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Monday
Jan182010

My first ReverbNation street team mission

I love ReverbNation. I could write a dozen articles on the various tools they provide for artists. For now I’ll focus on one I just tried for the first time: Street Team Missions.

Whenever a fan subscribes to your mailing list, they’re given the option to join your street team. You create missions to direct your team’s promotional efforts on your behalf, and they compete against each other for rewards of your choosing. ReverbNation manages the whole thing automatically by measuring plays, widget clicks, banner impressions, and mailing list signups.

Sound too good to be true? I thought so at first, so I joined several other artists’ missions to get a closer look. I wasn’t exactly blown away. Participation was limited to a handful of fans, even on teams with 1000+ members. My enthusiasm waned, and I put the idea on the back burner.

Fast forward to two weeks ago. I was selected to participate in a Windows 7 promotion hosted by ReverbNation, called Playlist 7. Microsoft posts 50 songs for free download each week, and the seven most downloaded artists win $507! Easy enough, right? But there’s a catch: before anyone can download your song, they have to “become a fan of Windows” through Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. Few consider this a badge of honor.

While I’m actually quite fond of Windows 7, I’m an even bigger fan of $507, so I quickly drafted a campaign to get out the vote. My street team had grown to 215 members (out of 1055 on my mailing list), so it was about time I gave them something to do. I emailed ReverbNation for advice on how to set up the mission, and followed their directions.

First I created this banner (“help a friend win money” seemed a stronger pitch than “download music from bands you’ve never heard of”):

I uploaded the banner to my profile and embedded the RN-provided link to my song. Finally, I created a custom mission to promote the banner, determining the winner by the highest number of clickthroughs. Here are the results (click to enlarge):

Not impressive. Of the 202 clicks generated, I’d guess maybe 50 resulted in downloads, factoring in the “become a fan” disincentive and the assortment of problems people had getting the site to work. Fortunately, that was enough to do the trick. In the end, 19 downloads made the difference between winning and losing (full results are here). We made the top 7, coming in 4th place with 297 downloads, and winning the $507.

If Rob and Ken hadn’t been in such a tight battle for the top spot on the leaderboard, the mission could’ve been a total bust. Their efforts accounted for over three-quarters of the total activity. Only 11 people even signed up for the mission, and two of them apparently didn’t even post the banner.

Still, I’ve got to hand it to ReverbNation. The automatically generated emails they send out to street team members are ugly, but beyond that I can’t think of anything they could do to improve the feature. If I wanted more participation, I could’ve offered a bigger reward, or perhaps counterintuitively, no reward.

Armed with 20/20 hindsight, I present my step-by-step guide to launching your own street team mission:

  1. Recruit. First, email your entire mailing list. Explain what a street team does and ask them to sign up. Provide step-by-step instructions for doing so.
  2. Choose reward(s). To discourage gaming, I suggest you come up with something that your fans will value, but wouldn’t fetch a large sum on eBay. Knowing that many of my street team members are musicians themselves, I offered the choice of a collection of Color Theory rarities OR mastering their next release (full details are here).
  3. Get commitments. After a few days have passed, email your street team. Start by describing the reward(s), then explain exactly what you’ll ask them to do. Insist that anyone willing to participate let you know by replying to the email.
  4. Make the call. Does the response justify the mission? If not, email back your potential participants to tell them you won’t be moving forward at this time. If your fans aren’t eager to recommend you to friends and family, maybe your music isn’t where it needs to be just yet.
  5. Launch the mission. Uncheck the box marked “Notify Street Teamers of New Mission when it becomes Active” to prevent ReverbNation from automatically emailing your street team. Instead, create your own personalized email to the team asking everyone to join the mission. Provide step-by-step instructions for doing so. Email your committed participants individually to thank them in advance for their help.
  6. Recruit again. Email your entire mailing list with a full description of the mission and reward(s). Provide step-by-step instructions for joining the street team and mission. Invite them to email you with any questions.
  7. Monitor and support. Update the mission with suggestions and encouraging comments, every step of the way. Make sure the members at the top of your leaderboard are playing fair and promoting you in appropriate places.
  8. Say thank you. When the mission ends, email your entire mailing list to thank the street team for their help. Congratulate the winners, mention the rewards, and yet again provide step-by-step instructions for signing up for the street team.

Let me know how it goes!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with fifteen years of experience promoting his seven Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

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Reader Comments (18)

Hi Brian,

ReverbNation has fantastic tools, it has to be one of the best music sites out there in that regard. RN, like My Space is also dead - been that way for quite a while. The only thing keeping artists there (including me) is that it is one of the few that allows your music to be posted onto a Facebook page. The widget tools are also excellent for use on other sites.

