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What Artists Should Know About is a platform for trading recommendations with other artists on Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. You “buy” recommendations using a virtual currency called band bucks, which can be purchased outright for real money or earned by recommending other artists.

Creating a promotion is deceptively simple. You start by writing the recommendation and adding a link: 

create promotion

I say “deceptively” because I managed to botch my first one, to the tune of 48,043 band bucks. You’re supposed to put your link in the URL box and then click “shorten URL,” which appends a link to the message. I wanted people to see where the link went, which makes it more likely to be clicked, so I didn’t shorten it.

My heart sank when I saw that my first recommender’s status update was missing the link. I immediately withdrew the promotion, which only removes it from the pool of promotions artists can accept. I still had to pay for every pending recommendation, even though some were scheduled weeks ahead!


The rest of the options are relatively straightforward. Choose your networks, genres of artists who can recommend you, and any particular artists you’d like to add. To restrict the promotion to a certain city (US only), start typing its name and hope it appears in the drop-down box. You can set the campaign to run for 3, 7, 14 or 30 days.

Surprisingly, you can’t choose how many band bucks to allocate to a promotion, which makes it difficult if not impossible to split test multiple campaigns. Weak!

My Results

I’ve run four promotions over the two months I’ve been using The first three are identical (beyond the missing link in the first), hyping a “best of” set I made available for free download through Christmas:

Depeche Mode and Postal Service fans, grab this Color Theory best-of album now, while it’s free!

The fourth references a fan favorite from my Depeche Mode tribute album:

Color Theory covers the Depeche Mode classic “But Not Tonight”


In total, I reached 111,318 “new fans,” as optimistically refers to those who could potentially see the status update. Those 111K exposures generated 67 clicks, 8 likes, and 1 comment.

You read that right: out of 122 status updates recommending my music, potentially reaching 111,318 people, exactly one person commented.  I would expect dozens if not hundreds of comments, even just “thanks for the link” or “not my cup of tea.” And eight likes - that’s it?

What are these artists’ recommendations worth when their fanbases are so disengaged? 

The overall clickthrough ratio of my four promotions was 0.06%. Contrast that with a long-running ad I’ve had on Facebook that’s pretty much identical to my fourth promotion. It’s averaging a CTR of 0.16% (at $0.16 CPC), and each one of those clicks is a like on my Facebook page!

Based on my results, I don’t think is worth paying for.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to!


Simply by connecting to SoundCloud, I got a six month pro account for free. I have yet to receive my monthly 300,000 band buck allowance, but I started out with over 100,000 band bucks! Check out all these bonuses (click to enlarge):

It’s a lucky thing too, because to put it nicely, I’m not finding many artists on that I can genuinely recommend.


I know I’m coming down hard on, but I really do love the concept. Here’s what I suggest:

  1. Measure influence accurately. One small tweak to the formula would account for the all too many artists with artificially inflated like/follower counts: The band bucks an artist receives for a recommendation should be equal to the number of exposures multiplied by the artist’s Klout score, expressed as a percentage. For example, if my Klout score is 50 and I recommend an artist to 10,000 of my fans, I earn 5000 band bucks (10,000 x 0.50).
  2. Let us cut our losses. If a promotion isn’t delivering the results I hoped for, I should be able to cancel it, effective immediately. Watching my band bucks drain away on that first campaign, due to - let’s face it - a design flaw (accepting a promotion without a link), made a lousy first impression.
  3. Review every promotion. I’m often asked to post a status update saying “check out my new song” - with a link to someone else’s song. Amateur mistakes litter the requests feed, making it even harder to find acts to recommend.
  4. Make campaigns flexible. Why limit them to 3, 7, 14, or 30 days? Let me set a daily, weekly, or monthly budget, or set a band buck ceiling. How about “set it and forget it campaigns” that continue running until they’re cancelled?
  5. Dump MySpace. This one’s a no-brainer. It’s hard to take any MySpace partner seriously in 2012. If you want to include a third social network, make it Google+.
  6. Tailor updates to individual networks. Nothing screams “spam” like Twitter hashtags on Facebook. On the other hand, a Facebook or Twitter update referencing a big name band (using @bignameband) exposes my promotion to a vastly larger audience. Let us customize our promotions using each network’s API, to maximize our reach.
  7. Embeddable players. Make a Facebook-embeddable player a la Bandcamp with a prominent “buy” button, that measures plays (partial vs skips), shares, and mailing list signups. People are more likely to listen if they don’t have to click off-site.

