As more and more users sign up for social networking services on the Internet, the popularity and respect for music is only increasing.

Music Web sites are the fourth most popular on the Internet, behind only gaming destinations, social networking sites and search engines, according to research/marketing firm the Harrison Group, whose vice chairman Jim Taylor spoke at the one-day What Teens Want conference today (Oct. 17) in Marina Del Rey, Calif.

Taylor noted that 72% of the teenagers recently surveyed by the firm said they spend two or three hours per day listening to or downloading music. In a statistic that should encourage major record labels and their lobbying group the RIAA, Taylor said his group found that the belief amongst teens that freely downloading music is acceptable has decreased from 90% five years ago to about 41% today.

As for how teens wish to receive and hear about new music, the day?s theme of having to make marketing and advertising appear authentic was echoed by Taylor, as well as director of marketing for Geffen Records Paul Orescan. In describing the difference between authentic and non-authentic marketing, Taylor used a video game as an example. He said an authentic experience would be a game in which users must virtually interact with a store, compared to a game in which a user?s character ran past banner advertisements, which would be considered inauthentic.

Authenticity, in Taylor?s example, doesn?t matter as much as the appearance to be genuine. Orescan later spoke on a panel moderated by Billboard?s director of charts Geoff Mayfield. Orescan discussed the company?s Slumber Party Girls -- an act manufactured for a Saturday morning television series -- as an example in which a community for a group was created before an album was available. A pure industry creation, the Slumber Party Girls anchor an entire Saturday morning block on CBS, and gave Geffen a place where ?kids can go without being hard sold,? Orescan said.

But even getting a soft sell doesn?t always work. As BigChampagne CEO Eric Garland discussed on the same panel, Internet activity for DJ Cut Chemist has not drastically increased since his music was used in a new Apple iPod commercial. The formula for a hit remains elusive, though the Internet has provided some guidance, said Jay Frank, head of artist & label relations for Yahoo! Music. Ultimately, Frank noted, it?s the artist?s brand that matters more than anything else -- the strength of which can usually be foretold by an act?s online presence.