Music Blogs Team With Magazines and Labels

Spate of New Deals Create Opportunities for Advertisers

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- This was a banner week for music blogs, as several merged and others found partners in Universal Music Group and print magazines like Fader and Paste.
Rcrd Lbl, an ad-supported indie music downloading site that launched in November, is partnering with Fader Media.
Rcrd Lbl, an ad-supported indie music downloading site that launched in November, is partnering with Fader Media.

Gawker Media kicked off the round of deals this week by selling off Idolator, its music blog, to Buzznet, a social-networking site that recently added the popular music site Stereogum to its network. Now two independent-music magazines, Fader and Paste, are looking to the music blogosphere to add some reach to their online-ad buys.

Fader Media is partnering with Rcrd Lbl, an ad-supported indie-music downloading site that launched in November, with clients such as Puma, Virgin America and Nikon in tow.

Independently together
The indie-music mag, which has a print circulation of 92,000, saw an opportunity to align similar audiences interested in underground music and emerging talent. Its partnership with Rcrd Lbl is expected to grow Fader's online audience from 60,000 unique visitors per month to 250,000. Plus, Rcrd Lbl's creative director is a former Fader editor, so the relationship with the magazine was quite simple to negotiate.

Andy Cohn, Fader Media VP-group publisher, said, "The aesthetic of Rcrd Lbl -- the hand-selected content, curated by a former Fader editor -- made the site something we were all extremely excited about when it launched. It wasn't really just a clearinghouse of ad-supported music, it was carefully selected music that's ad-supported."

That was a key differentiator to both parties, separating the new association from more broad-based ad-supported music downloading sites like Qtrax, Spiralfrog and the recent expansion of MySpace Music. Sites like "MySpace are so overarching and so mass, this is much more of a targeted community," Mr. Cohn said. "It weeds out the average casual music fan that might go to MySpace to check out a band."

Multi-sourcing music customers
Peter Rojas, CEO of Rcrd Lbl, sees the ad-supported music space as part of a larger strategy for advertisers to use behavioral targeting online. "It's not a one-player game anymore. Just because someone downloads from Rcrd Lbl doesn't mean they'll stop buying from iTunes or stop going to Hype Machine. You ultimately have to recognize the music fan gets music from lots of different sources."

The same goes for music content, which Paste Magazine is looking to aggregate for advertisers via its new Paste Nation network. The new partnership brings 11 music and movie blogs to the Paste online network (including PopMatters, Spout and Virb), totaling 4.3 million unique visitors and over 28 million page views per month. Not only is it a scale play for Paste, it's a targeting opportunity for non-endemic advertisers seeking to align their brands to different music- and movie-based activities.

"The idea here is to provide major brand advertisers an efficient way to reach that true tastemaking audience," said Nick Purdy, publisher of Paste. "It takes a lot of work to go buy those individual sites, so grouping a select group of these together can help even just the planning side of some of the agencies out there."

Indeed, scale is of utmost importance to key buyers in the space, but so are the targeting opportunities. Carl Fremont, senior VP-media director at Digitas, said aggregated online communities with focuses like music, fashion or travel have benefits for brand marketers seeking to align with lifestyle affinities. "Anything that will improve our ability to target and improve our relationships with customers is what we're looking for. We applaud anyone who develops technology that will allow for a greater connection," he said.

Blogging for bucks
As the indie, Long Tail side of the online music community gets more consolidated, the major labels are starting to take more of a stake in monetizing through blogs, too. Universal Music Group just announced its investment in Buzznet, the aforementioned music-oriented social networking site that recently added Idolator and Stereogum to its network. Universal will be one of the first music conglomerates to take a hands-on role in editorial programming for a social-media site, with revenue split between both companies. Universal artists' songs and videos will be woven into the site's daily news feed, and users will also be able to create blog posts dedicated to Universal artists and content.

Doug Morris, Universal chairman-CEO, said in a statement, "We are always striving to push boundaries and expand the scope of our digital activities. And our partnership with Buzznet fits perfectly into that strategy. Tyler [Goldman, CEO of Buzznet] and his team have built a dynamic and legitimate social destination that provides fans and sponsors an all-encompassing musical experience."
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