This post is meant to provide a collection of resources and concepts and basic ideas about how the Internet can be used in music marketing. It is meant for musicians, producers, DJs and labels, hopefully without too many genre-specific things. However, the general ideas about Internet marketing mentioned and linked to in this article may be useful to people in other fields besides music too. Currently, it’s a draft, so if you encounter errors, or if you think we should expand on some sections, if you have any questions, or ideas, tips, links etc. which we didn’t mention, please tell us, or feel free to leave you’re note in the comments. If some of the points aren’t anything new for you, good – because there still seems to be a lot of artists and labels big and small, for whom most of this will be new. You don’t have to care about the bleeding edge of IT to be able to make use of the excellent (and often free) marketing opportunities of the Internet. However, this post is just for you if you do understand that there is a lot of potential in the Internet, but you could use some help finding out some inspiration and also practical tips about what can be done and how. We’ll offer you some general concepts of marketing on the Internet, and we’ll talk about how to make yourself present at the places where people could be looking for you and how to make the most of them. Read on…
Music marketing as we will be talking about it, means in this case not only reaching out to people and trying to catch their attention with whatever you’re trying to sell. Marketing blends with everything we do. Every action presents us to the world, and trust (or the lack of it) is an essential part of any meaningful relationship. So first, of course, you need something to offer – in this case, let’s say it’s good music. Now how can the Internet help? In the world of recorded music, a paradigm has shifted recently. It was the Long Tail theory that defined new possibilities of the digital age. Long Tail theory basically says that by providing music in its digital form, the entire world is your market, since practically no costs have to go into distribution. Releasing your music (and eventually get paid for it) has become incredibly easy, and anyone with a decent Internet connection can get it. But there’s also another important effect – the Internet makes it easy for people to participe. This can mean that not only can people get music from you, they can also tell you how they liked it. However, there are other, much broader, implications. It’s not about “consumers” and “content providers” anymore – the barriers for consumers to become authors have dropped dramatically. For example, this means that some of the most popular and useful sites are so well known mainly because they have a community of users, who participate – they may be uploading their own creations, like on YouTube or DeviantArt, or writing entries into Wikipedia, but it can also be just rating or labeling content – the usefulness can be seen on sites like del.icio.us, Digg, Reddit, and other “social news” sites etc… In music marketing, those sites can be useful in diverse ways. You can of course use them yourself, to find content from which the interesting has already been selected for you by other people, just to have fun or to see what is going on in myriads of particular subcultures, but you can also use them to find and get in contact with interesting people – be it new talents, if you’re a label, or someone who can offer you a gig, if you’re a musician or a band. Isn’t that an incredible resource?
The better your music is, the better following tips will work. While being an amateur today is not that much of a handicap in music, there’s so much music being released that your production has to be awesome instead of just good or good enough, to have a chance of coming through to people. Probably the most effective kind of marketing is honest word of mouth. Unlike other kinds of ads, word of mouth from reliable people builds trust. On the Internet, word of mouth can be greatly amplified – anyone can write something, and whatever they wrote will be available to everyone else (not to mention stored in search engine archives). However, word of mouth, both the normal and the Internet kind, only works if there is a subject worth mentioning, and hopefully even recommending. Don’t forget that it is much easier (particularly in the long term) to provide people with something they’ll like, rather then relying on marketing to sell crap. Many things on the Internet can be utilized for no or very little cost. Pay attention to such possibilities, be it the hosting solution for your webpage or all kinds of “social” websites. If you put some care into your online presence, the effects can be tremendous, and the costs very small. Energy spent on publishing a blog, designing a webpage, engaging in communication with fans and so on are all activities, which may not show direct and immediate returns, but they show that you care. They can be a great way of making things happen indirectly. In the 95 Theses of the free Cluetrain Manifesto book, you can learn how not to do marketing, but let’s say it anyway – do not push. On the Internet, this is particularly tempting. You could, for example, go around all kinds of sites pushing your press releases with information about your new album. And while in some places people might be interested in your message, in others it can be unfavorable. You don’t want to actually annoy people by flooding them with your promotion – noone likes to feel forced, and the usual reaction is not to do what we’re told. The indirect way would be to publish some free music, perhaps tell a few people who you know will be interested, and if your music is good, people will tell each other, and take care of your promotion by recommending you. While the principles are simple, the practical execution requires some understanding of how the web and Internet work, and that is best learned while using it yourself.
