Fortune reports on “OMG blogs can be record labels” poster child RCRD LBL hooking up with The Fader‘s site, indie-leaning tipsheet The Tripwire, and the members-only DJ site 1200 Squad to form an ad network: “Thefader.com, for instance, has 93,000 unique monthly users. RCRD LBL has 125,000. Thetripwire.com, an ‘indie’ rock destination, has 15,000. The hip-hop oriented 1200squad.com has only registered users…. By rolling the sites into a network, Cohen and Stone can now approach advertisers with an audience of nearly 240,000.” Is it just me, or does simply adding up those unique users and reaching a nice, big, round number equal some faulty math? Especially since the two largest sites in the equation frequently give each other the linkaround, and presumably have some unique-visitor overlap?
The key piece in this equation is, of course, RCRD LBL, the free-music-via-widgetry site that got a fair amount of press at its launch because it was founded in part by minor blogging deity Peter Rojas. (Who apparently learned all he needed to know about music blogging from running gadget-blog heavyweights Gizmodo and Engadget.) Since its launch, the site’s offerings have mostly specialized in what would be considered bonus tracks by boutique-ish indie acts that would, well, be covered by The Fader; not that I don’t like Bat For Lashes or Wye Oak, but for a site that made such a big deal about making the money it was paying artists back via ads, it sure did seem like it was forcibly constraining its demographic via its musical offerings.
Note that a Santogold song posted six weeks ago is still at the top of the site’s most-downloaded list after all this time; she’s one of the few artists on the site who’s actually exhibited some sort of mainstream appeal. Of course, part of that could be because she’s one of the few artists with said appeal whose labels have allowed her to be on the site. (Being signed to RCRD LBL partner Downtown records surely helped.) That starpower might increase soon: According to Fortune Rojas et al are talking to “a big act” about releasing their next album, two tracks at a time and underwritten by a single sponsor. (Odds on said “big act” being one whose career was shepherded to breaking-even-on-the-advance stardom by a major label: 6-1. Odds on it being Gnarls Barkley: As close to even as you can get.)
Add all those factors up and you’ll see why I’ve been generally skeptical about the whole venture, why I haven’t really had much reason to visit it (although I heard the Santogold song was pretty great), and why after all this time I’ve found its two most notable aspects to be been the fact that it got as much traction as it did despite requiring so many clicks to get from a blog post to a song, and the fact that bloggers actually seemed to be honoring the site’s simple “Please don’t repost these songs, thx” request. One wonders if advertisers are starting to see the site’s drawbacks as well, and that part of the reason the ad-network idea (and its faulty math) seems like a good idea now is the fact that “curated” aspect of the site is starting to lose its appeal as the overall ad market weakens, and as the seemingly desirable demographic that needs the latest A Place To Bury Strangers download simultaneously shrinks and becomes less and less golden in the eyes of advertisers.
Music blogs’ network effect [Fortune]