May 25, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Here’s Looking At You: Facebook’s New Camera Sees Artists and Fans

Facebook released a camera app this week. Busy busy.

Buzz enveloped Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram even before its big IPO. Now, part of Facebook’s plan for its recent acquisition is unfolding.

Facebook released an Instagram-like camera app on Thursday. Photographers and musicians like me as well as plenty of other Facebook regulars could end up using. It carries different ramifications for music, given how much fans’ impression of their favorite recording artists now stems from social media. What does it mean when musicians’ photography skills becomes a factor, and why should we care?

First, it’s the direct connection with Facebook. Whether on MySpace five years ago or Facebook and Twitter today, most artists recognize the importance of doing something with these services. Their approaches vary, but stars maintain more direct relationships with fans than they would ever want to in an autograph line, and up-and-coming musicians find and expand their audience there.

Research shows that getting the word out and connecting with the audience corresponds to more revenue, but the game isn’t always easy. Apps like Facebook’s new Instagram property and its new app Facebook Camera can help — and probably will, given the size of Facebook’s audience and all that stockholder pressure on the company to keep expanding.

Instagram already affects the visual aspect of the artist-audience relationship. But Facebook has hundreds-of-millions more users — many of whom experience it partially or primarily through mobile apps. True, artists can auto-sync Instagram to Facebook artist pages, bringing those neat filter effects along. However, Facebook’s new Camera app adds extensive tagging and bulk uploading, and puts fans on the artist’s Facebook page rather than sending them somewhere else. And because Facebook is a more general network, that means fans that show up to see a photo might stick around to buy tickets, subscribe to updates, Like the artist, and so on.

Facebook Camera

Both of Facebook’s photo apps have to do with increasingly disintermediated artist-fan relationship, which doesn’t tend to get controlled by handlers (until something goes wrong). On top of that, artists and fans have these apps in common: When the stars (and the people who are stars in our personal worlds) take photos of their daily lives, apply the same filters we do, and upload them to the same places, it puts them on our level for a moment.

Whether it’s Matt and Kim’s photo of a box of Sweethearts to celebrate of Kim’s cavity-free  dentist; Santigold and Rihanna’s pictures of their recently-done nails; or an image of Taylor Swift’s kitty, no one would be able to recognize the celebrity behind the camera without the famous username sitting next to it. That’s rather humbling, which might just be the beauty of this whole trend. (Although I could do without Justin Bieber’s endless picture uploads of himself).

Some artists have even gone a step further: Chicago-based band Gold Motel recently held a photo contest in which fans sent in Instagram photos to show their own take on the band’s music and style.

The end result: Gold Motel’s album features fan artwork. But if Facebook Camera had been around, the band would have been able to expand the number of fans that participated, just because Facebook is large.

Conversely, from the fan side, concert-goers will tag artists in mobile uploads, and those photos will show up in their friends feeds, which can only be a good thing for connecting artists and audiences.