You definitely need a solid webpage. While you could rent some webspace, find a content management system (or maybe buy one, though there’s usually no need for that), and hire a professional to create a design for you, you should have some overview (LINK) of the business. And of course, what many company trying to sell you an expensive web solution won’t tell you, there are ways to have a quality service and still not spend a fortune on it. For example, you could buy a domain and bind it to a blog on some blogging service (check the conditions, if they allow commercial blogs for free), find a good template (again, lot of them are for free), perhaps customize it a bit, and you’re set in a few hours. However, a proper design is worth spending some money on – the 12 year old son of your neighbors may be a computer genius in the eyes of his mother, but you wouldn’t let a kid do plastic surgery, would you. There are all kinds of services to help you in all kinds of tasks along the way – often what you need are just a few proper search terms. KISS. There is no need to go for overly complicated sites. Actually, putting a beautiful, animated Flash interface on your site, can easily mean that a part of people coming to give a try to your music will be turned away – even if the page loads in just 20 seconds, much better then the previous version. Every second, every obstacle will cause more people to simply go away instead of waiting for your intro to load or examining how to control your exciting experimental interface. RSS Your site should definitely have a RSS feed for news. You can learn more about what RSS is on this page from the BBC. RSS is also a very useful technology for your personal life. A useful tool for publishing a RSS feed is the FeedBurner service SEO (Search Engine Optimalization) It’s also good to devote a small amount of time to learning the so-called search engine optimalization, because while you can hire someone to do it for you, the basics are pretty straightforward, and offering good content will often do more for you. Simply said, if I type your name in Google, and don’t get you displayed on the first page of search results, you seriously need some SEO optimalization. If I type your musical style and your home city, and don’t get you in search results, you probably could do something about it, since you’re loosing business here. In April 2007 respected SEOmoz published a study showing opinions of experts in the field about what is important in the SEO field. You can read the analysis here: http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors. Traffic Analysis By analysing who’s coming on your page and what they’re doing there you’re able to gather precious data, which can then help you in improving your website and online presence in general. While there are again solutions which you can buy, there are free ones as well. For example, Google Analytics provide a service more complex then many paid services. You could also use publish a calendar with upcoming events, or have Last.fm publish it for you.
Online shops can be a solid source of revenue. Particularly if you don’t have worldwide distribution, or if you feel like you don’t need it anyway.
You should make certain your released CDs are submitted in CD databases and that these submissions are correct by the time they get out.
If you’re not a last.fm user already, you should probably spend some time taking notice of its features. It would be probably best if you also registered as a user, downloaded last.fm client for your audio player, and started using it – you’ll get the best picture of what last.fm has to offer. Or you can take a look at a Wikipedia page about last.fm
- You’ll need a user account. If you’re a single musician, you could probably use your already existing user account, but a band or label should have their own separate user accounts, so that the label information is independent of any particular people.
- Under your new account, register for labels program on last.fm. You can allow other user accounts to have access to the label page (so that you can come when logged in as your normal user).
- Upload your logo, fill out your description, webpage link etc.
- Upload your releases (after reading last.fm rules). I would recommend putting most of your music online, if not all of it, so that it gets played on Last.fm radios and can be listened to as recommended music. From the standpoint of the user, last.fm is often about finding new music, and it is dissatisfying to only be able to play a part of one or two tracks, or not to be able.Upload pictures of your releases and carefully fill out the details – the information filled in should be coherent with the information your CDs have in freecddb, musicbrainz and other databases from which media players import info. If it is not coherent, for example because of a typo, the listening statistics will be skewed for the track / album / artist, and it may be hard to find. See the release databases section below.Also fill out a link to a page where the release can be bought – this can be used to measure the impact of last.fm promotion by redirecting to the shop through some kind of tracker, so that you can see how many people are going to the shop through last.fm (although you probably won’t know if those coming from last.fm actually bought anything, unless you have access to detailed information from the shop).
- You also want to tag your music, both songs and albums. It is like pushing into a few playlists. The less listeners you have, or the more obscure your genre is, the more attention you’ll want to put into tags.
- You could start a user group for your label. Let people know in your newsletter and perhaps even on releases themselves, that they’re invited to join this last.fm user group. You can cultivate a community, from which you will be able to receive feedback, and your fans are often also your evangelists, spreading the word about you.
