Social fans support artists' careers

A woman looks at the MySpace website.

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Doug Krizner: We've seen how the Internet has taken the idea of social networking to a new level. MySpace and Facebook are popular ways of connecting with like-minded people. Now, a growing number of artists in the music industry are using this trend to their advantage. They're creating their own social networking Web sites.

Let's bring in Bill Werde of Billboard. Bill, what are these sites about?

Bill Werde: I think what it's really about from the fan perspective is on one hand, they get to hang out with a more selected group of diehard fans of the same artist. And also, you know, a lot of these artists are recognizing that the fan expectation has changed in terms of interacting with the artist, and so you'll see artists sort of commenting on fan pages, commenting on fan blogs. It's really kind of a neat way for fans and artists to connect a little more directly.

Krizner: What artists are going down this path and breaking into this new venue?

Werde: There's a pretty good handful right now. I mean they range from Kylie Mingoe to Sheryl Crow in more of the pop spectrum to . . . I would say the most successful one is ThisIs50.com, which is 50 Cent, the rapper's social network. He has 160,000 members, and that's a pretty impressive number of people, if you really think about it.

Krizner: What can an artist expect in terms of revenue drivers?

Werde: From a business perspective, what's really interesting about this is if you're an artist, and you have a MySpace page and you have a million fans, if you leave MySpace, you can't really take that information with you, you can't take the fans with you. The 160,000 fans of 50 Cent that have created an account on ThisIs50.com, that's 160,000 fans that 50 Cent has an e-mail address for, maybe even has a cell phone number for. In the context of the music business, that's incredibly valuable information. In addition to that, they own that space, so they're able to sell advertising on that space. Some artists are also . . . Ice Cube launched a social networking site of sorts, and he's allowing other artists to use it and actually charge subscription fees.

Krizner: In terms of being able to download music on one of these sites, is that a possibility too?

Werde: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think there's sort of a new realization that you have to give a little to get a little. And this is just kind of like, here's a little taste. You know, you're the diehards, you've signed up to really support me, to really be involved in what I'm doing. Here's a little track for you, here's a little song for you. There's a lot of talk about the artist as a brand these days. And I think to some extent, that's, this is sort of a brand extension.

Krizner: Bill Werde is executive editor at Billboard Magazine. Bill, always a pleasure, thanks so much.

Werde: Thanks, Doug.

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