How important are fan-created, unauthorized Facebook videos to artist careers?  Now, we have a much better idea.

As the music industry battles with Facebook over royalties and what’s fair, there’s always been this lingering question.  How important are Facebook videos to artist careers, anyway?  And more importantly, how important are fan-created, unauthorized videos to artist careers?

Now, thanks to a groundbreaking, multi-month study, we have a much better idea.  According to the data, Facebook not only played a defining role in Adele’s latest smash hit, ‘Hello,’ but its fan-created videos were the biggest piece of that victory.  “Interestingly, our research also found that video copies uploaded by fans were responsible for much of the buzz surrounding Hello’s music video,” research firm Plexeso relayed.

But this wasn’t just limited to Facebook.  It covered all fan-created videos, across multiple platforms.  People just interact with user generated stuff more often.  And, more deeply.

“Cumulatively, all copies of the music video received over 2.5x more engagement than the source video over the course of 101 days.”

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The finding is interesting because of the extreme success of ‘Hello’.  According to data from Nielsen Soundscan, ‘Hello’ is the fastest single to reach one million downloads in a week.  But that was just one of several record-breaking accomplishments.  Adele’s album, 25, is now one of the best-selling releases in modern music history.

All of which strongly indicates that Facebook engagement boosted sales, instead of hurting them.

Original vs. ‘Fan-Created’ (ie, ‘unauthorized) Videos.

The ‘source’ video is the official version, sanction by the label and Adele.  ‘Fan-created,’ on the other hand, refers to unauthorized versions of the video that were copied, altered, or outright spoofed.  And, in many cases, ripped down by the copyright owner.  All in all, Facebook’s unauthorized videos not only eclipsed the number of original videos, but absolutely crushed them in terms of engagement.

In fact, one could easily conclude that Facebook’s user-uploaded videos of ‘Hello’ drew more interest and engagement than YouTube.   But YouTube had a lot more copies, which were viewed differently.  So that’s another debate entirely.

Now here’s a critical part of this analysis.  Overall, the number of takedowns for ‘Hello’ was relatively small, according to Pexeso.  That makes it a great case study, given that fans were mostly allowed to do what they wanted with the video.  And not only were they super-engaged with derivative copies, they were buying a lot of the original copies.  In fact, millions of them.

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Actually, here you can clearly see that most of the interest and activity around the video was happening on Facebook, not YouTube.

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Beyond that, it’s also obvious that copies were eclipsing the original versions.  That signals massive engagement, but not exactly in the form Adele’s label intended.

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In its study, Pexeso tracked how fan-created videos spread across video networks.  That includes YouTube and Facebook, as well as platforms like Vine and Dailymotion.

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Initially, the company addressed whether Facebook eclipsed the importance of YouTube.  At this stage, that’s incredibly difficult to determine.  And part of the reason is that Facebook measures a simple ‘view’ far differently than YouTube.  According to Pexeso, a Facebook view comes after 3 seconds, while YouTube’s view requires a 30-second commitment.

YouTube also has a lot more quantity, and is used quite differently.  “Out of all copies we identified online, 45% were published on YouTube. Interestingly, Facebook accounted for a mere 29% of copies, followed by Vine, which accounted for 12.9%.


The Pexeso study report can be found here.

10 Responses

  1. Ari Herstand

    Well, this info would have been handy last week when I was getting lambasted for this exact assertion. I guess people believe what they want to believe. Wonder if this will change anyone’s opinions on the matter now that we have concrete numbers to back it up. What say you Matt Thompson, David Lowery?

    • Lavid Dowery

      You’re NOTHING Ari, NOTHING. Your career… NOTHING.

      Never were anything. Never will be anything. Herstand? I’m laughing.. at what?


      I was in CRACKER, bitch. 1994, world tour RESPECT MY COPYRIGHTS.

    • AngryWhiteGuy

      It’s a shame these punitive champions of copyright weren’t around in the 70s. We could have avoided Hip-Hop altogether.

  2. Anonymous

    So… infringement is ok as long as the copyright owner benefits from it. That seems to be Google’s argument about Youtube. I don’t think that’s going to go over too well with this crowd…

  3. Matt Thompson

    “In fact, one could easily conclude that Facebook’s user-uploaded videos of ‘Hello’ drew more interest and engagement than YouTube. But YouTube had a lot more copies, which were viewed differently. So that’s another debate entirely.”

    One could also easily conclude that 99% of the purported FB views lasted 3 seconds or less and didn’t have sound on. Where is the comparative study for Adele’s big single release devoid of heavy FB infringement?

    Just because I can dunk a basketball while wearing Air Jordan’s doesn’t mean I can’t dunk without them. In fact, if I don’t even try to dunk without them then my “study” would be very comparable to this one. But the one-sided, proven questionable FB stats do support your view point, Ari. Great job?

    • Paul Resnikoff

      In some ways comparison Facebook to YouTube can be apples to oranges, and Facebook measures things much differently. But they also position their videos much differently, often without sound. It’s a totally different terrain. I think the study tried to outline that and factor those in, though there is certainly a ‘correlation’ here. Proving the causality is a more difficult endeavor.

  4. JR

    Here are some facts:
    Facebook’s video numbers have been shown to be wrong as late as last week. They grossly exaggerated the power of their video platform to everyone including advertisers.
    Turns out YouTube still rules across the board
    Copyright infringement is copyright infringement and Facebook is making money from the videos, no matter who makes them and songwriters should still be making money.
    The fact that the survey does not take into account Musical.LY which has demonstrable impact on releases (and potentially sales) makes the numbers suspect.

  5. Anon

    Did they forget that Adele has a fanbase that actually purchases music and that “Hello” wasn’t on Spotify so people had to buy it. Try this with an average artist and see what the results are.

  6. George

    The point remains that you can’t conclusively say that these people engaging on FB are the same ones buying the records. Unfortunately this doesn’t prove anything to me. One thing we all learned about Adele is that she is far from the norm.