- Keep your user group active – post journals with your label-user and display them in your user group. News and press releases are fine, but more “personal” level is appreciated – you could simply talk with people using the user group, and make them feel you value them as your listeners. Post links to reviews and update your events in your calendar.
- Use last.fm yourself, tag music you like, run a Recommended radio for a while, or just fill out your favorite genre tag and let it play.
- If you have a concert, or if you are otherwise connected with some event, make sure that the event is listed on Last.fm (and elsewhere) where people could be looking for it – you might attract tourists, who’re looking for some music, but don’t have the means or will to follow local lists.
- Use last.fm for statistics and market research – you can see what other people listen to, check out similar artists, or follow forum posts, comments and journals. Again, last.fm is useful for this, but you might as well watch some forums or blogs elsewhere on the net.
Don’t worry you couldn’t make it, because the lyrics of your songs aren’t in English. While it might be a disadvantage, many people out there enjoy music in just any language. And even though you doubt you’ll be getting foreign audience, your page still deserves English version – you never know, it might be just one foreign guy who heard you or liked your show, and he’s looking for information, details, more musice to share his friends, so don’t let him down. Perhaps you could even ask your fans to help you translate it… (you’ll see, how many serious fans you actually have :)
Tips for online promotion
- Your situation will be MUCH easier, if your project/band/label has a unique name. This matter is actually very important – the name would even be worth changing, if there is some other subject with that name in the world – and it doesn’t have anything to do with music. You’re a Nobody Unless Your Name Googles Well
- Generally, don’t be afraid to give your music away for free. If you are relatively unknown, by making your music freely accessible, you’re actually increasing the chances of it being heard, liked and bought. Even if you are known, the probability that someone will recognize your song as a one they like
- Marketing is about stories. You can learn more from Seth Godin, but in general, whatever you do should be consistent with your story – with who you are, what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to say with your music etc.
- Don’t try to cheat. It is incredibly easy to loose credibility and gain lots of bad reputation. And after all, credibility and quality is all there is to it. Your music should be able to speak for itself.
- If you’re going to offer some of your music for free, it is better to offer your best music. It’s a hook. If people like it, they will be interested in the rest of your music. If you offer a song that’s among the less good, or perhaps not obiously good, it could actually discourage people from wanting more of your music. They will be thinking: “If that is what they release as an example of how good their music is, and it’s average at best, then the rest is probably not worth buying.” On the other hand, people who like your best songs (which you released for free) will be more willing to explore the rest.
- Piracy can be a form of free marketing, and can actually help your sales. Be there. Having a torrent of your music on thepiratebay.org or oink.me.uk isn’t much of a threat – more like free promotion.
- Find online radios playing the kind of music you’re releasing, and offer them your music. If you don’t mind being limited to USA/Canada for the time (other countries have been blocked due to legal reasons), submit your music to Pandora (www.pandora.com), a great project that will analyze your music and later play it among artists similar to you (also having them doing this for you is a bonus, since knowing who the artists similar to you are is a great thing in itself).
- If there are established blogs covering your area, offer them your music for review.
- You could also find some podcasters in the field and tell them to play or review some of your music in their podcasts. Personal recommendations work best.
- There are lots of other places where some free music could be appreciated. Music forums, groups, servers, shop review sites.
- Use free services – like servers and databases, where you can upload your music for free. There are hundreds of them, so to name just a few examples:
- Internet Archive – www.archive.org – one of the biggest archives. There are two sections that might interest musicians: Audio archive and Live music archives. Audio archive might be interesting especially to labels offering at least part of their music under Creative Commons license. You can get reviews, there are no size limits for uploads and your music spread all around the world. In both Netlabel and Live music sections you are encouraged to upload your music in the highest possible quality, e.g. in flac (free lossless audio codec) – the other derrivative formats (differently rated MP3, OGG etc.) will be created automatically.
- Another project that can be interesting especially for electronic music labels – Burnstation – www.burnstation.org. It is a free distribution system, that lives both online and offline: various temporary and permanent Burnstations are located around the world (or travel) – and their aim is to bring the music from the internet back onto the streets. In reality, burnstation is a mobile sound system with a database of music, which the passers-by might listen to, but also choose from, and the selected music burn on a blank cd and take home.
