If you’re on Facebook, chances are you’ve added the iLike application: with 11 million users to date, it is by far the much-hyped social network’s favourite music tool. Yet as CEO and MidemNet 2008 speaker Ali Partovi points out, iLike won’t stop there. Its new Universal Artist Dashboard aspires to become a one-stop shop for online artist promotion, enabling them to upload data (tour dates, new songs, whatever) to all social networks at once, thereby effortlessly reaching potential millions in one go. Partovi explains all, here…
“iLike is now established beyond music discovery. We’re a communication platform for artists, a key part of the dialogue on what are the best ways to communicate with fans. We’re now focused on the principle of ‘post once, put it everywhere,’ or simple syndication.
“What we just did with U2 is a perfect example. At a meeting, Bono sang along to rare track ‘Wave of Sorrow’; we allowed them to film this with a cameraphone and then post it straight to their iLike profile straight from the phone. This way, any artist can speak directly to their fans. We’ve spent the past six weeks touring and meeting artists; Bono understood the significance of what we’re doing and decided to record that on the spot. U2 is one of the many acts who can reach more people through iLike than through MySpace; ten times more in their case.
“Obviously, doing things like that aren’t always easy from a rights point of view. In this case, the clip’s promotional value is quite evident. Over time, new rights models will be established; what YouTube works out with the labels will be highly determinant, I think.
“We now have 11 million people using our Facebook application and that’s growing by a million every ten days… so it’s hard to keep track of! Across all plaforms, we have 16 million users. There were 5-10 music apps available at the launch of Facebook; I think what made the difference for us was that we really focused on the unique aspects of the Facebook environment. Others were thinking about drawing traffic out of Facebook; we were thinking about keeping them in. Today, given that all of the other Facebook music apps have a tenth of our users, the extent of our dominance is pretty surprising.
“In terms of actually making money, we generate tons of pages in Facebook; our links to purchase music and concert tickets generate revenue; plus the ‘full canvas’ view of our app can include banner ads now. So there’s no mystery as to how we generate revenue.
“The idea for our Universal Artist Dashboard came from the realisation that MySpace was indeed groundbreaking, but that it illustrated artists’ need for visibility more than it served it. With syndication, artists just have one stop, rather than having to stay on top of what’s the most fashionable nightclub [in this case MySpace, Facebook, or whatever]. Furthermore, Google’s recent announcement of OpenSocial [which gives the possibility to make apps compatible with all social networks… except Facebook!]will make it all the more feasible for us to do that.
“If you include hit counters or Paypal modules, widgets have been part of the internet for a whole decade. But rather than ‘widget’, which implies something small, I prefer the term ‘syndication’, as that allows to create something more ubiquitous. That holds real promise for the music business. By allowing music to reach a larger audience, syndication favours the music publishing approach of taking a smaller chunk of a larger pie. So I hope the industry will start lowering their marginal prices in order to meet that. For now, we’re mainly using 30-second clips, but even that way, we’re accumulating eyeballs…”