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Free Marketing Is Over On Facebook, Where Does This Leave Artists?

25 March 2014 | 3:39 pm | Gabe Gleeson

A list of recent revisions to Facebook's News Feed system are having devastating consequences for the very users that drive it's platform... it's artists.

A list of recent revisions to Facebook's News Feed system designed to bolster the company's bottom line are having devastating consequences for the very users that drive its platform... artists.

A recent Time Magazine article posted online declared that 'The Free-Marketing Gravy Train Is Over on Facebook'. The editorial contended that for years companies had been able to exploit the social media giant as a free marketing service; now that the decision had been made to decrease everyone's direct reach to its user base these organisations would need to pay up in order to maintain a connection with the loyal following that they had worked hard to build.

This idea is all well and good for groups that have massive pools of revenue to throw at promoting themselves, but where does this leave artists? Since there are only a finite amount of posts that Facebook can put in each user's News Feed per day (1,500 to be exact), struggling music and art creators are left out in the cold, forced to fight for their piece of the pie against the world's biggest and most profitable entities. Is this really a fair battle?

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The great thing about Facebook's 'Pages' system initially was that, contrary to traditional media promotion methods that could directly reach a large audience (television, print, radio etc), the playing field was now levelled. Organisations that had a tremendous capitol were for the first time forced to compete on the same level as those who had next to nothing and it seemed to help spark an online renaissance of creativity and entrepreneurship in a range of different fields. Artists who had an interesting voice, who made music that inspired people, who worked hard to build a following, and who then worked even harder to regularly engage their audience with original content were rewarded by abundant and deserved attention.

As Facebook slips further and further away from being a fertile environment for creative users, organic reach for original music dwindles. As an Artist who runs a Facebook page with a modest amount of followers (around 7,000), I can tell you first hand that posting anything that contains an outbound link, SoundCloud clip or YouTube video pretty much guarantees that no one will see it. This is Facebook's way of making sure that its page admins make a habit of only sharing content that keep people engaged and on its site for longer, viewing more of its advertisements so it can deliver larger monetary results to its shareholders. All of this is a result of the company going public back in 2012.

Facebook have recently made the claim that its focus is on delivering 'high qualit content' to its users. Why then when I scroll down my News Feed am I bombarded with nauseating, 'by-the-numbers' meme based posts that have lowest common denominator appeal and are shared from pages that I'm not even subscribed to? Why on earth am I seeing a post that 2DAY FM shared about a water buffalo crossing the street in Sydney, just because someone I am personally connected with happened to like it?

The way I see it, there are a total of 1,490 pages on Facebook including 845 passionate musicians that at some point along the line, I made a conscious decision to engage with. These are all entities who, for whatever reason, earned my trust and are therefore far more deserving of my News Feed real estate than an interstate radio station that I've never even listened to.

Music is everywhere you look on the internet. In 2014, 6 of the top 10 twitter users are musicians, KATY PERRY being the #1 most followed tweeter with over the 51,000,000 fans. It seems that artists are the driving force behind the success of most social platforms on the internet, with a whopping 40% of all uploads viewed on YouTube being music videos.

While it is Facebook's right to charge users for the utilisation of what has proven to be an extremely powerful tool for the promotion of music online, are they shortsightedly selling out what is an essential part of their business in favour of short term profit? With the company clearing annual revenue of over $1.5 Billion US Dollars, are these tactics even justified?

Maybe all of this simply makes room in the market for another platform to step up to the plate and become the dominant place for artists to connect with the masses online...

Words by Gabe Gleeson