Facebook app lets bands sell and promote their music directly to fans.

A new app for Facebook is designed to put music distribution, marketing power and – ultimately – money directly into the hands of artists.

The ONErpm app, released by New York-based company One Revolution People’s Music, has an e-commerce feature that allows artists to not only promote their tracks and albums on the social media site, but sell them on Facebook as well.

“It’s really a music service within Facebook,” says ONErpm CEO Emmanuel Zunz. “We can start to make Facebook a music discovery business almost.”

Artists can install the app on their Facebook pages for free with one click. Fans who want to buy entire albums or single tracks from a musician’s Facebook page can do that by using Pay Pal or through Facebook’s own e-commerce function. The ability to sell directly through the app takes it a step beyond using social media purely as a marketing tool, Zunz says.

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“With Facebook you can really control your relationship with your fans, engage with them and give them what they want,” Zunz says. “A lot of artists are building those relationships but not translating that into sales.”

Musicians keep 70 per cent of all money made through sales via the app, with the remaining 30 per cent going to ONErpm.

Hip hop artist Blitz the Ambassador uses the app on his Facebook pages.

It’s one of many apps, sites and other online tools already out there as part of the D2F (direct to fan) trend. Nimbit, Root Music, Reverb Nation, Topspin and Tunecore are also providing partial or bundled D2F solutions. The D2F phenomenon uses online technology to put marketing, sales, distribution, merchandising, fan base management, graphic design, and other services – which traditionally fall under the control of record labels — directly into the hands of artists themselves.

It’s a trend with obvious appeal to unsigned music acts who don’t have the promotional clout and big budgets of music labels backing them. But the ONErpm app can be used by all music acts, from big label artists to indie ones, Zunz says.

What makes ONErpm different from what’s already out there? Zunz says its e-commerce tool gives bands the option to sell only to the geographic markets they choose, and accepts six international currencies including the euro, the U.S. greenback and the Japanese yen. There’s also no limit to the number of tracks you can install, so artists and even labels can import their entire music catalogue.

“We provide a more complete tool that covers both the promotional aspects plus the ability to sell your music,” Zunz says. “Our app is also more viral. I feel we provide more sharing tools.”

For example, if a fan leaves a comment on a musician’s Facebook page through the app, those comments are automatically posted on the fan’s wall where more people can see them. And there’s also the ‘fangating’ feature: fans have to signify they ‘Like’ an artist’s page before they’re allowed to listen to their music, boosting the musician’s ‘Like’ count in the process.

The Facebook app is making its North American debut now, but it was originally launched in Brazil last summer so ONErpm could tap into what is still an emerging social media market there, Zunz says.

Guilherme Vittio, an artist manager and music marketing consultant in Rio de Janeiro, has been using the ONErpm Facebook app since early 2011 to promote his company, Matanay. One of his clients, Brazilian pop/rock record label Coqueiro Verde, is also using the app to promote and sell its entire music catalogue. Vittio chose ONErpm over other D2F apps because it has a less cluttered page design than others, it carries the name recognition and user familiarity of Facebook, and the e-commerce feature doesn’t take users away from the artist’s Facebook page.

“One of the great things is (fans) can listen to all the tracks inside the Facebook app and if they want to buy it they’re three or four clicks away from buying it. You need to be quick and integrated and that’s what this tool represents,” Vittio says.

Although Coqueiro Verde’s Facebook traffic and “Like” designations have risen in the past three months, “I don’t think it’s solely about ONErpm. It definitely helped but we’ve been doing more digital promotions (overall) and that has helped a lot,” says Vittio.

Not everyone is convinced that directly folding e-commerce capability into a band’s social media presence is the right way to go. Facebook, Twitter and Myspace are already there as marketing tools, and if fans want to buy what they see there, they know they can purchase it on iTunes or other online music stores, says Scott Stratten, a digital marketing specialist in Oakville, Ont. and author of the book Unmarketing. Integrating e-commerce into a band’s social media sites is seen as a sort of insult by some fans, especially those who follow alternative or indie acts. 

“If the apps work, great. But I don’t see fans saying ‘I don’t know how to buy music (online).’ What I see is fans saying ‘None of the bands care about me, they’re all too busy being rock stars,’” Stratten says.

“I get it that (artists) have got to survive. But the system’s already set up for a one-click purchase through the gigantic iTunes,” Stratten says. “A social media community is much more effective in creating buzz and talking with your fan base than selling. Social media’s a wonderful communication tool and a horrible sales tool.”

But Vittio says both can go hand-in-hand.

“Those (D2F) platforms are not about one-way talk. The best way to do that nowadays is to start conversations and let (fans) know you’re hearing them,” Vittio says. “From a label or business perspective, it helps you sell in the end.”

One thing the new Facebook app doesn’t have yet is video, but ONErpm plans to add that soon. Other plans include replacing the app’s Flash player with HTML5, adding more design customization options, and putting in a pop-up music player so users can add new tracks to their player while still listening to others at the same time.

Figures from Nielsen show digital music sales grew by 20 per cent in Canada in 2010 compared with just one per cent in the U.S., the fifth straight year Canadian digital music sales outpaced the American market.

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