Face it, it’s downhill from here!

I’m going to stick my neck out here and forecast something drastic, something I’ve not seen mentioned anywhere else. It is, however, something I have heard  and read the beginnings of in discussions between friends, acquaintances etc. I’ve also noticed the first tell tale signs, the odd statement here, the odd action here and there…

Facebook is going to go the same way as MySpace. Not now, perhaps not as drastically or as completely, but it will and sooner than anyone will expect.

12-18 months ago I recall seeing status updates from bands such as Queen, Pink Floyd and others receiving comments and likes in multiples of thousands, regularly.

Over the last week I’ve been watching again and, despite ‘Likes’ sometimes reaching a thousand or perhaps a couple of thousand, the comments struggle to break out of several hundred. And this despite (or because of?) an exponential growth in Facebook users.

It’s not a major shift, or in fact that noticeable just now (unless you’re looking) but the actual level of interaction on Facebook is diminishing. Slowly, inexorably the demise of Facebook is coming, and I for one can’t wait.

If you take Queen as an example, they have over 1.3 million ‘Likes’ on Facebook but regularly receive perhaps only 1-2 hundred comments on a status update. That’s an interaction of 0.001%. And they’re doing well. Quite often bands receive only 1 or 2 comments, or perhaps comments in a multiple of 10 rather than 100 let alone the 1,000s.

I resisted the temptation to jump on the Facebook bandwagon for some time, I opened an account, played around for an hour or two then left it. That account is still active today but never used. A couple of years later I created another account in order to run a band ‘page’ and became an addict. I didn’t want to. It just happened. Suddenly I was in touch with school friends I hadn’t seen in 20+ years, work mates I’d lost touch with over a decade of moving around and so it began…

Three years on and I still update regularly. I tend to use an alternative interface than the web site, tools such as Hootsuite, Echofon, Tweetdeck etc allow me to update and converse without actually visiting the site. And then there’s Twitter.

Say all you want, as long it’s in 140 characters or less. I couldn’t understand the allure of Twitter when I first dipped my toes into the Twitterverse. And then I found myself following, and being followed by, people with similar interests and the conversations began to flow. Not only the conversations, germs of ideas flourished, artistic collaborations got under way and all without a single Farmville, Mafia Wars, Gems (or whatever it’s called) or unsolicited friend request!

I think that’s where Facebook is failing. It started off as a walled off web based application allowing ‘friends’ and family to get in touch, it then opened up it’s API to aspiring code writers to write apps, plugins and games to enhance the experience. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however Zuckerberg et al failed in two major aspects. Privacy and Security. If you look around the internet, yes, that bit outside of Facebook, you’ll read plenty of articles like this.

There have been many stories of virii being spread through Facebook links, apps and even photos, there’s stories of it being used to stalk, harass and bully people, and it’s only going to get worse. Then there’s the fact that you can’t actually remove anything once you’ve put it up there. You don’t own your own timeline, the photos etc that you post. Over the years Facebook has continued to evolve, adding more functionality to its interface, opening up to (slight) customisation by Facebook apps, getting into bed with Spotify, adding the Facebook Timeline and it will continue to do so. Some of these were welcome additions, I liked the RootMusic app, while most were met with an all too quiet uproar from tech savvy users while the X hundred million other users (some of whom actually believe that Facebook is the internet!) carried on regardless.

But each day I read less and less on my Facebook stream. There’s an ever increasing number of “If you don’t copy this then…” posts, new games appear faster than you can block them, updates from people I don’t follow (I may have placed them in my ‘Favourite Music/Film/Book” list but that doesn’t mean that I want to see everything that’s posted about them)!

And now, with the advent of apps such as Flipboard, I don’t even have to choose between Facebook, Twitter or any of the other sites I frequent to get my daily intake of news, gossip,  music info or tech geekery. I simply flip through what I want, ‘real’ news, music news, film news, Twitter updates, Facebook Statuses etc without even having to be ‘on’ Facebook or any other site. It’s bliss and I find myself spending less time online but taking in more information.

By now many of you will be saying “But surely with 800 Million users, as a band, artist, business, individual with something to say, you’d be mad to leave it?”

Really? Think back to the figures from Queen’s stats. 0.001% interaction. Even when targeted ads are paid for the actual click-through rarely rises to a level worthy of the financial outlay (believe me I’ve done it).

