Google Wave! It’s The Future! Convergent Communication 3.0! The bleeding zeitgesty edge of real-time innovation! But, er, what exactly IS it, and what potential does it have – if any – for artists, labels and the music industry?I’ve been puzzling over this since Google Wave was first announced earlier this year. Now it’s launched in beta, with Google having sent out the first 100,000 invites for the service, allowing those people to invite others.There isn’t much specific information online about Google Wave and music, apart from this fairly brief Hypebot post. However, there are quite a few articles talking about what Google Wave means for brands, which offer ideas that can be translated to the music industry.With those as the basis (and properly referenced and linked to), I’ve tried to put together a brief Google Wave primer. Read on, and do please post a comment if you have views or ideas on the subject.First off, what is Google Wave?In a nutshell, it’s like email meets instant messaging meets social networking meets document editing meets online collaboration. Sort of. Or, to relate it specifically to Google products, it’s like Gmail, Google Talk and Google Docs all mashed up into one service, with Facebook-style applications thrown in for customisation.Mashable has a great beginner’s guide post, which does better on the nutshell thing – it says Google Wave is a “real-time communication platform”. Each conversation takes the form of a ‘Wave’, and these waves can be embedded on any website you like.Waves can include text – but users can also drag and drop files into them too – photos, documents and even music. Meanwhile, Wave Extensions are the equivalent of Facebook applications – third-party apps that sit within Google Wave to do… well, pretty much anything, from games to productivity to branding and marketing.Talking of which, how can you (as an artist, label or music company) make use of Google Wave?1. To collaborate on workThis is the most obvious (and generic) use for Google Wave in the music industry – as a whizzy new online collaboration tool. Whether you’re planning a marketing campaign, kicking around ideas for album artwork, brainstorming new product ideas, or even just chatting, create a Wave for you and your colleagues, and you’re set. Is it better than alternatives that already exist for this? It’s too early to say: but it’s worth a look.2. Create a Wave for an artistThis is where we get more into the music side of things. This Advertising Age article provides some food for thought:“Say, for example, a marketer wanted to create a Wave to solicit user generated content — photos/videos of a certain product in action, testimonials, ratings, etc. The architecture of a Wave makes it very easy for the user to drag and drop media and converse in the Wave. The brand can easily repurpose the content automatically, in real time, in blogs, destination websites, mobile/location based applications, etc. The history of the Wave is always available so the user can go back in time to see how the content and conversations develop.”You don’t need much imagination to translate this to music – create a Wave for a band and get fans to interact with it. For example, a tour-focused wave might let fans drag in their gig photos, discuss the concerts, share setlists and chat. The Wave could be embedded on the artist’s own site, and spit stuff out into their (for example) iPhone app.Marketing blog Six Pixels of Separation also highlights the potential of this aspect:“Imagine brands inviting their consumers into a Google Wave – be it for customer service, product development or simply to discuss brand evangelism. This could become the highly personalized online social network many of us have been waiting for.”This stuff can all be done already using a mix of other platforms and technologies – the likes of Radiohead and 50 Cent have used social networking platform Ning in this way for example. So it’s not necessarily revolutionary. But it could make it easier for lots of artists to start doing it.2. Run focus groups around music and/or music servicesAdvertising blog Think See Do Differently has an article about Google Wave’s potential as a ‘live viral’ brand tool, which is well worth reading. But this bit caught my eye in particular:“Google Wave could be useful for customer service management. It could be used to generate “real-time” communities around a brand or topic. Also, it would be interesting to use it to test a brand or conduct a product launch. From a research point of view, I can easily see using Wave to run online focus groups.”That could work well for any music service looking to get feedback from its users through different means than a simple survey, but you can envisage labels and artists using it too to get fan feedback on their new (or even in-progress) recordings. “Here’s some stuff we’re working on in the studio – what do you think?”3. Create a Google Wave extensionJust as you might create an artist-focused iPhone or Facebook app for marketing, you could create a Google Wave extension.It could be a branded game that people play with their friends, or a news app that pulls in blog posts and tweets from an artist’s own site, as well as YouTube videos, Flickr photos, news and reviews… A related area – with suitably sci-fi terminology – are Google Wave ‘robots’. They can sit on the service and respond to the conversations being held in real-time. I found an early music example as a comment on the Hypebot post – it’s called the WithWaves AmazonMP3Bot, and once installed, it detects when a user is talking about an artist, song title or album, and serves up links to Amazon’s MP3 Store.You can imagine a we7 or Spotify robot that serves up links to music in a similar fashion – but this is just scratching the surface really, once developers get to grips with what’s capable.4. Even more targeted advertisingThis is Google, right? Advertising must come into Google Wave somehow! In theory, it allows even more targeted and real-time advertising, based on the conversations people are having within Waves. Or, as SEO blog High Position explains it:“Using a real time application means that companies will have a chance to monitor search trends more effectively than ever before. If live correspondence is being held on a central server, it means that companies can target potential clients at the most applicable time. For example, an IM that contains a message from someone saying that they fancy a cola will generate an advert from the highest bidder at the time.”Swap in any artist name for ‘cola’, and you can see that Google Wave could be the next thing for music marketers to get their heads around, following Google AdWords. iMediaConnection reckons this could be developed further though:“For now, it centers on new ad placement and the ability for marketers to join more conversations as they happen, or even days and weeks later. Google Wave not only lets users thread together conversations in real-time, it also allows for responses and notes to be interjected throughout existing text — regardless of when users jump into the wave.”There may be some privacy and intrusiveness issues around this kind of thing – if I’m being rude about Pixie Lott in a Wave with friends, I don’t really want her label or manager turning up to shout at me weeks later! But that’s (hopefully) not what’s being suggested here. Suffice to say, if Google Wave takes off, it could e an important online advertising opportunity for music firms.And more food for thought…There are plenty of people trying to puzzle out what Google Wave means for different industries or professions – those articles may offer up some ideas for music people.For example, here’s an article talking about Google Wave and film-making, which is pretty speculative but does a great job of raising the kind of creative collaborations that could be possible with the platform.Meanwhile, here’s a piece on Google Wave and journalism, which is fascinating:“What if we let readers watch the text as we write it? In our own testing, we found it to be a really fascinating peek into the writing habits and minds of our associates… Maybe we can go one step further and let the observers comment throughout the writing process. Readers could help shape a story.”Or to put it another way, if this very post was a Google Wave, I could be writing and publishing it in real-time, with you commenting as I go. Music blogs and sites could have fun with this idea, I’m sure.BUT a word of cautionGoogle Wave is hot right now – among geek circles. I count myself in that, so it’s not an insult. But it’s not a massmarket consumer phenomenon – it’s very much early adopters- and even many of the people who’d like to adopt Google Wave early still haven’t got an invite.In other words, it’s interesting, but it’s not going to revolutionise music marketing this year. If people criticise the buzz around music marketing on Twitter and iPhone because those two platforms are still niches in the wider scheme of things… well, Google Wave is even nicher. Nichier? You know what I mean.It’s something to experiment with and learn about while the platform is young and still developing, in the hope that it will catch on with a more mainstream audience in the future.What do you think?If you’re developing gadgets for Google Wave with a music focus, or if you have ideas on how it could be used by artists, labels and music startups – or even if you think it’s a load of hyped-up baloney that’ll never amount to anything – please post a comment with your thoughts.In the meantime, got 80 minutes to spare? Here’s Google’s official video explaining how it all works:

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