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« Music Niches: Narrow Your Net to Get More Fans | Main | Should the New Law of Music Absorption alter your music business decisions? »
Friday
Dec052008

Making MySpace Work For YOU

Every Band has a MySpace page, but very few have a MySpace STRATEGY.

A recent post by Bruce Houghton at Hypebot reminded me of a conversation I had with a Band last year on this subject:

Band: “Should we take down our MySpace page and make people go to our own website?”

Me: “Absolutely not! Are you crazy?”

Band: “Why? We get some fans there, but most aren’t real anyway.”

Me: “True, but…”

Problem:

Most Artists think of MySpace as a ‘home base’ for their online activity.  The problem is that a MySpace page is akin to a rental unit within a huge apartment complex.  Sure, living in this rental complex means that ‘friends’ drop by all the time, which is fun when they bring chips and beer and are really into your music, but less fun when they bring con artists and viagra salesmen (although, admittedly it depends on your goals).  Its a very noisy place, MySpace, and attracting the wrong crowd some of the time is par for the course.

The apartment complex has rules that you must follow.  For example, you can’t easily send a message out to just your ‘real fans’ without also sending it to the other ‘friends’.  There are rules and limitation about how you decorate your apartment too, making it difficult to differentiate your unit 4A from unit 3G down the hall.  And if you want to sell things from your apartment to your friends, the landlord drops in to remind you that its an apartment and not a business.

But the apartment is free, so you put up with the tradeoffs and start giving out your address to everyone you know to come to your parties and hear you. Its says “Apartment Complex is THE place to be. By the way, we are in unit 4A.” The Landlords are amazed by the number of referrals they get from their tennants who are constantly promoting the ‘Apartment Complex’. They sell out immediately and have a huge waiting list.  This, in turn, brings more random friends dropping by all the time, and so on. 

Its a great thing, for what it does, but I would argue that it lacks the brand-building tools that Artists need to create long lasting value.

 

Alternative Viewpoint:

Think of MySpace as a super highway. Your Artist page is a FREE billboard on that highway. Millions of cars are passing each day and some people are seeing your message. Some are even responding, saying everything from ‘tell me more’ to ‘we’re similar’ to ‘can you help me? I’m out of gas and need money’. But you need a strategy for filtering out the noise and for converting the potential fans into ‘Real Fans’. Okay, that analogy may be insufficient. How about MySpace is a bar. You go there to meet a lot of people, but you don’t try to create a meaningful relationship with them there - you take them back to your place, right?

…enter a Fan Relationship Management (FRM) strategy. This strategy is based on the idea that the financial value of an Artist (not the artistic value, mind you) is a function of the breadth, depth, and length of fan relationships an Artist possesses at any given point in time. Its the ‘pipeline’ that an Artist has going to sell things like tickets, songs, merch, brands, etc.  Its the value of YOUR BRAND.

Expressed mathematically:

Artist’s Brand Value = (# of fans) x (avg. depth of relationships) x (avg. length of relationships)

Adopting an FRM strategy and focusing on building your brand value may cause you to re-think about MySpace, and other social nets, as lead-generation hotspots (bars or billboards) that can act as the initial filter points for pulling in real fans.

This will, in turn, lead Artists to take a different approach to social networks. The first step is to acknowledge what they are good for:

1. Fan leads.

2. A Messaging outlet to potential fans (and some real fans, but only to grow the value of the real Brand).

3. Viral promotion (letting fans share your music with more and more potential fans).

Then, acknowledge what they are not good for:

1. Differentiation.

2. Developing Fan Relationships on your own terms.

3. Building your Brand.

Once an Artist has done this, it becomes more apparant how to approach the networks. They need to be used the same way you would use a billboard or a bar:

1. State the value proposition. In other words, provide content to potential fans that they can sink their teeth into. Songs, videos, etc. Get them hooked.

2. Make it obvious what you want them to do to get deeper into the band. This could be a join the mailing list or street team opportunity, or to pass the music on to friends via a viral widget. It could be a simple, ‘learn more at our site’ kind of thing. Give them an incentive like exclusive content if they do so. This will be a good filter as well as a conversion tool. There are a myriad of things you can do here.

3. Spend LESS time there responding to the noise. Be selective about what you do respond to, and always try to get qualified potential fans to convert into real fans - your real asset.

4. It may turn out to be the right decision to continue to give your MySpace url as the place to find you (on t-shirts, CDs, bumper stickers, etc), but be cognizent of the converion rates you are getting there, and act accordingly.

5. Give the real fans that come to your home base MORE than those that don’t.  If you get them back to your place, make it count.

There are many additional tactical ways to employ a lead-generation startegy within the social networks, but I wanted to highlight just a couple.

Take Away:

MySpace should not be viewed as the ‘home base’ for most bands (except those that are truly starting out, or have no finances at all). That doesn’t mean that every band shouldn’t have a MySpace page. They’d be foolish not to. But successful bands will use MySpace and the other social nets as a lead-generation tool for qualifying and converting new fans, and keep their ‘home base’ somewhere else. Your MySpace site should be designed to filter and then funnel good leads into a conversion process that will yield real fans.

Reader Comments (13)

One easy thing would be to offer some of your mp3s for free, on your myspace page, you put a link that redirects people to your own website to download them, this way it's easy to filter people who might become fans... Among your myspace friends, only the people interested in your music will go to your website.
There, ask for their email to send them the link to get the mp3s, this way you build a mailing-list of your potential fans.

December 7 | Unregistered CommenterAlan

Great stuff Jed. I agree 100% with everything you hve said here.

As Alan said - you need to get those email addresses! Bands can brag about how many myspace friends they have, but unless they have their contact info and a way to measure how profitable your myspace activity is you are wasting time. many bands fall into this trap.