I’m not the only person to see this. I know of many people who are leaving, or have left, Facebook. How easy do you think it is to get your voice heard among 800 Million other voices?

Most people who read this will think of me as a lunatic. Need I remind you of those who first said the world wasn’t flat?

Facebook’s days are numbered. And that number is a lot smaller than most of will ever realise.

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Separating the chaff…

I’ve recently subscribed to Hypebot, I used to read it every now and then but I’ve been ‘popping over’ more and more recently so just clicked the RSS feed button this week to make life easier.

One thing I’ve noticed since is the lack of real direction offered by any of the experts in new media. There are loads of blogs written about ‘the best way to do this’, ‘the top 5 do’s for your site’, ‘the top x don’ts for your site’, ‘the death of MySpace‘ etc but none of them actually give real advice. They may throw ideas into the hat, but that’s it. No more.

I realise Hypebot is, more or less, an aggregator for all the industry blogs such as Music Think Tank, Musician Coaching, Ariel Hyatt etc, but apart from a very limited number of posts they all extoll the virtues of some site or other which, when you dig into it, the author has some part in.

I’m not talking about the news posts, they’re exactly that, news such as ‘music sales down in 2010’, ‘rock single sales lowest ever in 2010’ etc, I’m talking about the supposed advice and guidance offered to independent artists. One of best examples of these is the ‘Break through the noise‘ article… what use was it? I know how big the web is and how bloody hard it is to get heard, I’m an independent musician for God’s sake!

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some excellent posts and some great advice; Benji at PledgeMusic.com, Chris from Bandzoogle and the aforementioned Ariel Hyatt offer more sound advice than we mere mortals can shake a stick at. The problem is finding the time, direction and space to actually separate the gems from the dirt and then act upon them. It’s no easy task!

The same can be said of the plethora of websites which are ‘tools’ for independent musicians. They all purport to enhance the experience for the user, merging all aspects of your presence, combining your music with your online presence and such pap. But do they?

Morpheus Rising, the band I sing with, have Facebook, MySpace, Last.fm, iTunes Ping, PureVolume profiles and a whole handful more, and even some I’m sure we’ve forgotten we had! We also use sites/tools like ReverbNation, ArtistData, Bandcamp, Spreadshirt, Zazzle and more. We tried using tools such as ping.fm to centralise the management/control/updating of everything, but nothing actually works with everything. No matter what you do there will be a requirement to update several sites/blogs/pages with the same data.

Most importantly, and this is where I agree with many of the authors quoted on Hypebot, we have our own website. We own several versions of our domain name and ensure that our music, blog, live dates etc are updated there first. It’s our site, not a page on anyone elses.

In and ideal world I’d love to be able to update the News on our site and have it update the News section on ArtistData, ReverbNation and all the others. I’d love our newest blog to posted on WordPress, Blogger, etc. I’d like to integrate elements of Bandcamp into our site seamlessly, have Speadshirt as our own store rather than a link to the external site. Now, before you all start saying ‘You can set up A Records or CNames in Bandcamp to work as a subdomain of your site’ or ‘You can install WordPress on your server and have it as your internal blog’ or ‘With the Pro account on Spreadshirt you can embed it into your site’, I know! I can’t however do that with Bandzoogle, which brings me back to the point of two paragraphs ago.

Bandzoogle links with ArtistData (to an extent) which then links with MySpace, Eventful, Purevolume and even RootMusic which then links with Facebook, Listn.to and ArtistData… but none of them actually integrate fully. Bandzoogle’s News ‘bit’ doesn’t update ArtistData’s News ‘bit’ but it does update from ArtistData’s Events, ArtistData won’t update from my WordPress.com blog (not sure why), I can’t paste widgets from ReverbNation into Facebook due to the different code it uses (I seem to remember an app which let me paste html into FB and have it transferred to FBTML or whatever it’s called but no more).

In an independent musician’s Utopia I’d like to update the band’s official website, whether it be a show, news item, blog entry or a photo, and have that spread automatically across the Morpheus Rising web presence in all its forms…

Until then I’ll remain as one of the unsung tweets of the 25 billion sent a year, making mistakes and spreading them manually across the t’interweb…