As the music industry continues to struggle to find additional revenue streams, intelligent and digital-savvy artists are taking their futures -- and their fortunes -- into their own hands.
50 Cent might be the most polarizing figure in contemporary pop culture. Love him or hate him, one thing is undeniable: 50 Cent, whose government name is Curtis Jackson, is a great businessman. From his platinum albums to his G-Unit record label and clothing line to his cashing in on Coca-Cola's acquisition of VitaminWater, "Fiddy" and his team never seem to get the raw end of a business deal. So it comes as no surprise that he has a long-term Internet strategy to help maintain and grow his personal brand.
50 Cent's online fortunes lie with This Is 50, a destination that's part hip-hop/pop culture blog, part fan community, and part original content destination. The popular site, which has grown by leaps and bounds since it was publicly released in October 2007, is built primarily on top of two free services. The blog and social network framework are built on top of social network platform Ning, while the primary video content delivery platform is Kyte. While using these two services may be unremarkable, how he uses them -- especially Kyte -- is revolutionary.
Flying High on Kyte
50 Cent and G-Unit have taken advantage of several user-behavior-oriented aspects of Kyte to great effect:
I had a chance to speak to Chris "Broadway" Romero, creative director of digital media at G-Unit Records and 50 Cent's personal technology officer, about how 50 Cent approaches his Web presence.
"Through services like Ning and Kyte, 50 is getting his original content out there quickly and efficiently to as many of his fans as possible," says Broadway. "It's all part of the plan. He definitely knows where he's going with this.
"What he's doing online with [www.This Is 50] parallels how he established himself in the music industry with his mix-tape hustle," referring to how a young 50 Cent created a groundswell of attention around his music and persona in the late 1990s by circumventing the major labels and selling low-cost, independent mix tapes on the streets of New York. "He's a natural marketer."
How 50 Cent "Get Money"
I spoke with Kyte cofounder and CEO Daniel Graf about the future of the 50 Cent partnership. The next obvious step, he said, was to help 50 monetize his content.
"There are already plans in motion to monetize 50's content," says Graf. "It only starts with the ad model that we introduced two weeks ago."
The more robust options that he continues to describe are a welcome departure from conventional video advertising.
"There will obviously be pre-roll and post-roll opportunities," continues Graf, "but we are looking beyond that to include full branding and skinning of the environment, providing tools to sell merchandise [and] tickets, host branded games, sponsorships, etc., all within the player, to take full advantage of all the Kyte platform has to offer."
As the music industry continues to struggle to find ways to create additional revenue streams to supplement declining record sales, intelligent and digital-savvy artists are taking their futures -- and their fortunes -- into their own hands.
Graf sees 50 Cent taking a leadership role in the music industry by trying to keep ahead of the digital curve and utilizing tools that work for both his fans and him. "He's a great example of an artist who understands the value of the Internet and technology," Graf adds. "He knows exactly what he's doing."
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Michael Miraflor is a media supervisor at Deep Focus in New York, where he has developed strategy and planned award-winning campaigns for such clients as HBO, Miramax, Glacéau, and NY Post Page Six. Prior to Deep Focus, Michael worked at Freestyle Interactive in San Francisco on rich-media heavy clients EA Sports, EarthLink, and Logitech.
A West Coast native, Michael received BAs in mass communications and political science from the University of California, Berkeley, and was named a 2004 Fellow of the International Radio and Television Society. A self-proclaimed popular culture junkie and hip-hop nerd, he founded the Hip Hop and Advertising Yahoo forum and Hip Hop and Advertising blog to educate and discuss monetization strategies with influential bloggers and publishers in the urban space. He was recently nominated as a finalist in the Rising Star category for the inaugural 2007 ADCOLOR Awards (Ad Club NY, ANA, AAF, AAA, Arnold).
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