Musicians take social networking into their own hands

Fri Mar 28, 2008 10:19pm EDT
 
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By Jennifer Netherby

NEW YORK (Billboard) - 50 Cent has more than 1 million friends on MySpace, but if the rapper ever decides to leave the social network, he'll be leaving behind those friends, too. So like a growing number of artists, he's started his own social networking site.

On Thisis50.com, fans can create profiles and friend lists just like on MySpace, but 50 Cent has direct access to the site's users and their e-mail addresses.

More and more acts, from Kylie Minogue to Ludacris to the Pussycat Dolls, are launching their own social networks, which are becoming a sort of next-generation version of artist Web sites.

The social networking component gives fans a reason to hang out on a site and visit more often than they would a standard Web site. And artists can sell advertisements on their sites and offer downloads and merchandise for sale -- options they don't have on MySpace or Facebook. Plus, they own the content and data on how fans use their site, which they don't get on other social networks.

"The thing that separates Thisis50 from MySpace is we control the e-mail database," says Chris "Broadway" Romero, director for new media at G-Unit Records, which handles Thisis50. "We can e-mail members if we want to."

Thisis50 isn't meant to be a fan club, but rather a platform for 50 Cent to showcase his music and music he likes, and comment on news and user profile pages. Ludacris' WeMix.com, on the other hand, is more of a hub for aspiring artists to upload their music.

The artist networks aren't meant to replace MySpace or Facebook, which tend to attract a broader audience and more users.

"(Artists) think about MySpace and Facebook as funnels for their own social networks," says Gina Bianchini, CEO of Ning, a company that provides social networking tools for Thisis50, Sara Bareilles and others. "They take and use services where they don't know the users, don't have access and don't have full control, and funnel those fans to something they do control."   Continued...

 
<p>Rap artist 50 Cent performs at Tao during the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 19, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>