50 Cent's 2¢ on Social Networking

Okay, that's it.

50 Cent, the rapper, is now officially smarter than the four major record label heads put together.

How do I know this?

While the labels are out dreaming up more hair-brained schemes to force consumers into paying monthly fees for music they can already get for free, 50 Cent is becoming more anti-social.

He's moving on -- beyond MySpace and Facebook.

And this shrewd dude has introduced Thisis50.com -- which acts like a social network where fans can create profiles and friend lists just like the other social networks with one big difference.

50 Cent has access to the site's users and their email addresses.

Ludacris is doing something similar. So are Kylie Minogue and Pussycat Dolls. Call it what's next after artist web sites.

Here are some benefits to the artists:

1. Fans can spend more time on the artist's site and visit more frequently.

2. Artists can sell ads on their sites.

3. Merch can be sold and downloads offered making it better than Facebook or MySpace-type social networking sites.

4. These artists have direct access to how their fans use their sites -- also very different from the other social networks.

If he keeps this up, 50 Cent may have to call himself 150Cent.

These new age sites require more of the artists even though they are very inexpensive to operate.

They have to give their fans a reason to come back again and again -- unique content, blogs, etc.

And there seems to be no end to how entrepreneurial artists are getting to be about social networking.

Ice Cube and DJ Pooh started UVNTV -- a broadband TV and social networking site where artists can create their own channel and subscribers can do the same types of things they already do on the MySpace and Facebook.

Artists can sell ads, merch, downloads, subscriptions.

They own the content and have direct access to all the critical fan information.

Reuters/Billboard reports that Minogue's KylieKonnect launched in the fall of 2007 benefited from 25% of the users making a ringtone, download or merchandise purchase.

It's arguable at best as to whether this approach will benefit aspiring artists and that's the best argument record labels might be able to make about their reason for existing.

But the labels seem more interested in battening down the status quo than looking to redefine their digital future.

Everything seems to be going to hell for the labels when established artists are out-thinking, out-marketing and out-innovating them and consumers have replaced radio stations and record labels as the sole authority on new music and bands.

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