The Lush & Fertile Fields of Facebook

  • Save

In comparison to MySpace, Facebook is hardly a music destination.

But plenty of musicians have Facebook pages, and Facebook easily trumps MySpace in terms of overall traffic and engagement.  That spells lots of music-related opportunity ahead, from artists, labels, entrepreneurs, and others.

At Midem recently, ‘futurist’ Gerd Leonhard highlighted the wild successes of FarmVille, a Facebook-based virtual game that revolves around tractors, sheep, cows, and other agrarian pursuits.  But this is no soiling affair; instead, everything is virtual, and everything is sold within Facebook.

Plenty of readers are already familiar, and the numbers are quite impressive.  FarmVille has nearly 81 million monthly uniques on Facebook, and Leonhard pointed to sales of 800,000 virtual tractors daily.  Several months ago, BusinessWeek estimated annual revenues for parent Zynga at $100 million, though more recent estimates have pushed past $200 million.

Suddenly, Facebook is a serious gaming platform, and FarmVille is flanked by similarly-successful titles like Mafia Wars.  In fact, a recent survey by the Information Solutions Group found that 83 percent of social gamers are turning to Facebook, easily eclipsing a 24 percent mark for MySpace.  Most play a number of different games.

The Farmville experience starts at free, and Leonhard – a major proponent of freemium – hoisted the model as an example for the music industry.  “People will buy anything once they’re hooked,” said Leonhard.  “The music industry translation is to go inside the social networks.  How come Facebook doesn’t have music?”

A number of companies are asking the same question, especially given the estimated $6 billion in annualized revenues for the broader virtual economy.

At a top level, Facebook has expressed disinterest in creating something akin to MySpace Music.  The decision reflects a difference in strategy, though plenty of other options exist beyond conventional downloads and streams.  Lala, for one, jumped into the game by offering virtual songs within Facebook, a deal that started in October.

Others are rumbling.  That includes TheBizmo, a company that recently released Hit or Not on Facebook, a virtual A&R and music mogul game that offers virtual cash for successfully spotting, signing, and promoting independent artists and songs.  TheBizmo specializes in movable sales widgets, and artists are pulled from that stable.  And, artists themselves can make real cash from resulting sales of MP3s and other tie-ins.

Another is Heatwave Interactive, developer of hip-hop virtual game Platinum Life.  This is a genre full of material stuff, and making it from the ‘mean streets to the penthouse suites’ requires avatars, entourages, and all sorts of high-priced accoutrements.

Platinum Life a virtual affair (on Facebook and the broader web), though Heatwave is also getting physical.  At South-by-Southwest next month, the company is tossing a launch party at the Belmont, complete with demo stations, music from DJ J Cash and Chris Webb, hors d’oeuvres, and an ample selection of ‘Platinum Life’ cocktails.