Promoting yourself as a musician or band in today's times are proving to be as difficult as they are exciting. With so many companies offering services on ways to promote your music and brand as a musician, band, or artist, who's to know what will work or not. Topspin is a promising new media technology company from what the public can gather. They are claiming to offer "leading-edge marketing software and services that help artists and their partners build businesses and brands". Although they are not disclosing their platform to the public, and have not done so since their founding in in June 2007, They have worked with a handful of successful musicians to use their platform in marketing their brand.
Since the public has had no real hands-on experience with this software, we can only understand what they offer by their own descriptions and users testimonials. A description offered by Topspin on the free tech directory ChrunchBase states "The company gives artists the tools to manage their catalog and their fans, generate demand for their music, and gather insights to improve performance. Topspin's main product, the Topspin Manager, was introduced to a select group of artists and managers in January 2008 and uses permission marketing and technology best practices to help artists generate demand for their content and deepen engagement with their fans". As this sounds really amazing and breakthrough, we the potential users are sitting on the sidelines wondering what is actually under the hood and when we will be able to drive.
One cant be too skeptical of an elusive software company when you consider the people and bands that have partnered with them so far. From the Beastie Boys to Eminem and Arcade Fire to Brian Eno, Topspin has an already impressive catalog of artists and musicians who currently use their services to promote and sell their music and products. Trent Reznor, front man of the band Nine Inch Nails, is even quoted saying on Twitter, "Beastie Boys / Topspin get it right once again. This is how you sell music today." Impressive, but none-the-less all these artists in Topspin's catalog are well known and already have a large fan base either in the indie arena, major arena, or both. It remains to be seen if this platform will be effective for independent musicians that are up-and-coming and established musicians that have yet to harness the potential of these new tools. When this platform is opened to the public we will all be able to see the full extent of what Topspin is really offering and how much it is actually going to cost to use such a service.
As a major player in the online music social networking world, the company last.fm has proven time and again that they can run with the best of them. Coming from the UK, last.fm is sort of a mix between the online music streaming site pandora, and myspace music. Last.fm is a streaming media service that also has a built-in social network comparable to most other social networking sites today. You can, create your own radio stations, make and share playlists, build a free media library, as well as other relative functions and features. As you use the service, it learns what you like and fine-tunes its recommendations to your preferred tastes. Last.fm also allows you to purchase music tracks and full length albums via Amazon, eBay, 7 digital, and iTunes with easy to use buy buttons. As a music discovery tool, Last.fm proves to be a great source for new and classic music targeted towards music fans and listeners.
Having partnered with the three major record labels EMI, Sony BMG, and Warner Music Group and many other independent record labels, last.fm claims to have over 3.5 million songs in their music library available for online streaming. As well, independent record labels and unsigned artists are encouraged to promote their music on Last.fm. Since the filtering and recommendation features allow your music to be played for users who already like similar artists, it gives you greater exposure to fans and listeners that might not otherwise come across your music. Labels and artists can upload their own music for streaming and Last.fm provides access to weekly airplay statistics, with avenues for promoting individual artists or tracks. Labels and artists may choose whether their music is to be made available for streaming only, or for purchase or free download. Many options are available to promote your music, especially if you opt-in for their monthly subscription which only cost $3 a month.
This site offers an extensive library of music and the ability to network with other users. Their customized radio makes smart choices based on other users input and can give you access to many new artist recommended to you based on your taste in music. Say you type in the artist Radiohead, their scrobbler will then present you with a list of music that is similar to the band or artist you have typed in. Pretty cool right? Yes, very cool, but with the up side of things, there always is a downside. One of last.fm's blaring black eyes is the obvious lack of a seamless music player. It is quite an annoying user experience to be listening to music on an artist profile only to have your listening experience stop when trying to do anything else on the site such as look at their pictures or check out when their next show is going to be. This is a major inconvenience and and a very controlling move by last.fm. Another black eye is that they monitor your user behavior and your listening choices then discus them with their partnered record labels. Kind of scary in the privacy sector don't ya think? If you are prone to Big Brother paranoia, this is not the site for you. But if you couldn't care less about weather a label or company monitors your tastes, or the fact that anyone can upload your music, pictures, and information then assume control over your profile identity without you knowing, you will be given access to lots of new music and an easy way of finding it all.
