Rock On, Facebook

The headlines seemed pretty tantalizing last week. "Facebook to Launch iTunes Competitor," teased AllFacebook, an unofficial Facebook blog.

Really? Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is doing pretty well these days, commanding the majority of the country's digital music sales. Dot-com giants like Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) , Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , and RealNetworks (Nasdaq: RNWK  ) haven't made much of a dent in Apple's market dominance. Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) recent entry into the marketplace with an MP3 store -- a bold attempt to put out a better product free from copy-protected shackles -- is tempting, but Amazon's got a long way to go before it can be taken seriously.

If the cash-rich behemoths are struggling to keep up with Apple, why would Facebook fare any better?

What's that? The company's got a stranglehold on music-loving college kids, who often use nefarious file-swapping networks to get their tunes?

OK, I'm listening.

However, just as Facebook was being portrayed as a potential iTunes killer, PaidContent.org dug a little deeper and buried the rumor. It argued that Facebook is actually working on a platform for musical artists to set up profiles on its pages.

Yawn. News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) MySpace has had an artist platform for years. R.E.M. was using MySpace to promote a new CD three years ago, before Facebook was even a hatchling. What's so special about Facebook following a larger website's footsteps?

What's that? Facebook has been gaining on MySpace in recent months, with initiatives to open up the social network to more than just campus kids? Facebook's move earlier this year to open up its platform to developers has third-party programmers coding up widgets that offer lucrative revenue streams for all comers?

OK, I'm listening again.

MySpace really has been asleep at the wheel with its MySpace Music platform. Sure, it lets artists upload as many as four songs on their artist pages. It also struck a deal with Snocap two summers ago to launch digital sales on artist pages. However, it's been nearly a year since MySpace gave me goosebumps, by releasing a compilation CD of 17 promising acts on its site.

I figured that move marked the birth of a major music distributor, and MySpace certainly hasn't squandered that opportunity. Still, it would be great to see a creative rival like Facebook light a fire under that potential. And because Facebook has ties with some iTunes competitors -- Microsoft serves ads on the site, and Yahoo! was in buyout talks at one point -- let's not blindly assume that Apple is completely off the hook here.

This could get pretty interesting. Now, all Facebook has to do is part the curtain and turn up the volume.

Other Facebook snaps:


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