I was having this conversation on Saturday...
I'm hanging with my new musical buddy George Kilby. He's decided to upgrade his website so we're doing a consult to get a feel for what direction we're going to move him in (pardon my grammar). He said something at one point about a friend of his who'd decided to totally forgo having their own website in favor of just managing their presence through Facebook and a couple of other social sites.
I'm kicking myself for not having a canned response as to why I think that's a bad idea, but I guess i hadn't really thought about it too much in a while.
In my humble opinion...
I can totally understand why an artist would do that. It's a hassle to manage your own website. There's tons of traffic already happening for free over on Facebook, they already have most of the goodies that a band website needs to have built for you, and you've got to spend half your life posting all this crap there again anyway. Why not just skip the middle man?
To me it's two things - branding and informational liberty.
If you fold up your own website and just manage your presence through mySpace or Facebook or Reverb Nation, you're effectively subordinating your brand to theirs. I don't mean to suggest that you are bigger than Facebook, but to me it almost implies that Facebook or MySpace owns you if you send your potential fans there instead of a property of your own. Would a "normal" business send people to MySpace instead of having their own site? No! They want to make money...
I have some friends in a band. They've moved their main website onto a platform called Ning. Ning is a well funded company that aims to make the process of building a "social network" something that anyone can do. It's sort of like the old days of having your own message board on your site, except with the features one would expect of a modern social network. They have a pretty decent system for listing their tour dates, and maintaining the info is pretty easy. It doesn't cost that much and it works well, so what's the problem?
What if they every want to do something different? What happens when the day comes that they want to do something that Ning won't let them do (or won't let them do at a price they can afford), like maybe host and sell their own digital downloads or build a design template that's outside the parameters of what Ning allows?
They're faced with a tough decision. On the one hand they don't have access to tools that they'd like to use to promote their band. On the other hand they shutter a social network that they've asked their fans to join and be a part of, one that has been a definite success so far. Maybe it's not an issue right now and maybe it won't be that big of one ever, but by inviting their fans to create a community around them using proprietary software that they'll never fully control they're rolling the dice that Ning (or whoever ultimately buys Ning) will continue to do them and their fans right.
Better to build your own site and use that as the hub around which you organize the rest of your social accessories.