Have you heard of the website Digg? Do you like it? Well if you do, you might also like the new music sharing and voting website, thesixtyone.com. Thesixtyone operates very similar to digg. People either post their own music or music from other artist that they like and enjoy, then the community reviews the submissions and hearts them. Hearts meaning a vote up for the song track. If songs you like and voted on become popular, you reach higher levels on the site, earn reputation points, and unlock community abilities. The user is given an allotted amount of hearts to vote with for the day and there is other ways to participate to be able to receive more hearts to vote with. A fun little game for people who like to be recognized for their music taste. As well, thesixtyone gives the user the ability to create playlists and stream those playlist from the site all the while providing a unique seamless music experience comparable only to the likes of the social music website uvumi.com. If you are interested in engaging in a game like experience with music, then thesixtyone could be a fun time. But if you are looking to be or currently are a serious artist and are looking for new avenues to promote your work and find relevant tools to help you do so, then this site might prove to be disappointing.
An upsetting fact is that this site allows others to download other artists work and post it, and if you post your own content on there, the first person to find your work and "heart it up", gets credit for discovering you. Just seems a bit weird and non-sensible. Thesixtyone claims to be an avenue for musicians to promote themselves and sell their work directly to fans. As that is a true statement, it only sheds light on more upsetting parts of their platform and major negative issues. First it is very confusing trying to figure out how to buy something. There are no options on artist profiles to purchase music nor are there links in their profiles to take you somewhere else to browse or purchase music for sale. The only way to get to a page to buy music is to wait for a large banner add to come around on your click trough's to direct you to a un-integrated page in a new window or scroll to the very bottom of the page and click the link that says bazaar, assuming that you you already know that this will take you to the only place on the site where you can purchase music. In this separate window you can browse content and purchase either single tracks or full albums if available. At this point, your seamless music experience is interrupted. Your loaded player on the previous page is still running while the new buying window is opened. If you try to review tracks of the music you are looking to buy, you have to quit the old player or they will overlap leaving you with a not so seamless player. Now this is where it gets even more upsetting. If you want to buy music you first have to buy a pre specified block of credits then apply those credits to the desired music download. This approach to sales is much like Microsoft Points which runs Xbox Live Marketplace and Zune online stores which has acquired much negative criticisms to date. This is obscuring the true cost of this content. A song on thesixtyone typically cost 80 credits which equals to about one dollar. But it seems less because it is only 80 credits. This also means that there will always be a positive balance with your account allowing thesixtyone to hold your unused money until you chose to purchase something again. Even then, they will still always be able to hold a positive balance unless you figure out how to make your purchases equal the exact amount of money you have left. Another example of a service that is not user friendly, not artist focused, with a underhanded approach.
As an online multi-player game this site can be a lot of fun. As a serious tool for musicians to promote themselves, thesixtyone comes up short. In a such a crowded market of online social networking sites, it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Thesixtyone has taken a non conventional approach to this issue and have come out with a very unique product. Although this tool is not a very power full tool for musicians, it still is another way for your music to be exposed to a new audience. If you have the extra time to put into another music social network that merely lets others play games with you work, do so with warning. If time is not a luxury of yours, stick with sites that can provide you with real time powerful tools to promote your work and really help you get connected with a fan base.
In today's music social networking world, the lines have become blurry as to which sites will actually be providing viable tools for musicians to promote their work, and sites that are just posting content provided by partnered music labels and media outlets. As many Internet music start-ups have come to find out recently, there is a shrinking margin of active and unique visitors compared with a fast growing presence of new music social networks clamoring for content. Out of all these new sites to appear, there are a hand full of them that have staked real claim in the musician/fan pool. One of these major players is the social media service, imeem. So what is imeem and which category would it fall under, useful tool or media faucet? I am inclined to say both.
Imeem is a social media service where users interact with each other by watching, posting, and sharing content of all digital media types. Users can create, recommend and discover music, video, art, and pop culture media and connect with other users who have similar interest. As this is the main goal of most all music social networks today, it takes an easy to use, visually pleasing, feature rich platform to even compete with the main players of this game. Imeem has done a more than exceptional job of creating a powerful, functional, and attractive platform for their users. So the tools are there but does the potential exposure from the tools get dwarfed by the large media faucet which seems to be turned to full blast. I believe it does. The only artists that seem to get featured are the ones that the major record labels have chosen to be featured such as Lil Wayne and other artists like Rhianna and Linkin Park. An upsetting reality about this is that the profiles of these popular musicians are not even set up or maintained by the artist. Its is simply content transferred by the major record labels built into musician profiles. This means that any artist who builds a profile and tries to put themselves out there really has little chance of gaining any exposure from imeem over the pre prescribed spotlights, features, and the shell music accounts that occupy them.
