For some of us, it doesn’t seem long since the cutting edge of musician’s web promotion consisted largely of starting up a Myspace page, chucking a couple of tracks on there, and then furiously adding friends. It’s moved on a lot since those heady days; the options available to the average producer or musician now are dizzying. But what’s the best way of keeping on top of things? Which tools are really useful, and how can you use them to your advantage without losing hours each week to the social network sites? Let’s take a look in a little more depth…
Facebook has been the undisputed champion of social networking over the last few years. It has the most users, the highest view counts, and carries unarguable weight in marketing your stuff online. Since the relatively recent launch of ‘Facebook Pages’, it has been even more useful, as you can set up a one-stop shop where fans can find biography, booking information and all the rest of it.
So there’s step one – set up your Facebook page. Make sure it’s clear, has all the information people want, and has links to places where people can hear, and buy, your music. You can add apps like Bandpage, which is a great tool to enhance your page. On this you can embed tracks from your Soundcloud page, pull in your gig details from a number of sites, and generally collate everything a fan could want. The downside is that as Facebook changes constantly, it can stop apps working so well, and the recent switch to Timeline pages has left many apps consigned to a small icon at the edge of the page.
So think back to the days of Myspace – it was once the biggest music networking site, and now it’s nowhere. The same will eventually happen with Facebook too. Already, musicians and marketing people are concerned over the use of ‘Edgerank’ and ‘promoted posts’. It’s too deep to go into here, but the upshot is that as Facebook is now so popular for marketing, sometimes your status updates will be crowded out of your fans’ busy newsfeeds by other people’s updates. In turn, you can pay money to get your status updates onto more newsfeeds – but only people who have already ‘liked’ your page. It’s a tricky problem, but the concept of paying to reach people who are already fans has many industry commentators up in arms. It will be interesting to see how it pans out over the next few months, but in the meantime, just remember that you may need to shift your web-focus elsewhere at some point.
A suitable place would be to your own website. Start one now – it doesn’t have to be an all-singing, all-dancing affair – just a simple blog site with a customised template will do. Make sure it has links to your main pages on the web, and is updated with your discography and significant news. Otherwise, it can be a very basic site; for smaller artists most people engage through social networks anyway. All it needs to do is provide a central hub for your other web engagements. Tumblr is handy and easy to use, while Posterous has an ingenious interface where you can add blog posts simply by sending an email. For the non-technical, it’s a revelation. Both feature ‘auto-post’ functions, which will spin your content out through your Facebook and Twitter accounts too.
Soundcloud is still one of the best sites for getting your tracks heard; it has a large community and is easy to use. Make sure your tracks are embeddable; this way, people can put them on their blog sites but you’ll still get the play counts.
Bandcamp is increasingly popular as an alternative to Soundcloud, especially among independent and self-releasing artists. It offers embeddable players, tracks to stream and download, or you can sell tracks, albums and physical merchandising direct from the site, taking money into your paypal account. It lacks the graphical waveforms of Soundcloud that so many producers love, and also the strong community so crucial for fans to share and discover new music, but the site is improving constantly and is well worth a look, especially for self-releasing artists. Don’t forget to check out Official.fm too though. Recently revamped and re-launched, it’s now setting itself up as a serious competitor to Soundcloud. If you’re a DJ, Mixcloud is the simplest and best site for hosting mixes.
Songkick has also been making waves recently, and it too is getting more useful all the time. Primarily, it’s a site where you can create and manage your events – gig and tour details. So artists can keep fans up to date, and fans can buy tickets to events. What makes it more useful though, is the integration with other platforms. If you have an account with Soundcloud, Bandpage, Spotify or many others, they can automatically pull your tour details from the Songkick page – so you only have to put the shows in once.
We still haven’t mentioned Twitter – everyone knows what this is, but it can be a highly useful tool for communicating with your fans, getting information out into the world and even networking with other acts – if you need to get tracks to someone you can often just tweet at them to get an email address. It’s surprisingly effective for this!
So, with all these sites, you’ll essentially have something that is less of a website, and more of a web eco-system. But what should you do with it? We’ll run down the strategies of how to create an efficient, useful, and stress-free online existence next week! So make sure you’ve got the basics sorted for now, and then join us again for some tips on how to use them…..