I’m sure I am preaching to the choir when I say this but there are just too many places to be when you are an artist. Just off the top of my head are Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, ReverbNation, Last.FM, Sonicbids and Bandcamp. I sure as hell don’t have a solution although I am fond of Ping.fm and artist data in a pinch. In what follows I am not suggesting that you not be in all of those places but I am certainly suggesting that you have a plan on how all of these sites and your website work together towards a cohesive plan. If you don’t have a website for your band… stop reading this and go spend the money on the domain name for your project and figure it out. Consider it an investment in your education in the way the digital world works. It is just as much an educational experience as it is an investment in your music career.
As is I guess obvious (albeit not as obvious as it should be by the pure volume of “Wait, what do you do?” or “Hey, can you get me a record deal?” calls I get) I work with musicians in trying to make sure they have a plan for moving forward in their careers. It never ceases to amaze me how the vast majority of musicians lack a focus with their digital strategy. I have had musicians wonder ask me why no one was buying music from their website when none of their well trafficked social networks linked to their homepage and their music was available for free on external sites that were easy to find through search engines.
In a pitch with Warner Music Group where I was consulting for a large Russian financial institution who wanted to start an Itunes Competitor (don’t ask – I’m just happy I didn’t wind up in a barrel in Siberia) I was told the following information about music consumers that I believe whole heartedly. Apparently there are three types of music consumers:
- Those who will only buy music or download it for free (I believe these are on the endangered species list)
- Those who will only steal music or download it for free.
- Those who will pay for music only if finding it for free (legally or illegally) is too much trouble.
What is the Moral of the story? If you are planning on selling your music – don’t put it up for free elsewhere! I know – it sounds basic but look around at your peers. There are too many artists make this mistake.
Which brings me to the point of this article. Here are some things to think about when coming up with a basic digital strategy that makes the best use of your content.
Have a plan. Any plan is better than no plan. Ask yourself what the goal is for your online assets – are you trying to sell music? Great – than make sure you place premium content or the full offering of content near a point of purchase – preferably on your own website.
Are you just trying to get your name out there? Okay – well make sure if you are giving away music absolutely free that you are getting an email address in return. If you only have one product and are giving it away… can I make the suggestion that you have to be in business somehow? If you only have one 4 song E.P. and no live show or merchandise to sell then it’s time to ask your self -what are you actually promoting? Isn’t the idea of freemium giving something away in the hopes of getting people to ultimately purchase something else? Did you think the free samples at the supermarket were given away because you looked hungry? God knows I would write much less often on this blog if it didn’t convert a few readers to consulting clients. (Not that I don’t adore you – I really do)
I see great musicians doing this all the time –blogging on their MySpace page which has no purchase button rather than on their website where even the people who don’t wind up being converted into buyers leave important data when analytics are looked at. Amazing band photos wind up on Flickr – and they should be on Flickr – but shouldn’t your website be the flagship for all official news? Shouldn’t a collage of new photos or videos in addition to living on photo sharing and video hosting sites also make an appearance on your website where (hopefully) people can sign up for your mailing list, purchase your products or at least leave you with information as to how and why they arrived on your site?
Every song, photo, video or blog post is another chance to engage your fans. All I am suggesting is that you make the most of this engagement-
- Give impulse buyers the chance to be impulsive and make your best content available near a point of purchase.
- Give would be fans the chance to get to know you by offering them a song in exchange for their email and providing them a great news product
- Take from the casual visitor to your site the data on how he or she arrived at your site through analytics.
The hardest thing with all of this is consistency. Keep remembering that being a musician is a grind and that the vast majority of start up businesses of any kind take time to become profitable.