Pop culture’s latest rap-rock disaster hit the web this week, as Lil Wayne teamed up with AT&T to release his new single via Facebook. Although the track ended up leaking online over the weekend, the hip-hop star performed the single for the first time in a live feed on the website Wednesday night.
The live video for “Prom Queen” features a bare-chested Wayne (or “Weezy”, as his homies would say) jumping around to a simple riff, holding an electric guitar and yowling about a high school romance. SPIN magazine dubbed the tune “unlistenable” – but Weezy has a lot of young fans out there, and millions of them logged on to check out his…fascinating…foray into what he calls “rock”.
Musical tastes aside, I think it’s important to address the increasing use of Facebook as a major publicity tool for artists. It’s not that these online record label gimmicks surprise me. Of all the industries using social networking to their promotional advantage, the music business was one of the first.
The shift here involves which social networks the labels and artists are relying on for this publicity. MySpace has always been known for its ties to the music industry, from gaining exposure for new bands to shamelessly promoting major-label artists. Despite a few copyright issues, YouTube got in on the action as well, becoming a vehicle for emerging artists to showcase music videos and eventually working with major labels on promo campaigns.
When Facebook was introduced in 2004, it lacked the same musical focus as sites like MySpace. But as it has grown, it’s acquired several applications dedicated to the industry.
For example, the iLike application gives users access to media, updates and concert info about their favourite artists, as well as connecting them to other Facebookers with similar tastes. There are also countless fan pages and collaborative marketing campaigns like Lil Wayne’s that let industry bigwigs tap into the online goldmine.
While MySpace is still the go-to network for up and coming musicians to get their stuff heard, I can’t help but feel the tension as Facebook starts making more news in the music community.
Regardless of the online music scene, it’s clear that Facebook is winning the social networking battle. Recent stats from Comscore place Facebook far ahead of MySpace in terms of traffic, and its everyday presence in the media makes the site’s popularity seem even more overwhelming. Even Yahoo’s new CEO, Carol Bartz, has commented on Facebook’s success over its predecessor.
The social media giant is no stranger to corporate and major-label synergy. All Facebook needs now is a solid, specialized application for artists to create profiles to upload and showcase their own music. Then it’ll be one step closer to taking over the musical world.