Facebook and the Music Industry Experiment at Outside Lands

Outside Lands launched a year ago as perhaps the largest music festival ever in the long and storied history of music festivals in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. This past weekend, it tried to outdo itself, introducing a version 2.0 loaded with new technology features so music fans could do things like watch shows online and discuss them with friends on social networks. On display: The competition between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other web services for the heart of the music industry. Also on display: How broad and potentially confusing all of these options currently are for musicians and organizers.

In what it claimed was a first for a show of this size, Outside Lands organizer Superfly worked with YouTube to create a live streaming channel of shows for all three days of the festival this past weekend. This way, you could watch a near constant flow of live acts at the festival from anywhere with an internet connection. And, before the festival kicked off, Outside Lands’ web site also let you log in with Facebook Connect, create a customized schedule for all of the acts you planned to watch over the weekend, then let you share it with friends on Facebook. For attendees, organizers set up kiosks so you could upload your own photos and videos of the shows Then share them online with friends on Twitter, Facebook and other sites.

I’m still looking for data on how successful all this technology actually was. For example, did more Facebook users buy tickets as a result of being able to see what acts their friends planned to attend? Did more people hear about Outside Lands through all these promotions this year, and will they be inspired enough to show up next year as a result?

The organizers, musicians and technology companies involved were effusive about early results, at least. The YouTube channel received more than 675,000 views as of today. More than 14,000 Facebook fans joined Outside Land’s official Facebook fan page, and hundreds of thousands likely followed the festival on the fan pages of individual acts. Dave Matthews Band, which has 612,850 fans on Facebook, posted on a note on Friday morning telling everyone about their Saturday show, with a link to watch their YouTube live stream the next day. That item got 1,754 likes from fans, 152 comments, and certainly made people more aware of Outside Lands as a concert, and as a live-streaming YouTube channel.

Smaller, newer acts like Silversun Pickups and The Dead Weather also posted about their activities, and got positive responses from their fans on Facebook. Another up-and-coming group, Cambodian/psychedelic rock group Dengue Fever, was especially active on Facebook, using the buzz around Outside Lands to advertise a documentary they screened last night at a nearby movie house. When I asked about numerical results of online music promotion like this at the Outside Land’s press event on Saturday, Dengue Fever’s Senon Williams replied by saying that the group gets a lot of interaction with fans every time they post about concerts and such. In fact, he said, his band has hired specialized online promoters to help handle Facebook posting and other online interaction with fans.

The value of music

Of course, music has been an important part of the web for many years. The technology at Outside Lands is just the latest iteration. Napster at least proved the popularity of free music sharing in the early part of this decade, before the music industry shut down the free part of that service. Facebook rival MySpace saw early growth in 2004 and 2005 through helping indie groups connect with fans online. YouTube arguably gained a lead over rival video services in the middle part of the decade through letting people share music videos, some of which were pirated, and many of which were distributed through MySpace. And, with the launch of Facebook’s developer platform in 2007, iLike established itself as the leading third-party music service on the site, providing a suite of features for music fans to listen to song samples, play music-focused games, share what concerts they were going to, and connect with musicians on iLike’s own music pages.

Recommended articles