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Music, is one of my many loves. I am, however, musically speaking inferior compared to some of the acts and independant artists to be found in the corners of the web. It’s no secret that today’s music chart is largely influenced by the web, and that musicians worldwide have never been better equipped to launch careers, improve their reach, and market their music and gigs all via the web. Here are a collection of some of the best resources and websites to help you take your band from zero to guitar hero in a couple of easy steps.
Soundcloud is one of the best applications for music distribution on the web. Their ability to spot a niche (embedded music) and create a stylish player which can be shared anywhere has set them apart from the crowd. They have also went to great lengths to open up their software to others, with a full API developers are able to take the concept and run with it, creating masterpieces such as this cloudbased playlist wonderment or this mashup, showing the popular music playing in your particular city – with SoundCloud at the source.
Other alternatives include StreamPad and HypeSter both of which allow embedding on platforms such as Tumblr.
For those of you out there who don’t have the desire to create full production YouTube videos, yet want the distribution, and the ability for your music to be embedded anywhere; SoundCloud is a great option for getting your stuff out there quickly. Watch this space, my guess is Google will swallow these guys sooner rather than later.
YouTube is of course, one of the better known applications to launch your music career. With everything from the guitar to the ukulele, YouTube can increase the reach of your music dramatically. It is, after all, the second largest search engine on the web. This collection of artists perfectly illustrates just what can happen, including getting signed by major labels, and achieving popularity before a record even hits the shelves. With the ease of embedding of videos, and the culture of mashups – YouTube can provide musicians with the sort of ecosystem which leads to viral exposure on the web.
There are a number of tools within the YouTube ecosystems tailored towards artists. For example, features such as YouTube Insight allow the video owner to track viewer demographics, giving data back to artists to help build up their fan bases. Weezer for example, have used the data garnered from YouTube to plan their tours, by seeing where the majority of their fan base are geographically. This has led to the adoption and growth of websites such as MusicMetric – where insight can be accessed on a number a statistics important to musicians.
For visitors, music can easily be grouped together with tools such as “Disco” automatically creating playlists of music that you can listen to and share.
With the partner program for musicians now available across the world, there’s even more opportunity to create revenue from your efforts whilst marketing online at the same time. Do of course take the time to create a decent background design to distinguish yourself from the crowd. If you are in need of some software to help create the videos, YouTube themselves have a cloud based application which does basic things very well; over and above that you may want to take a look at my kitchen sink guide to YouTube software.
If you are looking to further your reach then syndication should be a massive part of your strategy. This basically involves getting your video in front of as many people as possible, by distributing them to other sites. There are startups out there to perform this work for you. TubeMogul distributes your videos to a variety of different hosting sites for a fee, as does Hey!Spread – the advantage to using some of these sites is obvious; the more places you are, the more chance you have of getting noticed.
It’s all well and good creating your masterpiece and marketing it, but the one thing that probably counts the most for wannabie rock stars is the cold hard cash that you are potentially going to make from your talents. One of the easiest ways to get this is to work with a distributor to get it into shops. In the online world this translates into an online distributor, that you don’t even have to talk to; simple take your recordings, pay your money -and in hours you could be generating sales for your music.
Catapult Distribution is an online music distribution channel that allows you to get your music out there, and under the nose of your fans on a variety of commercial sites such as iTunes, Amazon, MySpace, Spotify and more, all without having an official recording contract. This allows artists to sell their songs, albums, and music video for a once off fee.
The pricing at time of writing was $25 for a complete album or $9 for singles – plus you receive 91-95% of the profits the retailer makes. There are a couple of other distribution websites out there on the web offering similar services, with different pricing structures. RouteNote, Ditto Music, TuneCore and CD Baby all offer digital distribution to get your music onto the iTunes store, and into the ears of the people that matter – your fans.
Need short runs of CD’s or Vinyl to distribute your own material yourself? Mobineko offer exactly that, which can be a cost effective way to getting your music out there.
Blogger outreach is an important part of any promotional strategy for the web. It’s just as important for musicians who want to make the big time. Hype Machine is a music aggregator for what is currently popular with music bloggers around the web, allowing the best material to reach the front page, and in turn, the most exposure.
It makes it particularly easy to find out who is talking about the music which closely resembles your own genre, i.e. who might be interest in your material. For artists it offers a marketing opportunity to connect with likeminded bloggers in your niche, for the rest of us it offers some fresh musical inspiration from new and existing artists. A hipsters wet dream indeed.
Music Think Tank have an excellent article on how to pitch a music blogger when you do find them. Do please read it before firing your mp3’s at them and expecting results straight away.
Websites such as OurStage also offer music promotion in the form of competitions to gain access to the industry talent scouts. They also allow you to list your music in the OurStage Music Licensing catalog so that a network of agents can place your music in commercials, TV shows, and movies.
Bandcamp are one of those success stories that just got it right. Whilst MySpace way back when social networks were getting big concentrated on growing larger armies of people to generate revenue – Bandcamp got into the social music market at just the right time, concentrating on not trying to do everything badly, but delivering a superior user experience for music artists, with a commercial ecosystem to boot.
