Sunday, March 09, 2008

"A Beatles release was commented on by Gennaro Castaldo, who also commented on a release by Madonna"

Here, then, comes Get Closer, HMV's attempt to produce some sort of social networking tool that will help it remain in business for the years to come. Or at least the next three or four.

Jemima Kiss has had a look for the Guardian and isn't entirely impressed:

The starting point is IMDB or the AllMusicGuide, rather than Facebook, and the demo I've seen heavily focuses on an interactive posts that links artists, actors and celebrities together by inviting users to post connections.[...]

HMV has been paying bloggers and others to contribute 'connections' to the get the site going and they've reached around 8,500 so far but that's not all, of course. There are the ubiquitous profile options, so users can specify their favourite bands and music genres and likewise for film. It's like, but 1.0.

The weakness seems to be that Getcloser exists because of a decision taken in a marketing brainstorm rather than because someone decided it would a useful tool and persuaded HMV to fund it. Being able to link artists together is fun, certainly - Kiss uses the pub quiz example of Chas and Dave turning up on an Eminem sample - but it's hard to see where that would take you after a little bit of diversion. It might just encourage you to try out some new music, but are people really going to warm to a service that says 'if you like artist X, you might like artist Y who went to the same school' rather than the existing 'people who also like X like Y, since you like X, you might'? After all, Peter Sissons went to the same school as a couple of the Beatles, but that doesn't mean you'd like his memoirs as much as The White Album.

Kiss isn't convinced:
I asked why, when there are so many services overlapping with this, did HMV want to reinvent the wheel? My guide told me this is seen as a complement to the other sites out there - a "social layer".

"Consumers are increasingly using the internet for TV and film, so it makes sense to follow them. We want to be an authoritative source for music and film and allow them to get closer to the music. I mean, who doesn't like music and film?"

But this confuses "knowing arcane facts" with "getting closer". Now, I love fascinating music facts, but HMV seems to have confused emotional connection with trivia. The money they've poured into this could have been spent buying something useful and adding some subtle branding - instead, they seem to have created an expensive five-minute wonder, and something that might be easily replicated elsewhere. It doesn't bode well for their future in the digital realm.