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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

Online social networking is not just a catch phrase, it's an marketing revolution. Facebook has over 500 million users. What began as a virtual annual for college students six years ago has blossomed into one of the most powerful tools for branding. When the music business lost the power of radio airplay, the punch of music videos and the cash of the weekly record store visit, new strategies were sure to be deployed.

Enter Facebook, the ultimate marketing tool for the savvy music professional. Today, Lady Gaga commands over 8.5 million fans. Lil Wayne, from a prison cell, has just crossed the 5 million fan mark. And even Bob Marley, the reggae superstar who died in 1981 has over 4.5 million fans on Facebook.

Becoming a fan of someone on Facebook is just the beginning. You can have direct correspondence from them pushed to your mobile phone. You can buy all kinds of merchandising – Lady Gaga is hawking Helvetica Monster Sunglasses. Taylor Swift is selling leather bracelets. You can watch videos, buy tickets to shows, view photos and even send virtual gifts. Facebook is a carry-all for online marketing for musicians.

Unlike sites like MySpace who cluttered their pages with millions of robotic “thank you for adding me” messages, Facebook in comparison is a model of civility. The Facebook ads are designed to look like Facebook itself and there's no one screaming in your face. Third-party developers must adhere to strict rules about how things look on the Facebook site.

But they are much freer with their code outside their own site. They now give online developers code to integrate Facebook into other sites. So if you have a personal site or blog, you can enter your comments on your own site, and have them simultaneously post to your Facebook wall.

The illusion of Facebooking can be deceptive. Just because you're reading posts from a well known superstar, don't believe they're really talking to you.

Demand creates a market. Once a market is created, a marketing machine usually takes over. So while you might believe that everything on the site is the vision of Beyonce, Rihanna or Christina Aguiliar's chances are, it's really a behind the scenes marketing company spinning the yarn. And the devotional responses that follow? Just as many responses could be the product of marketing doctors. Since fans spider out of Facebook like a doubling cube on steroids, the number of fans can make a huge difference in popularity.

And the largest number of fans following a musician on Facebook is… Michael Jackson.

This is Celia Hirschman with On the Beat for KCRW.

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