Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ping For Artists By Invitation Only

While yesterday's announcement of iTunes Ping seemed like a boon to artists and bands, now comes word that there's no way to create an artist profile on the network. When Apple was asked about the process, a spokesman responded that artist profiles are only available on an "invitation-only" basis. This is a giant bummer for most bands that could really make use of this new social network.

The same spokesman points out that any iTunes user, be it person or band, can create a profile, but that doesn't help the artist much if he can't push content to the fans.

That being said, Tunecore stated today that it's working with Apple to get all of their bands and artists signed up in the near future. Stay tuned.

Another disappointment is the fact that Ping only displays the albums that your friends have purchased and not the albums that they're currently listening to. This would not only help in music discovery but be a boon in data measurement for any band or artist. Let's hope that Apple implements this feature soon.

One of the cool things that Ping does do is provide a Facebook-like news feed that shows a recent activity stream from the people that you follow. Artists will be able to post updates to this news stream, which then will be directly sent to fans. This is very cool and a potentially big deal.

Clearly Ping is a work in progress and doesn't meet many of our initial expectations. That being said, it's only been online for two days, so expect the kinks and bugs to be worked out eventually.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

6 Reasons Why iTunes Ping Is So Important

Steve Jobs and Apple has done it again yesterday with the introduction of iTunes 10, which now contains the music social network Ping.

What is Ping? Jobs explained it this way, "It's like Facebook and Twitter meets iTunes." Although Apple is promoting Ping as a music discovery platform where artists and fans can interact, it's a lot more strategic than that. Until now Apple has mastered technology and content, but Ping gives them the one piece that they never had before - people, the most important of them all.

But Ping will be very significant for artists and bands too.  Here's how:
  • 1) There are already 160 million iTunes users. That doesn't mean that they'll all use Ping, but it provide a huge base of people already on the network.
  • 2) iTunes has a direct connection to your content that other social networks don't have. This should make an impulse buy easier.
  • 3) Ping is about all music, unlike other social networks (sorry MySpace, you don't count anymore). At least in the beginning, there won't be any other distractions.
  • 4) iTunes users consume content. They're used to buying, and they already have credit cards on file.
  • 5) Ping is about music discovery. Discovery is still the Holy Grail of the music industry. Ping provides discovery on your own, discovery through friends, and discovery from other fans, and anything to help people find your music is a good thing.
  • 6) Ping has a direct connection to buying tickets to gigs. With their database of over 17,000 shows and concerts (provided by LiveNation, by the way), it'll make it easier for a fan to purchase a ticket without ever leaving the network.
There's also a lot to be said for Apple's traditional ease-of-use, that could play a part in the development of Ping into something larger than intended.

Look for an announcement soon of how you can claim your artist page on Ping (check Lady Gaga's artist page out as an example). Then be sure to do it right away. Although it may be too early to tell, there doesn't seem to be a downside, unless you like being undiscovered, of course.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

6 Steps To Your Email Newsletter

As I've said many times on this blog and in my Music 3.0 book, the single best tool for communication with your fan base is via your email list. I found this great article on The Future Of Music blog by George Howard that described 6 vital steps in constructing your email. They are:

1. It must be short and highlight one and only one action. The total length should be less than 500 words.

2. It should be frequent; once a week (I believe that once every two weeks to a month is better) on a regularly-scheduled basis.

3. It should have a call to action. Tell the recipient what you want them to do: come to the site to get something, come to a show, etc.

4. It should be forwardable. Ask your recipients to forward the email to someone they think will enjoy it.

5. It should have sharing functions embedded. Allow people to Tweet, add to a FB status.

6. Make it easy for people to unsubscribe.

George also states the following:
"Don’t worry about overwhelming people with email blasts. If people are unsubscribing, they’re likely non-value adding “fans” any way. Instead, focus on presenting real, timely, share-able value to your current fans so that they have a tool to help you gain new ones."
This I don't buy. I think it's important NOT to overwhelm anyone, as you'll be perceived as a spammer. Emails are difficult to design well, and it's pretty difficult to keep coming up with pertinent info regularly, especially on a weekly basis. That's why I believe that it's both better for you and your fans if you have a longer period in between emails.

That being said, George's steps are right on. His post was more on psychographics and converting fans into customers, and is definitely worth checking out.

Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Taking Advantage Of Social Media Demographics

Participation in social media has increased for all American adults across the board in the last year, but especially in the 50 to 64 year old category.

Now if you're an artist that's targeting a teenage or twenty-something demographic, it's important to know that social media use is growing in that age group too, because it's another tool to reach your audience.

But if you're an artist that's trying to reach an older demo, this information is critical because this might now be the best way to reach them.

And it's a great demo to sell to. The older the demo, the more money they have to spend, the more likely they'll buy CDs, and the less likely they are to pirate music. If you have something they want, they have no trouble buying it, providing they know about it.

