Even as the revolution in affordable production and recording tools and software has drastically changed the face of commercial music production, the parallel revolution of the social web has increasingly upended long-established assumptions and institutions, knocked down one industry gate-keeper after another, and created a flood of new promotional and marketing opportunities that is at once exhilarating and exhausting — and likely quite daunting to musicians who were drawn to their field of endeavor because they just wanted to make music and get it out so that people could hear it.
That revolution has created a deluge of music and musicians on the web and other media, all clamoring for the listener’s attention — and, wistfully dreaming here — maybe even a slice of his entertainment dollar. New tools have allowed even those with limited resources (and some might suggest even those with limited talent) to make slick sounding music — and to put it where people might be able to find it.
Problem is, that’s exactly what happened: there is now so much music from so many different artists that no one listener, no matter how adventurous, can expect to hear it all.
Many listeners will settle for the low-hanging fruit, listening to whatever comes their way — buying or otherwise acquiring whatever slick product they are most insistently beat over the head with. Those folks, God love ’em, are never going to tumble to a new artist unless the big music machine pushes it relentlessly into their limited consciousness.
No, if you are or represent an artist or band that isn’t already well known, you’re going to have to make yourself available — findable — by adventurous listeners looking for something new — the kind of folks who do tell their friends about that great new band they heard.
But not only do you need to do everything you can to help those adventurous souls find your music — you need to give them the tools to amplify and broadcast that word of mouth. It’s great if they tell their pal at the bar about that great new track they heard — but it’s golden if they blog about it, post a link or embed videos or player widgets on their Facebook or other social media page, and help spread the word when you have a gig or release a new track or album.
Below you’ll find a checklist for modern musicians who want people to find and hear their music. Even if you have no intention of selling your music — neglecting one or more of these increasingly important elements is a form of self-sabotage that will just make it less likely anyone but Mom will ever hear your music.
(Hint: your mom only claims to like death metal. No matter how much she says she loves your tunes — you need to reach beyond the familiar and comfortable.)
- Every band needs a home base — whether it is…
- a blog
- a social media page (Facebook, Myspace, etc)
- a page on a music distribution site (Bandcamp, ReverbNation, Soundcloud, Soundclick, etc, etc, ad nauseum)
- a private website
- or maybe all of the above
- you need reach and it’s likely you’ll find yourself with a combination of the above
- whatever you chose, you need a single home base where you can direct traffic and interest in your band, as well as point visitors to your (likely) far-flung content (videos, label pages, reviews and articles about your music, etc) that they might not have come across. Your home base is a hub where you wick potential fans in and then direct them to the content you want them to see or hear — as well as opportunities to buy your music or merchandise
- a domain name (YourBandName.com) is ideal, since it can be pointed to anything from a Facebook page to a blog to a page on Bandcamp, ReverbNation, or other indie music distribution site and, later, as your needs change and grow, repointed to a website you create and host yourself
- Must have features for your musical headquarters
- before anything else — your site should give a visitor a quick and easy option of getting straight to the music — make it the easiest thing to find on your whole site
- make sure you allow visitors to hear at least some of your music all the way through, for free
- for those who have long dreamed of finally making a few bucks off their musical investments of time and money, it can be sorely tempting to put a pay wall between the visitor and the music — but it’s often the kiss of death unless the visitor is already sold on the music — particularly with fellow musicians or the world-wise, the first reaction will likely be: Who does this guy think he is?
- video can be an important gateway to your music, giving the visitor a visual handle / mental landmark — a way to visualize and remember your music
- we live, increasingly, in what the sociologists call a post-literate culture; we can regret that, but, if we’re smart, we will nonetheless recognize and work with that fact; for increasing numbers of preterliterate types, the web means video — and, for many folks, any interface that is harder to understand than the big triangular play button in the middle of a YouTube video is just too much
- it doesn’t have to be fancy — even a simple picture or a slide show gives your music a face or image for listeners to identify your music with — and that will help them remember it
- in fact, a slick video can actually be a turn off to certain music fans — let’s face it, fans often want to feel like their musical heroes are just like them… if you lavish time and money on your video, it may be best to disguise that fact or risk alienating street level fans
- contact option
- contact form
- using server-side scripting, the person designing your website provides a contact form that visitors can use to send you an email — all without giving them — or spambots — your email address
- this is often an excellent option (and is usually a feature of social media and indie music distro sites)
- if you use a third party developer, he or she should give you, the site owner, an easy way to change the email address or add addresseses and/or email forwarding — email addresses as well as band personnel can change
- fan list / email list / membership info collection
- you can compile and maintain an email/contact list manually — but it’s a big pain in the neck and if you are slow to remove those who no longer wish to get email from you, you can get in trouble with your site/hosting provider
- it’s better to use an email list manager that allows users to easily remove themselves by clicking a link in the email
- blog / news
- Whether it’s a news page on your band site that you create and update yourself in a web editor, or a blog hosted or administered on a third party site, you should integrate it with your band site or other home page (if you’re handy with HTML and CSS you can probably create or modify a theme/skin to better integrate a 3rd party blog page with the look and feel of your main site; if not, there are many web developers who specialize in customizing WordPress and other blogs); you’ll want to make sure you let your visitors know about:
- concerts and shows
- record / track releases
- important band news
- social media integration
- even if you maintain your own website, you will still likely want to have a band page on Facebook and/or possibly other social media sites
- if you use something like Bandcamp or Reverbnation or other 3rd party music distro site, you’ll certainly want to have a tight integration between your music pages there and your home base
- one quick and relatively easy way to integrate social media with other sites and pages is through widgets: badges, like buttons, players, and videos that can be relatively easily embedded in website and even some social media site pages
One last thing — the web is increasingly viewed on mobile devices like phones and slates — many of which either do not offer Flash or which may handle it poorly. Adapting to that reality is probably outside the scope of this checklist — but moving forward it is something that will be increasingly important. It’s something you ignore at your own risk…