Music industry reacts to Facebook’s war on Australian content
The local Australian music and music publishing industries have found themselves caught up in the fallout from Facebook’s move to stop local publishers and consumers from sharing news stories on the platform.
The dramatic move from the US-owned Facebook comes as the digital giants continue to posture in response to Federal Government intervention. The Morrison Government has introduced legislation which could force Facebook into mandatory arbitration with news outlets, resulting in them to pay for the news content which is shared and consumed on its platform.
Yet, the move by Facebook this week didn’t just hit publishers such as Nine and News Corp. Various lifestyle outlets, music festivals such as Splendour in the Grass, and even official Government health pages were temporarily wiped as the aggressive move took shape.
Music publishing outlets have also been hit with Facebook pages for the likes of The Music Network and The Industry Observer being hit.
The move also has implications for artists and touring companies who want to share news stories and announcements about tours, on-sale dates, album releases and career milestones.
The social media giant’s managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Will Easton, however, said the action was necessary because the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content”.
“It has left us with a stark choice: attempt to comply with a law that ignores the realities of this relationship, or stop allowing news content on our services in Australia. With a heavy heart, we are choosing the latter,” he said.
He said publishers willingly engaged with Facebook and reaped its benefits, including being able to sell more subscriptions, grow their audiences and increase advertising revenue.
“In fact, and as we have made clear to the Australian Government for many months, the value exchange between Facebook and publishers runs in favour of the publishers — which is the reverse of what the legislation would require the arbitrator to assume,” he said, arguing last year the platform generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth an estimated $407 million.
The Brag’s The Industry Observer said it was in a fortunate position where a majority of its traffic is not from Facebook, and its readers and fans frequently find its content via other means.
Managing editor Poppy Reid, however, did note the wide-reaching implications of the move.
“If you’re in a similar situation because of Zuckerberg’s move this morning, then we’re sorry that you’re in the trenches with us on this. We know how detrimental the flow-on effect is for artists, promoters, venues, industry associations, labels and much more,” she said in a note to subscribers.
Reid also said it’s at the point where it’s an “all-out dictatorship”.
Splendour In The Grass, very much not a news outlet but actually a music festival hit by COVID-19 and battling to get the event off the ground again in the wake of an ever-changing restrictions and border rules, also had its Facebook page cut off.
Yesterday, the organisers said they were focused on the issue at hand – getting their page back up and active – so couldn’t comment. It appears to be back online today.
Purple Sneakers didn’t mince its words, saying “this is a product fight over millions of dollars by large corporations who don’t give a shit about culture”.
“It’s time for our readers to stand up and show their support for what we do. It’s easy. Consume the music media that enhance your life and connect. Sign up to mailing lists and tell your friends who you know enjoy our content to do the same.
“If you’re on our list already we thank you for that, but have a think about other publications you might read but not be connected with and friends in your network who may love our content and content from other great music journalists,” its statement continued.
It also provided a list of music news outlets encouraging people to subscribe and connect without the third-party intervention of Facebook.
Pilerats also had its Facebook page wiped and launched a newsletter to stay connected with its audience.
Radio networks across the country were also hit by Facebook’s move, and roundly called on the organisation to get its act together and reverse the decision.