Do Social Networks Really Help Musicians?
June 9, 2011
Dan Morgan in A&R, Fan Base, Social Media, social networking, websites

Social networks provide far reaching opportunities for musicians, the only trouble is they don’t work for the overwhelming majority of bands and aspiring artists. Critical mass and huge opportunity creates overcrowding.

What always struck me as strange was how musicians on myspace.com actually thought that having a million friends was a good thing (despite the fact those friends were all musicians who only ‘friended’ so that they can get more ‘friends’ for themselves).

Can people spot the problem here? It’s a fake market, a bit like the sub-prime mortgages that bought the banks down.

A large proportion of musicians use social networks to build a fan base and launch their own careers. However, without adequate finances and marketing expertise it is very tough for a band to break through to reach public awareness. It is possible, but tough!

As much as musicians like to deny it, statistically they will need the backing of a record label at some point. So, can social networks get you spotted by the music industry?

Yes, but there is a problem here also. 99% of the music on social networks is junk. A song that was thrown up by a band 3 years ago is still there, effectively competing with millions of other songs in a sea of mainly poorly written and poorly executed music. This overcrowding, or “noise” makes it harder for talented musicians to get spotted (because it makes it harder for A&R to do their job).

Industry reps have to deal with noise everyday. Contrary to popular belief, record label A&R do more than simply find new talent, they also have to manage their current roster, which means they need to manage their time well. Browsing through a million ‘potential’ hit songs or listening to 1000 unsolicited demo’s is an unbelievable waste of time.

So, what is the answer?

A&R will naturally go where the noise (or overcrowding) is minimal. Some websites are helping musicians by inadvertently helping A&R reduce noise or by simplifying the search for new talent.

Let’s take a look at three websites that reduce noise in one way or another and help musicians reach the industry or grow their own fanbase in a more productive way.

Audio Rokit

Audio Rokit removes noise by giving industry A&R convenient tools to help manage and focus their search for new talent. Music companies can list what they are looking for on the Audio Rokit website and musicians can submit suitable material to them using a state-of-the-art song pitching system.

They also have a group of time saving tools to help organise and review song submissions, which removes ‘clutter’ and wasted time for A&R.

Unlike many other ‘song pitching’ websites, such as musicxray and sonicbids, Audio Rokit doesn’t pay A&R to give feedback (which seems sensible). Instead, Audio Rokit continues to developed better ways to help A&R communicate with musicians.

‘Status Folders’, for example, allow A&R to drag an artist submission to a folder, which automatically updates that artist. This benefits both parties and makes the song submission process more effective.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Audio Rokit is their hands on approach.

Founder, Darren Monson explains;

“We vet all of our listings and speak with the music companies on the phone to make sure they are legit. We’ve seen so many pitching sites that list out of date listings, or opportunities that come from companies who ceased to exist 2 years earlier! It’s a joke.

If you are seeking a record deal, music management, music publishing or gigs, I would advice musicians to use a pitching service instead of trying to find opportunities themselves. We spend hundreds of man hours finding quality opportunities, which is something very few musicians have time to do.”

The result of Audio Rokit’s song submission tool is that 94% of musicians who use their service get replies from the industry reps they submit to (which is very impressive seeing as those A&R are not paid to give feedback).

Band Camp

Beautifully designed, their website has the 2.0 thing going on!

Band Camp offers a great way for bands to reduce the noise we have been speaking of by helping bands organise and grow their fan base.

Fan-bases are extremely important. In fact, as my partner points out, many a band has been signed due to their huge vibrant fan-base (not a euphemism) rather than the quality of their songs. It’s true, sometimes ‘talent’ doesn’t shine through, musicians with business brains very often come out on top. I found a great article on the Talent Myth here

Band Camp allow artists to sell their music in a very simple way, but with one very nice addition – you can let the buyer of your music set the price. That’s correct. It seems that we have reached the point in human evolution when we fear not our neighbour, we can now open our arms and allow them the freedom to pay what the hell they want to pay. Why can’t petrol stations adopt the same philanthropic affections?

All in all, Band Camp has a very nice platform that can help bands make money from their music and keep organised.

Sound Cloud

The popular audio file sharing site, Sound Cloud, reduces noise by increasing productivity for A&R. The Sound Cloud platform makes it very easy for industry to get a sense of how popular an artist is and how fans rate their music.

Essentially, (and I won’t be liked for saying this), Sound Cloud is like myspace.com, albeit more slick. The tradition of uploading a song and sending people a link to view that song (rather than emailing a song out multiple times) is not a new concept.

Sound Cloud have nice additions to the standard idea of sharing songs however, such as visualising the audio file and leaving comments along the time line of an audio file. Musicians can also make their music downloadable if they choose.

Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/).
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