Facebook Pokes Its Nose Into Selling Music

Dan Gibson | March 5, 2008 3:00 am

The last thing the world needs at this point might possibly be another entrant into the digital-music business (Merge excluded, obvs), but everyone’s second-favorite social networking site is exploring the idea of how they too can cannibalize the remaining bits of corpse that once belonged to the major labels. While I’d be happy to support any project that keeps me from ever having to visit a band’s MySpace page again, how many paradigms are we going to go through on how to sell music before we settle on one?

The approach has come in the past week and was described as “preliminary”. It follows similar moves by MySpace, the leading social network site, which is discussing a MySpace Music joint venture with the four largest record companies – Universal Music, Sony BMG, Warner Music and EMI.

The record companies, all of whom declined to comment, view the recent talks as evidence of the importance of music to social networking sites as they vie for young audiences.

They are hoping that the sites, which have mostly served as promotional platforms for artists, will become sources of revenue at a time when their sales of physical albums are in decline. They are also eager to encourage a counterweight to Apple’s dominant iTunes store.

Facebook, which declined to comment, has been working in recent months to bolster its music offerings.

In November, it introduced a way for bands to create their own home pages similar to those found on MySpace. It also has links to iTunes and offers applications from several internet music companies, including iLike, Last.FM and Pandora.

So, what’s the brilliant idea that Facebook has? Free, advertising-supported streams–and paid downloads. I can barely contain my excitement either. You get the feeling that companies like Facebook have figured they’ve milked all they can from their current business model and are salivating greedily over what they see as a new revenue stream, but they lack any particular reason for iTunes’ or Amazon’s current customer base to really switch allegiances. The record labels see the massive number of hits these sites receive and see a customer base that has largely left them behind. It seems like a win/win situation on the corporate level, but what will the consumer get? More of the same? It certainly seems like it.

Facebook asks labels about music service [Financial Times]