U2, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay and every other artist are failing as independent media channels on the web.
With music sales declining, moving up the web traffic charts is more important to revenue generation than ever.
All media brands…are just web pages with stuff now.
When you separate broadcast antennas and satellites from any media brand on earth, what are you left with? You are left with a URL attached to a one thousand pixel-wide web presentation that often includes video, music, images, text, some interactivity, social bolt-ons and a wireless app or two. It doesn’t get much more complicated than this. My website is as wide as yours, and I can do everything you can do now. The technical playing field has been leveled.
It’s not the content silly…
With access to capital being equal (although plenty have shown this doesn’t matter much either), no media brand on the web has a distinct advantage over another. Furthermore, the content that goes into media presentations on the web matters less than you think.
Click over to the Top Sites page on Quantcast. Scroll to the very bottom of the page and download the file called Top-Million-Sites-Ranking. Open the file up within an application like Microsoft Word and search for your favorite, established artist. With minimal exceptions (I spotted www.taylorswift.com at 14,077), there are 20,000 websites that rank ahead of almost every artist website on earth.
Why is it that sites like underjams.com, mudcat.org, museum.tv, and twenty thousand other sites are more popular than the websites run by U2, DMB or Coldplay?
It certainly has very little to do with momentary entertainment value of the content. You would be hard pressed to find someone that would not enjoy U2’s or Coldplay’s content over the content presented by most of the top 20,000 sites on the Quantcast list.
It also has very little to do with being established or not. Look at the list. Most of the top 20,000 brands didn’t even exist five years ago.
The reason that artists don’t rank high on the Quantcast list is that the websites (and Twitter accounts) operated by standalone artists can only deliver the “this-website-informs-me” value proposition. Compared to 100,000 other sites on the Internet, even established artists fail to deliver anything valuable on the web but informative (who, what, when) information. Click here to learn what I mean by the term value proposition.
Although many artists present valued entertainment, their websites cannot compete attract in “this-is-where-I-go-to-be-entertained-for-more-than-ten-minutes” category.
Never mind the music charts, artists are going to be permanently stuck on the long tail of the web charts unless they deliver something different. And given where music revenue is trending, combined with the fact that all media channels everywhere (including radio and television) are going to be delivered via Internet protocol, this is not where artists hoping to tap into new digital revenue sources need to be.
Hey, you’re not comparing apples to oranges…
Although I am comparing artist websites and media channels to everything else on the web, consider this: everywhere you go on the web, information, entertainment and commerce are collapsing together. Traditional push marketing is giving way to the reliance upon social promotion. When intertwined with commerce, your ability to command attention on the web (your web attention capital) will have tremendous value to brands looking to tap into your audience. If artists want to thrive as independent media channels on the web, they have to find ways to move up the web traffic charts.
Just to be clear, being an independent media channel equates to absolutely no middlemen taking percentages, and zero to minimal reliance upon other media channels to reach your target audience on the web. At number 38 on the Quantcast list, The Huffington Post is an example to ponder, albeit a music site will most likely target a different value proposition.
The solution: excel at delivering a value proposition to a niche.
Although they are great advertisements, hit songs don’t seem to generate reoccurring and continually growing web traffic (see above). Artist sites just fall flat when it comes to delivering the value that makes a website popular. A limited selection of songs, a few videos, a pile of images, a schedule and some blog posts are not going to cut the mustard. To tap into the revenue streams that are available to media channels with significant numbers of repeat and loyal visitors, artists have to seriously reconsider the value proposition(s) they intend to deliver on the web.
Yes, the type of site every artist has now can be a perfect compliment to your offline business, but this post is about calling attention to the work that needs to be done to climb the (web) charts as independent media channels in a converged world where all media is accessible via a web browser or a wireless application.
There’s strength in numbers. Consider starting here:
To begin with, ten major artists, thirty to forty mid-level artists, and fifty up-and-coming artists on the same site can deliver additional and expanded value that standalone artist sites cannot. A multi-artist site can go far beyond the “this-site-informs-me” and the “this-site-entertains-me-for-more-than-ten-minutes” value propositions. As someone that has been working in software for twenty years and tracking this industry for the last five, this seems like one of the best places to begin. There are other ways to get the job done and execution is everything, however multi-artist sites/brands are where I am investing my energy today.
Side plug: I am working with a new startup that is developing methods that will make collaborative funneling and the selection (of which stuff to feature and promote) scalable, efficient and transparent. Contact me for more information.
Profit and Loss
Although some media brands operate at higher margins than others, the variable expenses associated with media storage and distribution are no longer the reason why ANY media brand can’t operate profitably on the web. It’s the fixed costs (i.e.: salaries and legacy costs), and not the lack of revenues that drive media brands out of business.
And not be overlooked, artists on multi-artist sites should have cost advantages over other media channels, as collectively, you should all (eventually) own the content you feature. This may not matter much to consumers, they expect digital content to be free, but it matters on the royalty cost side of the profit equation.
Nothing to loose and everything to gain.
If you are looking at sites like www.friendsorenemies.com or www.audience.fm or www.worldaroundrecords.com, I believe these sites are glimpses into the future of multi-artist sites aspiring to become productive media channels. If I were an artist, I would seriously consider starting or joining one of these ventures. Moreover, I wouldn’t hesitate (details aside) to drop my own site to pool resources with others that share the same vision.
about Bruce Warila