The biggest problem with myspace is that if your account is hacked and begins sending spam, they will delete it without even contacting you first. And if you didn't have the email addresses of your "friends" you are out of luck!

December 7 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Tauterouff

mySpace still remains a great way to communicate with and gather new fans, but keep it alive, fresh and active- downloads, contests, gig lisitings,etc

http://www.musicnewsnet.com/

December 8 | Unregistered Commentermal, MNN

How can I "be cognizant of the conversion rates" -- does myspace offer access to page analyitics now?

As a "Myspace stragegy" guide, this was pretty vague. Can you point to any concrete examples of doing it right? Are there specific steps and routines that the reader can implement to put these ideas into practice?

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

This is a BRILLIANT blog post Jed! I recently spoke at The Taxi Road Rally in Los Angeles and I there I had a booth where I was selling my books. I had the rare chance to talk to hundreds of musicians in person who stopped by to share ideas and the one prevailing and overwhelming one was the discussion about how much they all hate MySpace. The main complaints: 1. It took up too much of their creative time, 2. They did not make any money there and 3. They did not make any "real" friends from it. Interestingly, in the next breath many of them admitted to using "bots" to automatically make friends and every single one of them asked me if Cyber PR helps them work their MySpace profiles (It does not - we focus on bloggers, podcasters and Internet radio stations) however it was very telling.... and many musicians reflected exactly what you are saying here: MySpace like many other social networks is a place where you must be - the Free Billboard in the sky and a place where we all visit to easily listen to music using an interface we all understand. Sadly no one visits MySpace with their credit cards out and it is not a place where people purchase music - and that is where your conversation about strategy really comes into play. This is the part that takes skill and planning. A Fan Relationship Management (FRM) strategy as you refer to it is the critical piece that is missing for most artists to think of MySpace as just one of many many cogs in the marketing wheel... not as an answer. I get this loud and clear now that I have hired a MySpace strategist to help us with our own MySpace woes. I get now how it can be better used but I still can't say we have profited in any way directly from it - that took years of studying Internet marketing combined with sending consistent newsletters and dedicated participation in many social networks, speaking, blogging, podcasting and now vodcasting.... I'm sure 2009 will bring more cool online applications to stun and overwhelm artists and we will all have to learn how to incorporate those as well.

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterAriel Hyatt

Paul and Alan drive home a critical point here, so let me pile on and expand in it:

You need to own your fans, not rent them from a social net.

That means having a way to contact fans directly, without having to depend on the social net for permission and tools to do it. Emails are a great way to achieve this.

Justin, here is a technique that we built out that is being used with great success:

One of the most effective tactics for convincing potential fans to join your mailing list is a tool we call the 'Fan Exclusive" song. When a fan plays it, they will get 30 seconds, then a prompt to join the mailing list for the Artist. Once they are verified, they can access the entire track (or download, if you prefer). Artists who use this feature at ReverbNation have seen an increase in mailing list sign ups of anywhere from 150% to 2,000%. In other words, this kind of incentive really works, and we have thousands of Artists using it right now. Many of them use our Tunewidget to deploy the function directly onto their MySpace page or blog, so fans never have to leave where they are to join the list and get the song (except to verify the email at their inbox).

Of course, the quickest and simplest way to convert leads at MySpace is to deploy a 'join the mailing list' function to your MySpace page (we have one called 'Fan Collector', but other sites offer nice ones as well).

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

Does that increase last, though? I mean, I "sign up" for bonuses all the time, then immediately unsubscribe because I don't want their promotional stream cluttering my inbox. I'm guessing you're keeping figures on the unsubscribe turnover -- do most people just stay on board?

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

To sum up, if you make myspace your home base, you are and asset on myspace's balance sheet.

If you have your own blog that collects emails and rss subscribers on your own domain, and you follow up with music to share and awesome music stories, then you are in business baby!

Dan-O's Free Music Downloads Blog
http://www.danosongs.com/music_blog/

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterDanoSongsBlog

Justin,
Most stay on board. The fact that they go through the email verification process means that they give real email addresses (although this can be easy to work around). The fact that they take a few moments and clicks to get the download (valuable time) means that they really want it.

That doesn't mean that some don't leave your list. If you spam them or send them messages that aren't relevant or valuable to them (see point #5 in the blog about giving them more value when they become real fans), you will lose some for sure. But even the little bit of effort that this process takes to get the download acts as a good filter. Just treat your fans the way you would like to be treated once you have them. Its a fair trade to ask them for a conversation in exchange for your free art.

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

When using your ReverbNation tools, can fans sign to the band's own mailing list (for example, a list set up on the band's website using a tool like phplist) or to Reverb Nation Fan mailing list? I checked out the website and it was rather unclear...

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

Natalie,
They sign up to the band's mailing list that we house. At any time, Artists can export the list from ReverbNation and go somewhere else. We never sell, rent, or even communicate to your fans. Think of us as similar to constant contact, but free.

It is possible to use your existing html form to feed into your ReverbNation fan database. Shoot me a private message for instructions.

I hope I answered your questions.

December 9 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

I hear you loud and clear for sure. Our band has a bunch of "friends" on the MySpace, but the question is always the same "how many of those people are really into it?"

We recently took a step in the right direction and figured out how to search through our friends based on location (even though we have over 5K and MySpace has disabled our search feature).

We're using this to get TARGETED messages out in front of shows locally.

Any suggestions for services that could help us take this to the next level...help us to really understand the level of relationship with each individual fan?

December 17 | Unregistered CommenterTony Chopp

great post, could not agree more. All developing artists (and mangers for that matter) need to read this

December 30 | Registered CommenterGI Sanders

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