Pew suggests three reasons for the growing popularity of social networking among older Americans:
  • It enables them to reconnect with people from their past.
  • It enables them to find support in times of poor health and chronic disease.
  • It enables communication across generation gaps.
So how to reach them? Here's a very brief outline of what to try that has been covered in other posts here:

1) Use hashtags with your tweets. Hashtags are keywords that are included in your tweets (explained here) that enable people who are searching Twitter on a particular topic to find you.

2) Have a Facebook fan page and keep it fresh with posts.

3) Make sure that all tweets and Facebook posts link back to your website (you do have one, right?).

There's certainly more to reaching your demo on social networks than these three items, but they're a fast and easy way to start.
Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

5 Social Media Trends Musicians Need To Know

Here's a reprint of a great post from Hypebot last week by Jonothan Ostrow regarding 5 social media trends that are happening right now that musicians need to know about. It's an excellent overview of the current direction in social media. Here are the 5 trends:

1) Fan-Funding Campaigns:

Finding the funding for an upcoming project can be an extremely difficult process, as more than ever before, labels are only looking to invest in artists and bands with proven high-volume sales records. Tom Silverman, founder of Tommy Boy Records, has stated that the 10,000 units (albums) sold mark is called the 'obscurity line' - upon this achievement, you are no longer seen as an obscure artist within the industry, and it is not until this point that labels will take an interest in you.
This new trend in social media is one that absolutely every musician should take a look into. Fan-funding (or crowdfunding) is the simple concept of empowering the fans to raise money for you- to FUND your project. Typically this is done through an incentive system, in which the artist will set a monetary goal, and has a set amount of time to reach said goal. There are then different levels of rewards that vary based on the amount a fan contributes towards the project.
A fan-funding campaign is an excellent way for emerging musicians to create a grassroots marketing campaign around their next passion project. But be forewarned, this takes both significant amounts of time and effort in preparation and execution. Most fan funding platforms, such as KickstarterPledge Musicand Rockethub, require that the entire goal be hit before the artist sees any of the money.

2) Metrics:

The internet has made it easier than ever for artists to make effective, informed decisions about who, when and where to target their audience. But a bunch of analytics/ insights start-up companies have set out to make this process even easier and effective, by giving artists the ability to obtain actionable data about their music and their fans.
Each start up offers a slightly different variation, but the goal is to supply artists with analytical data based on fanbase growth, fan engagement and/ or online music streams across multiple platforms. Many of the services can even track the geolocation of the plays and/or fans helping artists understand where their fanbase is the strongest. Tip: This is HUGE for when you are preparing your first tour. Some of the most popular music analytical services are:

3) Social Currency:

Social currency is the evolved idea of giving music away for free. The myth that giving away music for free would garner new fans has been (somewhat) busted, as more often than not, the music will be given away, yet the new 'fans' will never return. The exchange was off-balance.
With social currency, musicians create an even-exchange by 'charging' for their music through an exchange of a track or an album for a tangible return that will increase their reputation and reach, rather than their bank account. The most ideal choice of social currency is to exchange music for an email address (and location if possible -this will come into play next), as it gives artists a direct connection to their fans. Bandcamp does an excellent job of facilitating this exchange for artists.
Other forms of social currency that have recently become popular are tweeting for a download, and a similar idea of a Facebook wall post for a download. Both of these options have the pitfalls of being less beneficial for the artist in a long term sense, and are unfortunately seen by many as just a new form of spam. A few popular tweet-for-a-download services are Tweet For A Track and Pay With A Tweet.

4) Geolocation Marketing:

In the past year, the use of geolocation has become one of the most important advancements in social media. Through services such as Four SquareGowalla and more recently, Facebook Places, users can 'check in', leaving an update focused on their current location rather than their current activities. While most geolocation based social networks include some form of gaming component, rewarding long-term use and excessive exploration with unlock-able badges and the like, it would be easy to overlook the benefits that these services offer to musicians.
Two of the most popular mailing list services, Fan Bridge and Mail Chimp, have both included a geolocation feature called Geo-Targeting, which allows artists to send out location specific announcements/ updates. In other words, if you have a show in NYC next week, you can send out an announcement of the show or special offer to those on your mailing list who are located within and around the NYC area.
Geolocation marketing also gives artists new opportunities for fan engagement. The idea that an artist or even the fans can now 'check in' when and where they arrived at a specific location creates new possibilities for the artist to engage with the fanbase through competitions (i.e. first 10 people to check in at a specific location gets a free album), scavenger hunts for free tickets, and even unannounced concerts.

5) Streaming Video:

The Youtube craze has been sweeping the emerging music community for quite some time now, but streaming video, through services such as UStream and LiveStream, is a trend that is just starting to explode. There are numerous ways that artists can use real-time streaming to offer additional value for fans, such as streaming live performances for fans who cannot attend, stream jam sessions or intimate acoustic performances from the comfort of their own home, or even engage directly with fans through a real-time question and answer session or even a fan request performance.
Follow me on Twitter for daily news and updates on production and the music business.

Check out my Big Picture blog for discussion on common music, engineering and production tips and tricks.


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