Emerging trends in the music industry show the power of Social Media

Radiohead and REM have a lot in common musically, notably both are continuing to give the entertainment industry a schooling in how to leverage the web and social computing behaviour of their fans. They are following similar customer-centric approaches with ‘direct to listener’ online strategies as Radiohead’s InRainbows. Although REM's approach I think is smartly contained because it avoids the business pitfalls of the Freeloaders while still enaging their fans openly. REM is also upping the ante by leveraging key social networks including iLike to premiere their new album Accelerate. It allowed their fans to stream all their songs a week ahead of the general relaease to the mass market. 

This follows the site launch of REM's user-generated video-mashup site Super Natural - Super Serious where fans can re-edit various clips of the single and submit it to the band's YouTube channel. Not to be outdone Radiohead and Aniboom have also engaged fans by recently announcing the animated video contest and competition on iLike. These band are leveraging social networks all across the map. Including Feedjit's geo-mashups that allows REM's fans to see themselves in relation to one another in real-time, hence the lyric 'Everybody here comes from somewhere'.

REM's social media strategy is fairly strong but the mapping feature lacks any social value and even though fans can see each other they can't communicate, so it's socially useless! I applaud the simplicity of REM's approach but the band needs to persuade their fans in order to socially motivate them. In principle the band must step up the ladder of engagement taking users from the bottom rung of 'Inactivity' to the top rungs of 'Critics' and 'Creators'. This approach Forrester Research calls Social Technogrpahics that divides consumers into these different levels of participation and therefore allows business insight into how it can strategically persuade consumers to be more involved (see diagram).

Even the 50th Grammy Awards this year leveraged strong Social Media strategy stepping up the level of engagement by crowdsourcing judging to YouTube's users. On the evening of the event the Foo Fighters rocked out live with Ann Marie Calhou who was the winner of the MyGrammy Moment online contest hosted of course on YouTube. It all started with the Foo Fighters YouTube video invite to all prospective instrumentalist to submit their version of the Foo's song Pretender. Over the preceding months anyone could vote for their Fav top 15 from all the videos to play with the orchestra. Then users voted again for one instrumentalist of the final 3 musicians and the winner declared live on the Grammy's. Instead of the Grammy's hosting the contest on their own dotcom they cleverly leveraged YouTube's social network and toolset. It's obvious the Grammy organization understand the online culture + Consumer Generated Media and the inter-connection of the Social Graph. This really takes users from being mere voyeurs to contributors and therefore engaging users in a greater experience. It was also a momentous way to show that even after 50 years the Grammy Awards can still enage it's audience.

ReverbNation is also a good example and has just launched a MySpace widget for bands and artists to promote themselves. Named TuneWidget, the widget nearly acts as a mini website in itself, offering all the necessary information for the band, including upcoming shows, song and video previews, and marked locations on a Yahoo map. The widget also displays band and information, like the band’s genre, location, label, and how many times the widget’sOne unique and helpful feature the ReverbNation widget has is a “recommended band” display at the bottom of the widget. This lets artists cross-promote each other. Visitors can sign up for the mailing list from the widget, and embed it on their blogs or social networking profiles.


It's the Right Here, Right Now philosophy inter-connecting with
content whenever and wherever they want it. Steve Rubel explains this idea as a “Cut and Paste Web” where content lives beyond a singular website. We need to empower customers to inter-connect with content and taking them from voyeurs to contributors. Leveraging the social aspects of media to persuade this natural social behaviour is key. 

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