- Post videos. While having videos on your website means a lot of traffic, and traffic costs money, today it is very easy to use sites like YouTube or others – dailymotion.org, video.google.com, metacafe – which will host your videos for free.A good (or at least interesting) video will spread through the Internet and bring you the attention of lots of people (hundres, thousands, even more). And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a MTV like production.To say the truth – anything goes. It might be even just a story, not a proper music video. Or it could be animation, or your music added to some funny content, not related to it at all – there are no limits.
- If everything else fails, you can always try MySpace (MySpace is considered by many as a place for kids, silly poor-coded moloch, slowly eating itself. True enough, but still it can help you pump up the number of visitors significantly and of course -your- page doesn’t have to necessarly look that horrible as most MySpace profiles do. Therefore we include also some basic tips about this service. You can read more in the following MySpace section
- Not only last.fm, but the Internet as a whole is an excellent place for “market research” – you get to watch thoughts and actions of an innumerable amount of people,
- One of the ways to track the results of your online promotion is, besides analyzing the traffic coming to your website, is to use tools like Google Trends, which allows you to see the amount of search for certain keywords based on time, and Google Alerts, which will monitor the web for your search terms – if you have an unique name, you get to know any time someone mentions you in a public place.
- Start with the profile carefully, some of the features you can’t change later, e.g. the short address – www.myspace.com/yourusername. at the beginning you get the default look of the profile, which is in our opinion better than most of the ‘fancy’ designs you can encounter. Important thing: artist profiles are different from those of normal users, so figure out which one is for you – unless you want it to be your personal profile, you’ll go for the artist profile of course.
- Fill the profile, link it to your page and back, upload some music, photos, videos. Tell something about yourself, try to look as much as ‘real life’ person, as you can. If you don’t want to write it yourself, you could find a friend or fan to do news and other updates for you.
- One of the reasons why MySpace has became so popular (and also so disgusting for anyone with but a sheer feeling of design) is that it gives you the chance to change the code of the profile. Most of the attempts are unbelievably poor, featuring ugly graphics, unreadable combinations of colors, flash widgets that make the profile to load for ages and other annoying stuff, usually rotating, flickering and generally trying to hurt your eyes. Don’t fall into this trap unless you’re trying to appeal to the 13-18 age group. There are certain rules to good design, and for good reason. Think of your profile for a second: it should be readable, visitors should be able quickly find the information that they consider important (next shows, newest release, link to your page etc.) The page should load in reasonable time, the background should allow the visitors to actually read the text. If you choose to use a pre-prepared design from one of many sites featuring free MySpace designs, be carefull with implementation and don’t mix five of them so in the end you have total mess. A good example (which you can adjust to your needs) can be found for example here: http://www.squidoo.com/myspace_div_overlay/ (Also simply check your favourite musicians to see what they managed to prepare.)
- No matter how great your profile is – there’s no point to it, unless you have the visitors. This is where the “friends” feature comes into play. Don’t take it as if the word friend has the same meaning as in the real world. Friend on MySpace might be anybody, or rather, anything. There are profiles of people, groups, festivals, parties, clubs, places, labels… Friend is then anybody who has agreed to exchange a link. Where to start? With the people you know. Let them know you have a MySpace account, if you have GMail/Yahoo/Hotmail account, you can populate your MySpace friends list list very easily, simply click “Import from” in your address book. Surf your friends’ friends. These might interest you too, and they may like you, since there’s a connection. And don’t stop there.
- There’s also nothing wrong with adding famous musicians as your friends, usually they will accept your request, so besides all your friends’ bands and projects, you can send a request to your favourite artists. Once approved, you can write a comment, and there’s already kind of self-estabilished norm to thank for adding, usually with some weird animated picture with hearts and rotating sign ‘thanx 4 add’. Don’t do it. Try to thank in a meaningful manner, and if it’s e.g. your favourite group that has added you, tell them why you like them. This way we believe the best of these comments may draw attention, not only of the person whom you send it, but also to all the visitors of the profile who can then discover you. Next step is to find people who might probably like your music. Your songs sound bit like Lamb? Check the profile of Lamb and write to their fans. There’s quite a chance they might like the music, and if you keep them updated with news (that’s the bulletin feature), they will come back.
