This week Interscope Geffen A&M introduced a redesigned website with a contemporary look and a pleasant browsing experience organized around social media streams. Though the site draws on a design style now tied to Pinterest, it makes smart use of artist-generated media and a focus on the eternal present for a fresh take. The new design is a positive response to the current landscape but it also points to major labels' failure to become the top source of artist information on the web.
Discover The New Interscope.com
Interscope.com's new look is a complete site redesign by AUTUMN:01 featuring streams of content drawing heavily on Twitter, YouTube and Spotify. Browsable sections are organized by artists, labels and stores with special sections promoting Beats By Dre and a download of the week.
Individual artist pages would seem to be the big draw with Twitter as the primary filter for almost everything from "Social" to video to photos. Facebook does appear periodically and YouTube and Spotify are noticeable as branded sources of artist content.
The overall effect is enjoyable and draws on real-time updates of information that could draw on additional sources in the future including promotional placements:
"All of the content is generated in real-time through cloud APIs. Arktan, a curation service that aggregates real-time social data from social networks, provides the social activity for each artist and brand. That data, alongside other real-time feeds from Interscope’s merchandise and brand partners (e.g. Bravado), is injected into Echo StreamServer, a real-time activity database that captures, storing and broadcasting social activity data across the Web."
Lee Hammond, VP of Digital for Interscope Geffen A&M notes:
"When our social media manager posts content to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, that content will instantly flow into the Featured content on our home page...The real-time, social infrastructure from Echo and Arktan provides Interscope with a very flexible framework to promote everything that a record label needs to promote, while keeping content fresh for the visitor."
The only strong criticism I would make of the redesign on its own terms is that separating the stores from the other sections reduces the likelihood of people shopping in them especially since there is no directory that I could find. I would suggest integrating the stores with the artist sections since that is where and when people are most likely to shop on the site. In addition, I would suggest a tour dates or event dates section which could include appearances on tv and the like.
Drawing on artist-generated social media makes sense for a label site at this point in time. But it's also a reminder that major labels had the opportunity to establish their websites as the go to spot for artist information and they totally dropped the ball. Now they're promoting media and content sources that are artist-controlled. I'm not familiar with current 360 deal contracts but the intellectual property produced on social media outlets is still typically artist-owned as well.
How did Interscope find itself promoting artists' social media accounts?
A decade ago, as the web became a bigger platform for music and media, bloggers and journalists writing about music found that most label sites and many artist sites were poor sources of information about artists beyond recent events. They might feature the latest release but rarely had much biographical info and were generally incomplete. We turned to sources like MySpace to hear music and, eventually, YouTube. Wikipedia became our source of biographical and historical information.
Now when you search on Google for No Doubt you don't see links to the label's site. You see links to No Doubt's website, Wikipedia entry and social media accounts plus YouTube videos, image search, a sidebar with brief bios and events and so forth.
Though the Google results are not as compellingly browsable as the new Interscope site, the first page of results offers a much deeper and broader source of No Doubt content than does Interscope's No Doubt's section.
Part of that richness comes from the archival nature of Google's results. Social media-focused content streams feature the eternal now, ever changing yet somehow always the same. When major labels and artists could have been building rich archival sites, they instead focused on promotional sites that ultimately didn't promote well because they did not become destinations. If they built archives of news and content and also regularly updated such information as tour dates, they could have become the go to spots.
Smaller labels and many artists of all sizes figured out that sites combining archival material and updated information were what fans wanted. Creating such sites allowed artists to establish independent identities. Social media accounts, especially Twitter and Facebook, then gave artists effective lightweight tools for fan contact and news updates.
And that led to major label websites becoming aggregators for artists' social media content rather than the hubs for artist content and information.
Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/App.net) blogs about music crowdfunding at Crowdfunding For Musicians (@CrowdfundingM). To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.