The problem is that the majority of "fans" tend to be ........ other bands or artists. So, like My Space & OurStage and countless other "music sites", unless you already have fans, it is a case of musicians trying to promote their music to ..... other musicians. Not what you really want to be doing is it?

Also, read some of the RN forums to get an idea how certain features of the site are. To their credit, RN support follow through for problem resolution and keep you informed as to what's going on.

Let's face it, average music fans have heard of iTunes and a few other online sites - that's where THEY are, not ReverbNation.

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Shaw

I am working on a new project and I am going to be putting music on ReverbNation when I am finished. Thanks for this great guide. It definitely makes me think about how I am going to be using the site to do marketing.
- Chad
http://sharpmusic.wordpress.com

January 18 | Unregistered CommenterChad Sharp

From my perspective, ReverbNation seems to be thriving because it has the best tools for artists. For the most part, those tools are intended to be used on other sites. If I make a fan through reverbnation.com (musician or otherwise), I consider it a bonus! For what it's worth, 30% of my mailing list subscribers are ReverbNation members.

January 18 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Hi Brian,

all I'm stating is that you should analyze who those "fans" are on RN. Literally, go through each "fan" that you have. Are they a member of another band? A Producer? Sound engineer? What percentage of the total are you finding? 10%? 30%? 60%? How many of them are actually going to buy? How many have?

I used to be on OurStage (typically in the Ambient/Chill Channel) and did an analysis of the most successful artist in the Channel - multiple #1 finishes. She had 60% of her "fans" as other artists on OurStage ..... 60%!!! Not good. Notice the past tense too. She realized it wasn't helping to move her career forward and left it.

Ask ReverbNation for a site breakdown of the percentage of people who are there simply to listen to the music and have no affiliation with a band or artist. i.e. a REAL fan - one that may actually buy a song or album. ReverbNation does have excellent tools - but none that will break down this vital statistic. Neither does My Space, nor OurStage, nor ....

RN is just one site - it's been around for quite a few years and has never come close to matching My Space (even with these excellent tools). Why is that? Perhaps RN fell into the same trap of drawing initial interest from bands only to find out they were trying to market to other bands.

For some interesting thoughts, I highly recommend checking out Bob Lefsetz's letter:

http://www.lefsetz.com/

Just click on the archive and you'll find multiple blogs.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Shaw

I appreciate your thoughts on the matter Stephen! I'm a fan of The Lefsetz Letter as well.

I disagree with your premise that musicians aren't real fans. For the purpose of this discussion, let's go with your definition of a fan as someone who might actually buy a single or album. Well, I'm a musician, and I buy music! In the era of GarageBand, who ISN'T an aspiring musician?

While I've never thought to dissect the numbers, plenty of CD orders through my web site are from musicians. They're the ones who email me back in the same thread as the PayPal notification, asking how I pulled off a certain production trick, what mic I use for vocals, etc.

That said, I agree on OurStage. The fan/musician ratio is crazy low (except during the last week of the month), and the overall vibe is competitive rather than collaborative. Still, making friends with other musicians seems like wise strategy if the goal is simply to win some cash. I've made a handful of fans through the site, but not enough to justify my time.

ReverbNation is not, and has never striven to be, another MySpace. While it does offer some basic social networking functionality, the primary focus is tools for musicians. If you're using those tools to promote to other RN members, you're doing it wrong.

January 19 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Reverb Nation RULES!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterColie Brice

Good post Brian - yet again. Actually I think you did very well, about 20% of your mailing list wanted you to get the $507. Pitty is wasn't $700, odd amount $507! Anyway, if it was $700, do you think the percentage would have been higher or lower? BTW I didn't download, sorry - Ooops!

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterIan

I'm not sure a couple hundred more bucks would've made any difference in the final count, but I actually think the $507 thing was a stroke of genius. So many people asked me what the extra $7 was for!

I'll remember to nag you with a few extra emails when the next promotion rolls around. ;)

January 19 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I'm continuously impressed with ReverbNation. They execute really well. To the point made above about promoting mostly to other musicians; even if that were the case I don't think it's a bad thing at all. Musicians are music lovers and they can offer each other fantastic opportunities, collaborations, joint tours, joint promotions etc... I wouldn't consider another musician any less valuable a fan than a non-musician fan.

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterMike McCready

If the fan/musician ratio (for any site) doesn't have a major skew in favour of the fans, the site is limited. The general public needs to be the driving force for sales, not bands trying to sell the music to each other.