- Keep your profile up-to-date and clean. MySpace is a living place. Therefore you should take at least a few minutes to care about your profile. You can put a calendar with incoming dates, include videos or photos… There’s also the blog (although my personal recommendation is to keep the blog on your normal page and put just major news here, but that depends on each of you). There’s an ongoing problem with spam – people asking you to add them just to find out that they are promoting some bullshit. Or even normal folks who got their profile hacked and are now sending thousands of unwanted comments or messages (it happened even to dalailama’s fan profile). How does this affect you? Delete spam comments quickly or consider ‘comment approval’ option on. Answer messages, that’s a thing that makes a crucial difference. For reaching all your audience at once, use bulletin. Don’t overuse it, be reasonable.
- There are some little hints that overally pump up a conversation on such a network. Are you trying to reach an audience in a different country? Even if you use English (since it’s clear the person you’re tryign to add speaks English), use their mother language at least for the greeting. Start with “Hi John” instead of just “Hi”. Use prefabricated message, but then always add one extra sentence (based on user’s profile) so the person believes it’s been all unique.
- Use all other features MySpace has: there are groups (for anything and everything – from music, through politics, nature, travelling – there can hardly be a topic left out) – if your music has its specifics (or you do) that can appeal to any such group (ecology? unhappy romance? rock’n’roll roots? african influence?), go there, tell them, catch their attention.
- You can also combine different services – e.g. YouTube videos or last.fm gadgets on MySpace page (or many other availible). Keep in mind that the page should load in a reasonable time. And don’t let all the widgets with autostart, that will cause a cacophony instead of nice experience.
- Here are a few concepts every musician today should understand http://cobrapunchers.blogspot.com/2007/04/new-music-industry.html
- DIY PR – an excellent article from Guy Kawasaki’s blog
- Wide possibilities for choosing a business model http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/419-jane-siberrys-you-decide-what-feels-right-pricing
- The Long Tail by Chris Anderson Important theory behind digital sales
- How To Be Creative by Hugh McLeod A good article about creativity, inspiration, etc.
- Making money selling music without DRM: the rise of eMusic
- Info about Creative Commons http://www.own-it.org/assets/library/documents/creative_commons_factsheet.pdf
Why should I give away my work for free? There are lots of reasons to let people look at your work for free. Creative Commons makes sure the people viewing your work for free know under what terms they can use it. By giving your work more exposure on the net, it’s more likely to win the attention of somebody who wishes to use it in a commercial project or for publication. And when that does happen, they’ll know how to get in touch with you. If lots of people are already enjoying your work for free, publishing outlets know your work will be popular if they invest in you. If you’re a writer, that means getting your work in print. If you’re a musician, it could mean securing gigs and recording sessions. If you’re a visual artist, it could mean a new exhibition. You may also make other creators who wish to collaborate with you more aware of your work, which could perhaps lead to new and unexpected opportunities. Is Creative Commons just for amateurs? No. Creative Commons lets professionals take advantage of new business models on the internet. If you’ve succeeded as an artist under the current copyright system, nobody’s saying you have to change your ways. But it does make good business sense to consider how to use the opportunities of the internet to your commercial advantage. Cory Doctorow and Dan Gilmor are just two authors who have put their books online for free, as well as publishing them in print. They believe that if consumers like what they sample online, they will buy the book. Several bands have put free tracks up on their sites to strengthen their fan base. The Beastie Boys and David Byrne, released Creative Commons tracks on a CD for a special edition of Wired magazine. They might not have maximised their profits in the short term, but by releasing the tracks under Creative Commons, they added a modern kudos to their image.
- Details about the Creative Commons type of license http://creativecommons.org/
- Getting Good Digital Gigs: Discussion, Debates, and a Place to Chat More http://createdigitalmusic.com/2007/05/04/getting-good-digital-gigs-discussion-debates-and-a-place-to-chat-more/
- Bob Baker’s Indie Music Promotion Blog News, notes and ideas on music marketing, self-promotion, artist empowerment and more http://www.bob-baker.com/musicpromotionblog/index.html
- Getting Booked: 10 Basic Tips for Getting Live Electronic Music Gigs
- Marketing & customer relationships blogs Creating Passionate Users by Kathy Sierra Gaping Void by Hugh MacLeod Seth Godin
- Cory Doctorow – Giving It Away Sci-fi writer Cory Doctorow about the gain from giving away his books for free.
- How I Became A Music Pirate Story of a frustrated customer
- Courtney Love Does The Math How a “music star” sees the music biz
- “Year Zero” project = “the way a viral campaign should be run” A nice campaign, using the Internet
- Sharp, not a spoon Trying to appeal to everyone often leads to mediocrity, and mediocrity won’t make a message stand out.