Japanese pop group AKB48 is leveraging the social functions of Google+ to regularly host Hangouts with fans and broadcast concerts live through Hangouts on Air, Google+ VP of Product Bradley Horowitz recently announced.
When MySpace was still in its prime, it served as the go-to place for keeping track of what songs artists were creating. In 2007, it even launched Myspace Transmissions, a series of digital EPs featuring audio recordings, streaming video of music performances and video footage of artist interviews for fans to enjoy.
With Myspace irrelevant now and Facebook tightly integrated with Spotify, Google keeps making an effort to expand its music content on the network, as it launched Google Music featuring tight integration with Google+ in November to challenge iTunes Match and Spotify. At that same time, Google introduced its Artist Hub, a DIY-like software that lets anyone sell and price their music on Google Music.
Horowitz describes AKB48 as a Japanese phenomenon equivalent to the Beatles or the Spice Girls. The group consists of 200+ hand-selected performers who receive huge media attention and have millions of devoted fans, he writes.
"One of the philosophies around their stardom was to preserve meaningful interaction with, and access to their fans," Horowitz writes. "They used to do 'handshake events.' As their stardom grew, this method of interaction wasn't scalable... Google+ is going to allow them to reconnect to their fans in an intimate, authentic way."
We wonder what Google+'s user base is like in Japan and how many users have signed up since the announcement, but Google declined to disclose metrics other than what they announced in October: 40M+ people are signed up for the network.
But U.S. services don't have a great track record in Asia, where homegrown services have been hard to compete with. In 2006, Chinese entrepreneur Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, expressed how American companies trying to break into the Chinese market were doomed to fail, noting the lack of success for companies like eBay, Yahoo! and Amazon.
"A lot of people assume that because of money, technology and branding, it will be a success. But the market can't be bought," Ma said. "You have to build little by little to get into the market - it's about people, and you need patience."
While Facebook initially did not succeed in Japan due to the presence of social network service mixi, Nielsen reported in November that mixi stood in third place behind Twitter and Facebook in terms of unique visitors in October for social networks in Japan.
The Nielsen report showed that 14.5M+ users visited Twitter, 11.3M visited Facebook, 8.4M visited mixi while Google+ fell at a distant fourth place for use in Japan. In November, Twitter partnered with mixi to strengthen their ground against Facebook's expansion.
"I can't yet say if AKB48 is personally for me...," Horowitz writes. "But I am thrilled at their adoption of our service, and they're committed to pushing the envelope of what is possible in terms of artist-fan relationship. And that's a plus."
Each of the members now also have their own profile page, in addition to a main one for AKB48. In June, the Singularity Hub reported that one of the lead singers is not real but rather a 3D hologram.
Other artists on Google+ include Snoop Dogg, Will.i.am and Daria Musk -- all of which have hosted Hangouts with the exception of Snoop, who hangs out on Chill instead.
"I think Google has the platform for singers, artists, and performers," +S.H. Wei, a computer software developer, writes on Google+. "It would be awesome, if different services could be integrated with G+ -- Google Music for their songs, Picasa for album arts/events/photo shoot, and YouTube for their videos."