Launched in October 2004, imeem has gone through many changes and has quickly advanced as one of the major music social networking sites today. Claiming that they have 25 million visitors a month and 65,000 new users every day, it would seem that the sky is the limit. That is simply not the case. After partnering with the four major record labels Vivendi Universal,Sony BMG, EMI, and Warner Music Group, as well as hundreds of other indie record labels, their music catalog shot through the roof. But with so much licenced content comes a percentage of payout to the rights holders. With their ad revenue platform and VIP subscriptions being their only monitization strategies, they simply cant keep up with the large payouts to the labels and expenses that occur from running a large business. On October 22, 2008, imeem laid off 25% of its staff. As troubles continued into 2009, investor Warner Music Group wrote down its entire 15 million dollar investment in imeem and declined a new round of funding. A very serious blow for such a company. Tech Crunch, a blog for reviewing Internet products and companies, wrote a great article which you can find here, reporting on the current state of imeem today. Something needs to change for imeem as far as their monetization plan and payouts to current labels go. If these issues are not addressed soon, I feel that imeem will be circling the drain very soon and join the murky waters where the rest of the failed music social networks lay.
If you are a musician or artist trying to promote your work further on the Internet, or simply just a music loving fan, there are many avenues for musicians to promote their work and for fans to discover new and favorite music. One of these online promotional and discovery sites is called purevolume.com. This site is mainly dedicated to providing a music-based social network for artists to promote their work to online music fans. PureVolume is a unlimited, free and legal service which host a music library of over 400,000 artist.
Created in 2003 by Brett Woitunski, Nate Hudson, and Mitchell Pavao, with the help of Jennifer Welch, PureVolume has since then enjoyed a fast and steady stream of popularity. Mainly working with unsigned acts and independent record labels, this site features many popular independent rock acts with an emphasis on punk, emo, and hardcore. Bands such as My Chemical Romance, Fall out boy, and Panic! At The Disco have all been credited to exposure on PureVolume. With many other genres of music available, and an easy to use interface, that makes this site an attractive destination to find new music and support independent artists.
Although this site is easy to navigate and use and has basic social networking tools available, there are some blaring cons to this service. Streaming audio can be painfully slow at times and the listening experience is diminished since they do not support a seamless music player. The majority of music can only be streamed, and there is no advanced search option for downloadable music. Another group of cons is for the musicians themselves. As an emerging and independent musician today, you need all the help you can get to promote your work. A lot of this help comes from powerful tools which allow you to target your fan base and audience better, deliver exposure, help keep you're touring finances together, and distribute your goods efficiently.Unfortunately Purevolume does not offer much in the way of these tools for their artists. With new emerging services such as Topspin, Band Metrics, and bandize, as well as lasting competitor's such as last.fm and myspace music, PureVolume might need to make some large updates to their platform and services to remain an effective destination for musicians and their fans.
Take one part Myspace and one part MTV and you get a cocktail of a video-centric music discovery site. LP33.tv is a very unique blend of music 2.0 and is approaching entertainment in a somewhat traditional way mixed with new online trends. LP33.tv is an On Demand music television and digital entertainment network. The site features content of shows based around music videos, artist interviews, music culture, and lifestyle content.
You wont find many major record label big name acts on LP33.tv. These guys are focusing on getting undiscovered and fresh acts that don't have big budget record company's backing their advertising and tour slots, exposure. With so many other music sites out there such as Imeem, which are completely overrun by the major record labels, this comes as a plus for lp33.tv. TechCrunch's Jason Kincade is quoted saying, "I really like the idea behind LP33.tv It's a new approach to helping bands gain exposure, and gives them an alternative to the traditional music labels that are growing significantly less appealing."
