Tuesday, January 14, 2014

How Not Having A Website Can Cost Your Band Money

Click To Website image from Bobby Owsinski's Music 3.0 blog
Many artists and bands don't believe that they need a website any longer and choose to rely on social media for their entire online presence. This can prove to be a fatal strategy, as outlined by this excerpt from my Social Media Promotion For Musicians book. In this excerpt you'll see 3 scenarios where not having a website cost a band or artist fans, sales and even a career.

"Unfortunately, a website many times gets overlooked as an integral piece of your digital promotional life because there are so many other places that you can use as your online focal point. Having a Facebook page or Tumblr blog, or relying on another social network as your online central focus has a number of potential flaws, not the least is control of your message. Let’s look at three scenarios where relying on a social media site as your main contact point can prove disastrous.
  • Scenario #1: Our first scenario is a real-life example of a band I’ll hypothetically call “The Unknowns,” since one of the band members asked me not to reveal their true name. During the heyday of MySpace around 2004 the band was hot and eventually developed a following of over 900,000. This led to a number of record labels becoming interested (remember that they sign you for your audience, not your music), with the band eventually signing a big deal with one of the largest major labels at the time. The label immediately told the band to suspend their MySpace account because “we can do all that better in-house than you can.” In typical record company fashion, the label ultimately did very little for the band’s online presence. They did create a new slicker label-managed MySpace account, but they were not able to transfer any of the band’s previous followers, thus leaving them with a presence that was far less than they had before they were signed. Of course, when The Unknown’s album was released they had no way to alert those 900,000 followers since they didn’t have any of their email addresses, and they didn’t even have a website where their fans could go in order to discover the latest news about them. Needless to say, the album bombed and the band was dropped from the label. They never recovered that massive fan base that they had before they were signed.
The moral of the story is that if they had redirected those fans from their MySpace account to their website in order to harvest at least some of the email addresses, things might’ve turned out a lot differently, since they could have alerted their fans when the album was released. And that’s the problem with relying on an external site that you don’t control as your focal point online.

It's too easy for today's artist who only dabbles in social networking to get complacent and comfortable with the abilities of a single social network, but that can spell disaster for maintaining your fan base if you're not careful. As those artists who formerly depended upon MySpace now know, what's hot today can be ice cold tomorrow. But other negative scenarios also exist that can be far worse than the network falling out of favor.

This scenario was recently played out again early 2013 in a slightly different manner when MySpace relaunched an updated version of their site. Every single artist lost all of their followers, and every MySpace user lost their previous settings, and any affiliation with the artists they were following. All users had to reregister again, and all artists, regardless of how popular they were (even owner Justin Timberlake), started all over again with zero followers!
  • Scenario #2: Let's say that you've cultivated a huge following on Facebook. What would happen if Facebook was purchased by EXXON (highly unlikely, but let’s pretend), who decides that all it wants is the underlying technology of the network, and shuts the rest down? If you didn't capture the email addresses of all your followers, you'd lose them to the nothingness of cyberspace. Don't laugh - a scenario like this could happen, but most likely on another smaller network.
  • Scenario #3: What would happen if Facebook (I'm picking on them because they're the big dog on the social block) changes its terms of service, and now charges you $.25 for every fan past 100? If you're lucky enough to have 8,000 fans, it's going to cost you $2,000 to continue. Or what if they decided to limit everyone's fan connections to 100? Actually, something similar now happens in that you’re unable to access that large fan base that you've worked so hard to develop unless you pay.
The point of all of the above scenarios is that when you depend on a social network for your online presence, you’re ceding control to an unknown, unseen force that can change it’s will at any time with no regard to your online well-being. That's why it's imperative that you don’t count on a single social network for your total online presence or even your social media presence. If you rely on an external network, sooner or later you're going to get burnt. It's the nature of the Internet to constantly change, and it's too early to get a feel for the life span of even of the largest sites and networks. 

Just to illustrate the volatile nature of social networks, in 2005 MySpace was the most visited social network online with 100 million users. A mere five years later and it had dropped below 25 million, yet has recently doubled that number and is growing again. What this means is that you must pick and choose the social networks that you participate in wisely, and always engage in a number of networks in case one suddenly falls out of favor.

You can read additional excerpts from Social Media Promotion For Musicians and my other books on the excerpt section of bobbyowsinski.com.

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


Anonymous said...

Case #1 has nothing to do with "having a website" at all, it's simply ignorant social networking. Cases 2 and 3 are such thoroughly hypothetical non-real-world scenarios as to be completely useless, as if such events actually occurred there woudl be significant user pushback/defection to competing services, of which there are many.

Unimpressive writing.

John Washburn said...

I think a more constructive critique than offered by Anonymous might be to look at what we mean by fan/follower in a social media context and how that translates to actual fans who engage with and seek out their artists.

I would question how many of those 900k "fans" that The Unknowns had acquired on MySpace were really connecting with, and interested in, them in any sort of real way. Which is to ask, how many of them were actual fans? If they had 900k fans who were buying records and attending shows and telling their friends, then MySpace disappearing wouldn't matter, or matter much.

To pick an example of a band that sails a bit under the radar but has a real fan base and is a viable business, Wilco has 650k "fans" on Facebook. If senario 2 or 3 happened, and they suddenly lost presence there, what would the actual impact in sales or tour receipts really be? Would those 650k people suddenly lose all connection with their beloved band? No. They'd simply lose a convenient way to receive the occasional messages that squeak through EdgeRank.


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