August 28, 2013

Good Connections

Online services, social media sites, and mobile apps make it easier to connect with fans and clients. We asked the experts at Broadjam, section101.com, Bandzoogle, artista Mobile, and Moozar how to get the most from your online presence.

By Rock Stamberg

Apps like Artista Mobile let musicians communicate with fans and listners on the go

Apps like Artista Mobile let musicians communicate with fans and listeners on the go.

There’s no question that the Internet, social media, and the ever-increasing power of mobile devices have changed how the music business operates. Composers, songwriters, artists, and publishers have more ways than ever before to promote themselves and reach new listeners and markets for their music.

But in many ways, this new power puts more responsibility on the musicians' shoulders. It's no longer enough to produce good work, says Liz Leahy, CEO and co-founder of Section101. com, a company that provides web tools for musicians. "You must play the role of a marketer— whether you like it or not."

For many musicians, the thought of competing in the crowded cyberspace marketplace can feel both exciting and overwhelming. Where do you start? And how do you focus your energy? "I think the ideal strategy is to build a strong online presence around your own website," says David Dufresne, CEO of Bandzoogle which provides tools to help musicians build custom websites. "Then, you should be active on social networks. Right now, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are very popular and eff ective, with Instagram and Tumblr also seeing a lot of traffic."

According to Dusfrense, social networks are most eff ective when they can draw followers to your own site. "A site needs to feel personal to give people a reason to come back," he adds. "It needs components like photos, blog posts, videos, exclusive content, and a great newsletter." Fortunately, you don't have to be a programmer—or hire one—to create an eff ective web presence, thanks to service providers who help musicians build and maintain an online presence. Bandzoogle, for example, off ers customizable templates, music and videos players, blogging tools, photo galleries, and events calendars, as well as external widgets that sync to Twitter and Facebook.

GOING MOBILE
In today's increasingly mobile marketplace, it's just as likely that a potential fan or client's fi rst encounter with your music will be through a smartphone or tablet. So it pays to make sure that your website will scale to look good on the popular mobile platforms and—just as important—that any music or video you post will play properly on all current operating systems.

An increasing number of composers and artists are tapping into the power of mobile devices with individualized apps that reach listeners when they're away from their computers. "Every artist attempting to create an online presence must have a web site with his or her own domain name," says Reinaldo Ortiz, an award-winning songwriter who founded Artista Mobile to help artists create their own mobile applications. "Our goal is to get the artist's name and brand on every phone and every device of every fan."

Aimee Mann’s section 101 page

Aimee Mann’s section 101 page

Bandzoogle co-founders Chris Vinson and David Dufresne

Bandzoogle co-founders Chris Vinson and David Dufresne

Moozar founder David Brami

Moozar founder David Brami

Your personal web page should also link to any other sites where your music can be found, such as reverberation.com, cdbaby.com, and others. If your work is available at iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, and other commercial sites, link to those, too.

Ortiz says it's important to interact with followers regularly. "Ask fans to share [your app] and invite them to comment on your posts," he says. "You might be surprised how much you might learn about your fans' interests."

Another way to build your personal brand is to have your online networking efforts blossom into collaborative opportunities with other musicians. According to Roy Elkins, CEO of Broadjam.com, the most important ways to take advantage of online networking is by collaborating with others. "If you write songs with 50 others," he says, "you now have 50 other people pushing your music and increasing your exposure. If you look at the Top 40 charts at any time in history, it's rare to find a song that was written by just one person. Your name is now appearing in more search results. More importantly, it makes us all stretch when writing with someone new. Our members have written songs with folks they have never met [in person]."

MAKING IT PAY
Broadjam's clients are able get their songs reviewed, ranked, and embedded across the Internet. Many sell downloads, connect with other musicians, post information about their gigs, and get their music reviewed by pros as well as their peers. Elkins says, "About three or four songs a day get signed by a publisher, music supervisor, or ad agency. You can submit your music directly to the decision makers. You'll see when they log in, what they listen to, and which songs they select. About 10 percent of all the Broadjam's members who use our licensing service get selected."

With so many online services appearing, it can be hard to bring all the pieces together—and even harder to turn fans' interests into earnings. Founded by French lawyer David Brami, Moozar is aimed at artists who've already made their music available online via You- Tube, SoundCloud, bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, and who are looking for a way to monetize their music directly with their fans. "We can help you by aggregating a single artist's page that contains all your information and music so you're sure to always have an up-to-date presentation," Brami says.

Moozar's services achieve this via voluntary contributions, which they call "rewards." A reward link is embedded into clients' tracks automatically. It's displayed every time someone listens to or shares a track on any social network site. As it contains all the track's metadata, a song can be shared—as is—and it will always display all track information, including the title, artist's name, a reward message, and any other related media (such as a picture and/or a video). When clicked, the reward link leads to the artist's page on Moozar, where the listener can reward the artist by giving the amount of his or her choice (the minimum reward is set at 30 cents). Rewards are redeemed via PayPal. Moozar client Tommy Mac has been rewarded by more than seven percent of the people who've played his songs on the web, and the average amount of these rewards was $1.10.

ONGOING PRESENCE
While these service providers give you the tools to create an effective online and mobile presence, they're also expanding the competition. How do you stand out in a growing crowd? Section 101's Leahy says it's essential to be open-minded and willing to try different things in order to be successful. Instead of focusing on video, try a Q&A with your fans. For example, Section 101 clients Aimee Mann (aimeemann.com) and Jonatha Brooke (jonathabrooke.com) have used the service to interact more directly with followers by posting demos, setting up learning sessions, and offering exclusive online chat sessions.

According to Dufresne, the advantage of services like Bandzoogle and the others is that they make the tools musicians need affordable and manageable. He says many musicians pay too much for a Web site—or pay too little in order to take advantage of free platforms that are usually bare-bones affairs he feels are "incomplete."

"The worst is not having control over how and when you can update your site," he says. "If you have to call ‘your guy' to change your Web site, you're doing it wrong."