The general public is my definition of where the "real" fans exist. They are the ones that must be engaged if there is to be true growth in a fan base and/or sales for a band/artist. Can a musician be a "real" fan? Of course! But if you aren't engaging all that you can or should be ......

Is ReverbNation, itself, effective in drawing in a growing base of listeners from the general public? I never hear them mentioned or written about in the media. THAT needs to change.

Brian, out of all of this ......... the best thing you did ............ was to thank your fans!! :-)

January 19 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Shaw

The tool in itself is great - having it work is a little more difficult.

In my mind, it's all in the prize. Either spend the money on something cool or get creative with it - maybe play a private show or offer backstage access or something.

January 20 | Unregistered Commenterevolvor

@stephen said
"If the fan/musician ratio (for any site) doesn't have a major skew in favour of the fans, the site is limited."

By that logic, every Artist should move to New York or L.A. b/c the fan density is highest there.

You need to dig in on what Reverb is offering a bit more to understand how it helps you. You even say that you use it b/c it helps you take advantage of facebook (where all the fans are right now), yet you trivialize that function. We all need tools that help us best tap into those high density places. I've been using the site for 2 years, and they help me get the most out of all of the other social nets from one location. I think that is their mission and they succeed at that, big time. The value is huge, and I look at Reverb fans as a bonus, just like Brian does. It helps Artists tap into New York and LA (figuratively) even if they don't live there. That's huge.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterJason

"By that logic, every Artist should move to New York or L.A. b/c the fan density is highest there."

Plenty of artists do follow that logic... and it is logical.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterJustin

@Jason

There was a reason Taylor Swift kept going to Nashville and eventually moved there - and she's not the only one that's been successful going this route. NYC & LA definitely attract musicians & Producers - it is logical, not only b/c of the number of fans, but b/c of the number of venues, the recording studios, the talent already there, the number of events and opportunities ....

My main point is to focus your efforts where the MOST potential fans are ..... devote your time on that site. If you are looking to expand your fanbase, ReverbNation's tools will help - but not within RN itself. Music fans at RN?? They've never even heard of it! And, THAT is RN's problem to solve. All of these types of sites have the statistics - why won't they divulge them? Hmmmmm ;-)

Ironically, my RN widget is used by two people ..... on their .............. My Space pages !! LOL

Facebook is a social media site, not designed for music at all - you can't even upload a song directly onto the site and doing a video upload is extremely painful. The fans are all over at iTunes & YouTube, or many of the online radio stations, these days.

January 21 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Shaw

"Ironically, my RN widget is used by two people ..... on their .............. My Space pages !! LOL "

Um, that's the point of widgets, right? To take content from one site and post it on another. I don't see the irony, here. Is this just someone with an axe to grind, or am I missing something?

January 23 | Unregistered CommenterTina B.

@Tina B.

Not an axe to grind .... just pointing out a deficiency with My Space that was solved by RN.

Did you know, that, on My Space, as a band site, I could not add music from another artist's My Space page? Did it not occur to My Space that bands do actually support other bands? Apparently not. The workaround to that was to embed Youtube videos, use badges and RN widgets. THAT is a credit to RN. And, on RN, I can have the "favourites" which allows people coming to my RN page and the ability to hear the other bands too.

Also, I have stated on several different posts that the tools and service from ReverbNation is excellent!

I am merely questioning, trying to get musicians to think - where is the best place to promote yourself? Put the effort there. And, that place, is probably multiple sites, not just RN.

This is an universal problem with online forums, such as this - assumptions are made (usually negative), comments are taken out of context, "tone" of comments is interpreted, etc.

Essentially, I just want to see the deserving bands move forward and realize they can make a living. Online resources are one tool to that end. ReverbNation is one of those online resources but it is NOT the ultimate site, neither is My Space, nor OurStage, nor iTunes, nor Spotify ....

January 24 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Shaw

Stephen:

I thought your blog was quite interesting and informative. As head of street team management and audience development, I am currently shopping around for a Street Team Management software, and Reverb Nation was one of them I was looking at. Your blog provided a great step by step account of what to expect, and I'm wondering what separates RN from other providers.

January 26 | Unregistered CommenterAustin Invisible

Great post, Brian.

Regarding the fan/artist debate; I believe having another artist really liking your music is more beneficial than a few more fans, as a genuine praise by that artist amongst her/his fans would entice more people to pay attention to your music. That is, manifold increase in fan base!

~ RokZRooM

June 7 | Unregistered CommenterRonak R.

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