The idea behind the site is a good one but the execution is still lacking. Although the new updated version of the site is much more appealing than the previous, the functionality and user interface still has some major weak spots. Trying to view a fan/user profile or an artist profile in the directory is completely suffering from a major bug or just never worked. Auto-play of the featured video with every refresh has proven to be very annoying, not being able to purchase music, merchandise, or even online music downloads, and not being able to search for artist by genre or zip code is a huge setback for artist discovery, to name a few. It seems that the site is focusing more on promotions with festivals such as SXSW, Outside Lands, and lollapalooza for artist content and alliances than real time tools for artist to promote themselves and smooth site functionality for all their users. That being said, it seems that would be a good strategy for building content, but if your site is hard and confusing to maneuver, and generally not catered to the artist and users, what is the point.
As far as picking an online music search engine to get your favorite tunes, everyone knows that there are many sites to choose from. One of these many sites is called Grooveshark . This site combines the abilities of an online music search engine, music streaming service, and music recommendation engine. These services allow the user to search for, stream, and upload music for free all the while being able to immediately play these chosen songs and create playlist for future listening.
Grooveshark was founded in March of 2006 and since then have had a slow yet steady climb into the light of the public eye. Still very much unrecognized as a major player in the online music streaming arena, Grooveshark has made splashes among tech news and blogging sites such as techdirt and hypebot which continue to report on their well being and ongoing struggles. Currently, Grooveshark is said to be launching a 2.0-level upgrade with their platform to enhance a smoother and more intuitive interface. Although the original concepts remain the same, the improvements to the site will include better song searching, vanity add-ons , and easier content organization. Its is about time that this site underwent some cosmetic surgery and new internal organs. It seemed as if Grooveshark was sitting in a nursing home going senile waiting to kick the bucket. But will a simple face lift and functionality changes be enough to turn them into a serious competitor for market share?
It is unlikely that groove shark will actually have what it takes to establish a significant hold on the crowd of online music streamers today or keep the attention of investors and major record label support. A scary reality is approaching Grooveshark very fast, and that reality is called Spotify. This newly claimed juggernaut of a music streaming service is also coined by popular media as being the next itunes killer as well. Spotify will do everything Grooveshark is able to do and more, as well as better. And with a very large and powerful multinational marketing team behind them, as well as millions in funding, it goes without saying that whatever spotlight Grooveshark created for themselves is in serious danger of being taken away.
There are many options now for independent musicians to sell their recorded works online today. Some of the more successful options include the large mp3 selling store itunes, and media giant amazon. As some would think that those are the only two mp3 selling outlets worth while, others have brought a different game to the table. Amie Street, an indie online music store and social network, is doing just that. With just a few years under their belt, they have managed to acquire a large music catalog featuring a variety of indie music acts including the likes of MGMT, The Black Crows, and Third Eye Blind. Striking deals with prominent labels such as Nettwerk Music group, United For Opportunity, INgrooves, and Daptone Records, Amie street strives to provide a full filling music search of independent music for a diverse crowd of users.
Amie Street operates in a very different way that has not been mimicked to date. A cool thing about this system is that your songs are first available for free when you post them. After your popularity goes up, so does the prices of your songs. As an artist you upload your mp3's to be down-loadable by the users of the site and when users buy your music you get credited with quarterly checks. So after each song has reached $5 in sales, the artist receives 70% of the sales proceeds after that, with a price range based on your songs popularity. Albums are priced at the current total cost for each individual song on the album, and usually capped at $8.98 in most cases. As well artist are not required to sell their music exclusively through Amie Street encouraging artist to maximize their exposure.
When searching for new music, I find the Amie street approach to artist promotion quite lacking. If I find a new artist that I am interested in, I generally would like to know more about them. So when I go to an artist page, the only information available to me is their song tracks for sale and the name, genre, and record label of the band. No description, no bio, no incite whatsoever to who these people are. As well there are no options for artists to link to any of their other sites for further music promotion. So really for the artist, the only thing you can do for your band on Amie Street is upload your music to be downloaded for free and hope you tracks will become popular to maybe earn a little side income from mp3 sales. The fact that you have to go to another site on your own accord to find out any descriptive information about the artist seems restrictive and not very user friendly to the artist and fan. As well their claim to be a music social network is a farce and quite noticeably no where to be found. The fact remains that there are more superior sites to purchase mp3's and physical merchandise with a better interface and platform. Some to consider would be Think Indie, Shock Hound, and CD baby. Happy hunting!