicians, such as iLike’s “Music”, as well aswhat discussion board threads get the most posts, tabs with publishing capabilities and other developments in Pages.
iLike‘s “Music” still dominates the music streaming Facebook app market, despite being bought by MySpace in August 2009, and weathering a drop to 11,854,238 monthly active users (artists and listeners) from 12,400,000 since we profiled the app at the beginning of the March. Allowing artists to display a music player, tour dates, bulletins, links, tag clouds, Twitter updates, comments and more, it has been installed on almost every one of the Top 200 musician Pages according to PageData.
Competitor RootMusic‘s BandPage app, which provides a suite of applets for a variety of musician Page needs, has only 6,046 monthly active users, though all of these are artists. Jason Mraz’s BandPage tab includes a music player powered by SoundCloud alongside his Twitter updates. Involver‘s premium service offers custom music players as well as free Page tabs that display Twitter and RSS feeds. Their “Music” tab for Alicia Keys displays a music player, purchase links and a comment input with an option to publish comments to a user’s feed. However, in a testament to it’s ubiquity, both Jason Mraz and Alicia Keys also have iLike’s app installed. With no competitor offering the same diversity and quality of services for free, iLike is set to maintain its supremacy for the foreseeable future.
Email / Mobile List Sign-Ups
By collecting additional contact information from their fans through a sign-up form, musicians can augment their Facebook campaigns with mass e-mails and mobile promotions. Mozes, a leading service providing mobile engagement tools such as mass promotional text messaging, powers the mobile sign-up of many leading musician pages such as Rihanna and Kings of Leon. Email sign-ups are predominantly handled through an integration of a widget, often developed by an artist’s record label. Jack Johnson, in a tab powered by Oniracom, baits users with a free mp3 but then requires an email address to which to send the file.
Tabs which offer downloads, especially of rare b-sides or live recordings, in exchange for contact information are a great choice for musicians because they entice both hardcore and new listeners with something exclusive, and help establish the artist on the fan’s hard drive, not just their web browser.
When fans RSVP to Page hosted events, the action does not bring up the opt in / opt out publishing option, instead quietly posting a link to the event to the fan’s feed. This has led many top musicians including Coldplay and Shakira to create separate Facebook events for each of their concerts to drum up awareness and gain exposure for their Pages. Some artists we examined like Disney Channel starlet Selena Gomez maximize the potential of the publishing functionality of events by also listing their film premiers, television appearances, album release dates, and any other event with a defined start time. As users are accustomed to RSVP’ing, receiving an average of event 3 invitations a month, and as Facebook becomes a ubiquitous element of event promotion, expect musician Pages to increasingly rely on events to bring in new fans.
Live chats allow musicians to webcast video of themselves responding to questions which fans pose through a text-based chat room interface. They provide vivid, intimate pseudo face-to-face interaction with fans that is cheap in terms of dollars and an artist’s time. Ustream‘s free and powerful Facebook application is the only live chat platform we found on PageData’s chart of top musician Pages. Ustream tabs feature a banner prompting users to “Click here to become a fan and RSVP for the next webcast!”, and a comment box which fans use to talk to the artists but which also publishes their comments to their feed.
Miley Cyrus’ Page hosts a Ustream tab branded around her new film, which it runs a trailer for when Miley isn’t actively chatting. Raising their profile through newsworthy broadcasts like Lil Wayne saying goodbye to fans before going to jail, and their release of a premium desktop client, Ustream is poised to dramatically increase their prominence in the engagement tab field.
As the end goal of all of these engagement tools is sell high-margin items, artists are starting to host or at least initiate the purchase experience on Facebook. The “Shop Marley” tab on Bob Marley’s Page offers affiliate links to iTunes and Amazon for his music, as well as links to of his numerous musically-inclined children.
Pink Floyd’s “Store” tab, powered by Live Nation’s Music Today, directs users who click on a “Dark Side of the Moon Shower Curtain” straight from Facebook to an online shopping cart, one-upping Facebook stores like country artist Taylor Swift’s, which only links products to the homepage of her website’s store.
By hosting a forum where users can interact with each other and voice their opinions, Pages like that of Britney Spears and Lady Gaga draw fans back by providing a sense of community in addition to more formal content. While enabling Facebook’s native “Discussions” app is simple, getting enticing threads started can be difficult. Some threads we came across that routinely had more than one thousand replies and could be replicated for any musician’s discussion tab include “game” threads where users choose which of two songs they like better, name the title of a song based on a snippet of lyrics, or unscramble a jumbled song title and then leave a new question for the next poster; “favorite” threads where users cite their favorite song, lyric or band member, and “ID” threads which ask where fans from or which fan is the oldest/youngest.
The Jonas Brothers have by far the most active message board with over 181,734 threads, (compared to Lady Gaga’s 3325 or Justin Bieber’s 16,870) in part because their fan community has adopted writing fan fiction about the group. Musicians and their community managers should be weary of fraudulent threads which claim to contain personal contact information for the artists like this thread we found that claims to have Justin Bieber’s phone number, as they can leave honest fans feeling burned.
Publishing Tabs and Conclusion
The key to increasing fan numbers are tabs which produce stories so compelling that fans want to publish the content to their feeds. By determining what resonates with their core fan base, be it a humorous picture, a challenge to play a game, or an opportunity to win a contest, Pages can turn supporters into evangelists.
The significant influence of these publishing tabs is evident by the inclusion of some lesser known artists in PageData’s Top Musicians chart. The Beatles have 2,455,609 fans despite an almost tab-less Page, but David Guetta, a dance music producer who only recently broke into the mainstream has racked up 2,550,103 fans for his Page. His innovative tab called “Your Memories” by Lucid Online bundles a music player for Guetta’s new single “Memories” with a comment box which asks “What crazy s**t did you do last night?”. When a user’s response is posted to the tab, they are asked to publish the comment plus a link to Guetta’s Page to their feed. By riffing on the hedonistic nature of his fan base, Guetta has used this publishing tab to gain 223,782 new fans in the last month, pushing him ahead of superstars like Justin Timberlake and U2.
As tabs like music players and sign-ups become standard, musicians who can consistently come up with creative new promotional tabs with publishing capabilities like Guetta’s will be those claiming more fans than their popularity warrants.