Over the past five years the use of online social networks has become a way of life for hundreds of millions of people around the world, and continues to grow at an alarming rate. Among the top social networking websites are Facebook with 500,000,000 registered users, Habbo with 162,000,000, Myspace with 130,000,000 users, Bebo with 117,000,000 users, LinkedIn with 75,000,000, and Twitter with 75,000,000 users. Social network websites with over 100 million users also exist in China, India and Brazil.
Common features of social networking sites include the capability for users to create personal profiles, and the possibility to promote and share common interests with other users. The sites provide access to registered users free of charge, and enable them to easily communicate and distribute text, audio and video content to other users. These features have made social networking websites particularly attractive to individuals and companies involved in the music industry. In fact many industry experts are optimistic that social networking websites and giveaways will help to regain some of the ground lost to illegal online music operators.
Social networking is now being used by artists, labels, promoters and managers of music enterprises for music marketing and distribution within the major sites such as Facebook and MySpace. In addition several successful music specific social networking websites now exist. The most popular and successful music specific social networking website is MySpace Music http://www.myspace.com/music . This site now operates as a subsidiary of News Corporation, and recently started testing audio advertisements. It possesses some of the strongest marketing powers out of all the music social networks. Its features include My Music, Charts, Featured Playlists, Music Videos, News Releases, Karaoke, Shows and Forums.
Other very successful music social networks include Last.fm http://www.last.fm founded in 2002 and acquired by CBS for $280 million in May 2007. Registered users of this site can create custom radio stations and playlists and build user profiles based on their music tastes. Users are also able to write public and private messages to the Last.fm community. ReverbNation.com http://www.reverbnation.com is the leading online music marketing platform used by over 500,000 artists, managers, record labels, and venues to grow their reach, influence, and business across the internet. ReverbNation.com provides free and affordable solutions to individual artists and music industry professionals that support them in the areas of web promotion, fan-relationship management, digital distribution, social-media marketing, direct-to-fan e-commerce, fan-behavior measurement, sentiment tracking, web-site hosting, and concert booking and promotion. Music social networks such as Buzznet http://www.buzznet.com , iLike.com http://www.ilike.com , and MOG.com http://mog.com are also making inroads into the music marketing and distribution business and should definitely be explored.
Effective use of social networks for business development requires time and dedicated effort. In order to remain competitive artists, labels, managers, venues and promoters will have no choice but to either develop the necessary skills, or align themselves with persons who possess the skills to make the various free online networking facilities work for the growth of their business.