We’ve seen lots of new ideas this month: Chicago throwback-rappers The Cool Kids went through Mountain Dew to release an album; Earbits announced city-specific radio stations that survive on zero ads because everything they play is actually an ad; and now, a major label is using social gaming apps on Facebook to push product.
The third case comes courtesy of The EMI Group — the smallest of music’s Big Four major labels, which also include Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, and Sony Music Entertainment. EMI agreed last week to a partnership with Facebook social gaming company MXP4, maker of Bopler Games, which has approximately 200,000 users each months by Facebook’s count.
As part of the deal, Bopler — which launched in April and announced on Friday that it’s moving to Los Angeles, we assume to be closer to the music industry — can make little Facebook games out of EMI’s music catalog and sell the label’s music within the games.
The idea of turning music into something “playable” in the sense of a game is a strong one, as noted earlier – especially on Facebook, given the runaway success of other amusements there, such as Farmville and YouTube. It’s nice to know that even as its owner struggles to sell the label to the highest bidder, this major label is opening up to business models that go this far past the tried methods of yesteryear.
Music, games, and Facebook. What’s not to like? Actually, the jury’s still out on these Bopler/EMI games, and here’s why:
- Bopler ties certain games to certain playlists, rather than letting you play any song with any game. If you want to play Dodge It, you get a Motown-inspired playlist. Pump It comes with contemporary pop music, while Snake It‘s playlist is significantly more indie-oriented. You can change that in the Music tab and select another song, but that’s neither self-explanatory nor easily managed. (The Music tab doesn’t even feature a search bar.) This default handcuffing Bopler puts on users means that they’re essentially randomizing a catalog that ranks among the largest in the music world.
- Users listen to a 60-second snippet of any song for free, but anything over 60 seconds requires that you buy the song. That’s done by purchasing a “Music Pass” with “Music Cash,” a lengthier-than-necessary process that should probably be replaced by a straight-up $.99-per-song payment plan.
- Games end at the conclusion of each song. If you’re spinning a 60-second snippet, you only have one minute to play the game until “Game Over” shows up.
As with all social media ventures, this may all come down to numbers. Fortunately for Bopler, nearly 200,000 users have already jumped on board, as mentioned above — a promising figure.
If it can find a way to streamline the payment process and actively promote the catalog a bit better, this agreement and others like it could lead to a new widespread method of paying for (and playing with) music. Right now, though, our impression of Bopler Games was that it’s a bit gimmicky (not that that stopped Farmville).