A few years ago marketing a band was as simple as creating a Myspace page and cultivating a following. Today there isn’t just one social network musicians need to be using. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are obvious networks every band should be on, but there are several startups that are helping bands market so they can focus on doing what they do best – making music.
Many artists have credited their rise to stardom solely to online promotion, with Justin Bieber’s early success on YouTube serving as an obvious example. Recently Belgian-Australian singer Gotye’s single Somebody That I Used To Know blew up on YouTube, and currently has over 137 million views. With modest success in Australia, he’s now being played globally and doing sold out shows. Providing music for free on YouTube used to be something that artists questioned, but is now the de facto requirement. If musicians don’t upload their album, someone else inevitably will. Now that YouTube’s devoted music service Vevo is also offered as a Facebook Timeline app, it gives users an additional promotional vehicle for their videos.
For musicians looking to share audio tracks instead of video, Berlin-based startup SoundCloud offers a social sound platform. It was created by founders Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss with the goal of “unmuting the web.” SoundCloud was built on the premise that people can’t easily send a large audio file to share with their friends. They recently announced that they have 11 million users, and they also raised a $50 million round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in January 2012.
Artists like Snoop Dogg are using SoundCloud to share their songs, but are also using the platform to interact with their fans. Snoop Dogg recently posted an incomplete song with a chorus and one verse, asking his fans to create the additional lyrics. Hundreds of of his fans commented and uploaded their best lines with the hopes of appearing on a Snoop Dogg song. He even has a SoundCloud sets called “Need Verses” and “Need Vocals.” Besides crowdsourcing lyrics, other artists like Emmy The Great are using the platform to hold Q&A sessions with fans and to give their fans a taste of some upcoming material they’re working on.
SoundCloud Content Relations Manager David Adams said in an interview that the explosive growth is due to instantaneous sharing options. “The key is how instantaneous creating and sharing sounds can now be for an artist, such as John Mayer being able to showcase to fans with the SoundCloud iPhone app experimenting with guitar tones or jamming on his new lapsteel,” he said.
San Francisco-based BandPage offers a Facebook music application for artists to embed a player on their pages and share music, photos, videos, tours dates and more. Allowing fans to play their music directly from a Facebook page is something that should be built in to Facebook for bands, so it isn’t surprising big artists like Rihanna, Foster The People, deadmau5 as well as 500,000 other musicians are actively using the service. Bands customize their BandPage with their own photos, banners, and styles and can add specific features shown only to current fans of the page. With integration of SoundCloud, users can have their songs uploaded available on BandPage for streaming.
Musicians are also looking for ways to market while also selling to fans, and Bandcamp has helped fill that void. The site gives musicians a way to sell their music and merchandise, and has facilitated over 29 million downloads since its launch in 2008. The site takes a 15 percent cut of everything musicians sell (less than Apple’s 30 percent cut of iTunes sales), and that number drops to 10 percent once they cross $5,000 USD in sales. It also involved a processing fee of 4-6 percent per transaction. Artists have made more than $16 million on the platform, over $1 million in the last 30 days alone. And interestingly the platform lets musicians offer a name-your-price payment option – in that case, fans end up paying an average of 50 percent more than the set minimum.
With additional reporting from Erin Bury.