Facebook has defeated MySpace in just about every way imaginable -- audience, time spent, number of blockbuster biopic movies made -- except for one: music. MySpace is still more useful than Facebook if you want to hear a band right now.
If anyone's eating MySpace's lunch band page-wise, it's YouTube, which is a great resource for quick, no-credit-card-required, on-demand music, even though it focuses on individual songs rather than the band as a whole. Still, despite this vacuum, Facebook, although it does allow some degree of band page creation, is relying on app developers to make band pages compelling enough to drive the final nail into MySpace's coffin, rather than building its own music service.
J Sider, the co-founder and CEO of RootMusic, which makes the most popular Facebook music app, BandPage, told the crowd gathered in Boston and online for the Rethink Music conference that his app owes its success in some part to Facebook turning a deaf ear to musicians' needs.
"When's the last time you tried to do something with Facebook, and they listened to you?" asked Sider. "We need a concise platform around music that's here to work with you."
BandPage, which launched just over a year ago, and is (still) the most popular music app on Facebook, has added a few key features at bands' behest -- most notably the ability to put free tracks behind a "gate" requiring users to "like" the band or enter a valid email address before they can listen.
BandPage is the only Facebook app that allows you to send a track from an artist's page to your friend's wall so that the track plays right there on the wall, according to Sider -- an important feature, because Facebook is all about sharing stuff. (Granted, you can do the same thing with a YouTube link, but it takes longer.)
Music fans are sharing approximately two million tracks per month in this fashion, which is nothing to sneeze at.
The manager of the band Incubus set up a BandPage in about a half an hour, he said, and BandPage also has lots of other famous users (Rihanna, The Grateful Dead, Lil Wayne, The Prodigy, and many more). The company is currently trying to spread the word by contacting labels, managers, and independent artists around the world.
According to Facebook's official count, BandPage currently has over 21 million active users per month -- about 10 million shy of Pandora's count. Granted, that's an apples-to-oranges comparison, but still, Facebook should not be underestimated as a music platform.
Ironically, Facebook itself appears to be doing exactly that.
Update: Sider clarified his position in a comment on this post:
"Facebook is a great platform to build on and, as you've mentioned, we have had a lot of success with it. We have a great relationship with them and appreciate it very much. But if you are an individual artist or manager it's tough to simply call up Facebook and ask if they could make a change on the platform for you. So a lot of times we get calls and can help with that and making BandPage better. So as BandPage is the largest music app, and continues to grow, we want to hear from you and improve on it. If you have specific features [in mind] or need something changed on BandPage then we can be the ones that can help with that.
[It] seems like what I said was interpreted in a way that was not intended in the title. I would say 'Facebook does not focus on bands, so we do.' Just like they Facebook doesn't focus on games so Zynga does. Facebook does an amazing job at providing a great platform and it is our job at RootMusic to improve and make the most out of it for musicians."