The site isn’t rocket science technically, but that doesn’t matter. Its a poster child for kiss, and would be the one startup that I say you absolutely need to be a part of to get your sounds heard, and to start selling your music easily.
Bandcamp operate on a 15% revenue share on sales for all their music, butthe simplicity of the service and it’s current exposure makes it a pretty attractive option for artists – including some of the more famous ones who trust them with their sounds.
There are of course other alternatives to Bandcamp if you are looking for a stepping stone onto the web. WordPress themes such as BackStage allow a more DIY approach. In fact BandThemer have built an entire business model around the concept of premium themes for Bands. Official.fm offer a similar concept to Bandcamp, with a hosted web presence for your music that can be shared with others, as do BandZoogle – who offer a powerful website building platform.
MySpace, although I personally have my doubts about its longevity, is still worth a mention. One of the best things they did was to acquire Imeem, and introduce a much stronger music focus in their relaunch. They also managed to take away much of the design control which made profiles unique, but a mess, making a profile much more consistent between bands, but losing some of the originality. Stepping into that particular void is PureVolume, which focuses on connecting gig locations to particular artists via a dedicated profile page similar to MySpace.
Lastly, but definitely not least least, is Last.fm who at time of writing had over 40 million fans waiting to hear your music. Signup here as an artist to join the network.
Social Media for Bands
With the massive number of social media websites dedicated to music, it can be completely overwhelming for artists to keep up with them all, keep fans informed and improve their music. Thankfully though startups such as ArtistData have recognised this and provide an easier way to provide updates to over 28 sites that they have in their network. Forget updating multiple sources around the web – this is the nuts of music marketing.
Mobile Platforms for Bands
With the advancement in mobile technology, the music industry is moving at breakneck speed to embrace mobile devices – and for good reason. It’s the one piece of technology you can guarantee that your audience are going to have with them when they arrive at your gig, and to ignore the massive potential that that brings to your marketing efforts would be suicide. A number of startups have arrived in the space to give artists a way to better engage with fans via mobile devices at increasingly competitive prices. Mobile Roadie is one such startup which lets you build a mobile application for £1000 a yr for unlimited installs of the application -at the lower end of their pricing structure.
Other competitors in the create-your-own-app market include MobBase, MyApp and BlueHaze both of whom offer dedicated mobile applications for artists, increasing engagement and fans across the mobile web.
For marketing on mobile platforms Advamobile provides a mobile marketing platform which includes allows you to create a community of your loyal fans with your own Mobile Fan Club. You can provide them with mobile alerts and messages,content downloads and social sharing all from within your mobile device.
Email Marketing for Bands
Building a list of your followers and fans in today’s new music economy is extremely important and you can do this both at your gigs, and in an online capacity. Whilst the platform doesn’t really matter that much, (and there are a variety of email marketing software solutions out there), a few startups have stepped up to the plate to offer bands and musicians their own dedicated solution. Champion Sound is one such solution which provides scheduled event support with guest lists, and a plethora of templates to suit musicians.
Fan Bridge is another solution which offers additional functionality such as a personalised custom fan microsite to increase the number of conversions to subscribers you receive.
Bandize helps bands get much more organised and take control of both their marketing, sales and outstanding tasks. Essentially its a project management application similar in nature to Basecamp but with a focus for bands to get their act together (pun intended). Created by musicans, for musicians the site charges around $15 per month for access to all features, and they all rock socks. The pricing is affordable, even for a brand new band just starting out and there is no limitation to the number of logins in the month for that.
Still in private Beta, another project management app worth keeping your eyes out for is Planzai. Again, born out of the music industry and home grown here in Northern Ireland, this application works around the basis that many bands do the same thing time after time for their gigs and performances. Essentially, it lets you lay out a roadmap of the things you need to do, and check them off as you go. With every band however having it’s own approach, customisation of these templates is a snap, and it really lets you cater for what you do to get going. Reminders can be set for each individual task, and continue to remind you until you get the job done. It’s an innovative approach to project management, and one I think will work particularly well for disorganised musicians.
Promoting Your Gig Locally.
There are a vast number of websites which are dedicated to getting the word out about your gig or event at a local level. Some of them however concentrate solely on the States, (e.g. EvieSays) forgetting about little old us over here in Europe. One of my own personal favourites is Bands in Town, which not only allows artists to add their event to a local place, but it also allows you to import your own music tastes from Last.fm ,and then in turn offers you a personalised recommendation solution for what Gigs and Events to attend. Very clever stuff.
EventFul offers another hyper local solution that lets you find, share and promote your gigs, and also boasts a sizable and active web community that you can become involved with. Upcoming @ Yahoo is another great place to be seen, as it is aggregated in various places around the web, thereby increasing your exposure that bit further.
Go Open Source.
Overall music marketing is less about the tools, and more about knowing where to concentrate your efforts online to grow an audience, subscribers and fans. Open sourcing your music, and giving it the right creative commons license can see it getting embedded and used in places you could never have imagined. All it takes is for one viral video with your music as a backdrop, or one indie film with your soundtrack to achieve critical acclaim for you music to really take off and explode on the web. You just have to be prepared to capitalise by being as visible as possible to really see success.