Facebook has seemed impervious to outside criticism for so long that it was beginning to look like nothing could ever crack its iron veil. But over the last few weeks, we’ve seen some deep cracks finally emerging. Thanks to a boycott from some of the world’s largest advertisers, Facebook looks to be making changes to its rather lax policy of overseeing what many deem to be hate speech. Further pressure is required to ensure a follow through however. The biggest question now is if the music business will join in.
So far the companies that have decided to join the boycott include:
- The North Face
- Eddie Bauer
- Canadian outdoor clothing brand Arc’teryx
- Recruiting company Upwork
- Hollywood studio Magnolia Pictures
- Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s
- Clothing designer Eileen Fisher
- wireless provider Verizon
- CPG giant Unilever
These companies have agreed to pull all advertising from both Facebook and Instagram (which Facebook owns) for at least the month of July. This amounts to a loss of over $7 billion in ad revenue, which has impacted the company’s stock price by over 8% as of Friday and its market cap by some $56 billion.
Yet we haven’t heard a peep of support from most of the music industry save for UK indie label Cooking Vinyl, which has recommended that its artists not advertise on the social behemoth during the upcoming month.
A Different Relationship
One of the reasons why this may not have happened yet is the symbiotic connection that the recorded music industry (specifically the 3 major labels and indie label association Merlin) has with Facebook. Unlike other companies that have a traditional advertiser relationship with the social giant where they only pay for ads served up to viewers, the music industry actually receives large sums of money from Facebook in the form of music licensing revenue.
The second thing is that Facebook and Instagram are responsible for more artist exposure than any other platform outside YouTube, and to a lessor degree, TikTok (a different business model).
Instagram especially is now the platform of choice when it comes to artists and music. Its users are known music lovers, its demographic skews young towards the prime music listening ages, and it reaches about 1 billion people a month globally (Facebook is around 2.6 billion). Forgetting TikTok for a minute (which doesn’t fit into the traditional promotional paradigm in that the videos are short and revolve around memes and short sound clips), second to YouTube, Instagram is the rocket fuel that runs the visibility engine for artists everywhere up and down the music food chain.
Music walks a fine line between representing its minority members (arguably the biggest stars of the moment) and the liberal leanings of its rank and file with playing it safe by doing nothing.
It’s difficult to take action against your own self-interest and few have an easy time with the decision. It comes down to your convictions. Back when the music industry was run by its founding entrepreneurs, such a decision would have been relatively easy and action would have been taken by now by at least some of them.
Today much of the music industry is run by public corporations, each with a huge business affairs team that preach caution-first as a strategy. That may be prudent in most cases, but this time it’s different. To say that the future of our country may hang in the balance is no exaggeration. It’s time for the music business to do the right thing. It’s time for it to step up and join the boycott.