WMG + Cisco: A Handshake Turns Into a Hug

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Warner Music Group is now expanding its platform deal with Cisco, one that covers a range of artist-related website, networking, and ecommerce functions.

The action surrounds Eos, a media-focused Cisco platform early-adopted by the label.

In an announcement on Wednesday involving Cisco CEO John Chambers and WMG chief Edgar Bronfman, Jr., the companies pointed to an expansion from pilot to something more serious.  Instead of a small handful of artists, the expanded arrangement potentially pushes the artist number into the teens by the end of the year.

Both companies gain something significant from the relationship – Cisco gets a well-known media company client, and WMG benefits by allying with a seriously-established technology company.  That looks good to the street, but it may also help solve some monetization problems.

So what can this platform deliver?  Eos offers a range of diversified options for the Warner roster, spanning ticket sales, video presentation, social networking features, subscription functionality, advertising capabilities, and superfan-focused premiums.

But why Cisco?  After all, this functionality can be offered by a wide range of companies, or even by Warner itself.  Indeed, every media company has plenty of technology partners to choose from, though Cisco offers a considerable backbone and the muscle to easily manage resource-intensive multimedia assets.  Company stability is also an important consideration.

Cisco also offers an interfaced front-end that allows Warner to mix-and-match community and media elements.  That theoretically frees the label to focus more on creativity and fan strategies.  Michael Nash, executive vice president of digital strategy and business development for Warner Music, said that Eos allows the label to build intricate, connected sites five times faster than its in-house solution.

But even the best-built artist page is just one player on a crowded stage.  The reason is that fans are everywhere – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace Music, iPhone apps, BitTorrent, or separate fansites, just to name a few possibilities.  Whether Eos-built destinations sites can play a central and important role within that ecosystem is a critical question, and most likely, the action will remain scattered.  Just recently, the upcoming album from Sean Paul – an Eos-hosted artist – started leaking, proving that the action is often decentralized and difficult to harness.

Report by publisher Paul Resnikoff.