Pete Wentz of Fall Out Boy took part in an entertaining keynote conversation at MidemNet in Cannes, where he described the evolving music industry as "like the Wild West."

Wentz and Gina Bianchini, CEO of social network Ning, took part in the discussion "Artists and Social Media - What's Next in Fan Engagement" in the Debussy Auditorium, moderated by Billboard international bureau chief Mark Sutherland. MidemNet is the digital-focused sibling of the main MIDEM conference which begins tomorrow (Jan. 24).

Wentz - described as a musician, activist and entrepreneur - said that when Fall Out Boy started in 2001, fan relationships were part of how they established themselves as they slept on fans' floors when they toured.

"We wanted to find ways to still have an intimate relationship with them but it's a lot harder to do," he said.

Wentz uses Twitter, blogs and put the band on Facebook some years ago on the advice of his brother, then a student. But he acknowledged that the music business remains in state of flux.

"The meteor hit, the dinosaurs are gone," he said, adding: "I'm not saying what part of the [evolutionary] phase we are in."

"It's a great time to be in music and a horrible time to be in music. Because a lot of things can go wrong - but it's kind of like the Wild West," he said to laughter. "As long as you've got a pistol and are willing to shoot somebody you will be okay."

Wentz believes there are "some really, awesome amazing ideas" in the digital era but said that others "are [just] trying to use the old business model and slap it on to the Internet"

Wentz also questioned the assumption that artists have been better than labels in utilizing social networks and the Web.

"I think there are some artists that use it pretty terribly and some companies use it phenomenally," he said, although he identified Trent Reznor and Radiohead as Web-savvy artists.

Bianchini said it is all about "being authentic" - artists actually posting their messages, not their entourage - otherwise "people smell it a mile away."

"It's about authentic experiences and that's what fans want," she added. Bianchini also singled 50 Cent's Ning presence ThisIs50, describing it as not simply a fan-site but like a hip-hop take on TMZ.

Wentz said he doesn't simply believe in giving away his music online, but their social network strategy includes creating free games and contests.

"Our goal is always to create a cohesive culture that would surround the band and the bands on our label [Decaydance]," he said. "To me, the more the fan is interacting with you and feels part of the community, I think the more interested they will be to buy your music or come out to your show."

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