Until some of these changes are implemented, or I get my promised 300,000 monthly band buck allowance, I’m done with

Have you had better luck? Any other suggestions? Let’s hear about it in the comments!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with seventeen years of experience promoting his ten 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.

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Reader Comments (21)

I am with you. Great concept but my results were similar to yours. I was excited to use it at first and then it went nowhere. Perhaps it varies with genre.

February 9 | Unregistered CommenterCorey Koehler

Honestly, this feels like another parasitic "promotion" service without real-world value. These recommendations are not authentic "by design", who would expect any serious feedback?!

These are exactly the kind of empty promo messages that make me unfollow/block people. I love good music recommendations, and I'm sure they are the key aspect in today's music promo. But they must be authentic.

Make it easy for your real fans to share your stories, music and videos. Make it easy for them to recommend you. A simple website with easily referable or embeddable assets, a proper page structure and prominent sharing helpers like "+1" or "Like" buttons will work wonders. Nobody will recommend you without actual content: A picture, and news/blog entry, a soundcloud player, whatever. Better save your money for designers/photgraphers/internet companies to set your content up properly. People won't share your stuff if there's nothing to share.

Ask your fans to share and recommend you. Many forget to communicate this simple thing. Offer a "buy one album and share another for free with a friend" deal or similar.

The actual promotion of the content via Twitter, Facebook and your Newsletter is then just a matter of minutes and a lot of fun (the best part of the day IMHO). No need for another middle-man between you and your fans.

February 10 | Unregistered CommenterFabien

I agree. Better to focus on content that can be easily recommended than to focus on the actual recommendations. Kind of putting the cart before the horse.

The folks at have read the article and promised to respond, so hopefully we'll see some improvements soon.

February 10 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I use this site all the time and since using it, I have seen sales rise across the board. Your mistake was your mistake and not to be blamed on the site. Accept some promos and earn bucks. I have over 7 moillion. I can't spend them all. That is my only gripe.

What mistakes did I make Dan? How could I better structure my campaigns to get better results? What kind of CTRs are you seeing?

I've heard from at least a dozen people whose results mirror mine, but you're the first happy camper.

February 12 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Hi Brian,

Thanks for taking the time to put together this blog post detailing your experience. Even when feedback isn't entirely positive, we always appreciate hearing from our users.

Headliner is a user-generated recommendation platform. We let all the artists on our site write their own promotion messages and decide which ones to approve and share. As with all user-generated content, the quality varies depending on each user, so we offer suggested messages, as well as email, Facebook, Twitter and live chat support to help artists brainstorm.

We understand musicians are often on a budget, so we offer the service for free. Our virtual currency, Band Bucks, allows artists to leverage their fan base in place of spending money. When you sign up , you automatically get Band Bucks for registering, for every social network you connect, and for every fan that you have on each network. Additionally, you earn Band Bucks every time you promote someone else. And anytime your promotions are deleted, you get your Band Bucks back.

In your case, you signed up through our free 6-month subscription offer on SoundCloud. We gave you 50,000 Band Bucks for registering and another 50,000 for the SoundCloud subscription. The 300,000 Band Bucks in your screen grab are the standard offer, so we will consider updating the graphic for this scenario.

On Facebook you have to pay for your ads, there is no free option for making your page more visible to music fans beyond your own social circle. Had you paid $ 30.00 for a subscription you would have had 400,000 band bucks. As your blog posts points out, your CTR was .06% so you would have had a CPC of $0.11 cents., better than Facebook ads. As a free user your CPC is $0.00, also better than $0.16 cents. you get on your current Facebook ads. Our main goal is offer artists an alliterative to buying Facebook ads by empowering artists to collaborate by recommending one another. This benefits all artists and allows us to offer a free option for our users–which we think is awesome.

Regarding the quality of engagement between bands and users, each artist manages their social media differently. Some artists are better at it than others. As for the fans, they can be notoriously fickle when it comes to clicking "Like" or "Follow." However, word of mouth is still the most effective marketing tool and that is why we believe there is value in the reach that we provide. We have over 100,000 artists on Headliner and the reality is that a lot of musicians are as confused by the social web as anyone else. We have tried to put as many support systems and filters in place as we can to help create a robust environment. We have recently made improvements to our algorithms with the specific goal of generating better matches between artists. When users point out "bad" pages or artists connected to our system, we reach out to the owners and in some cases, we close their accounts. We like your reference to Klout and we have been considering ways to build a similar function to identify bands with better engagement scores.

We are sorry the link shortener didn't work. Before you start any promo, we give you a chance to review and confirm the genres, networks, artists and the start and duration selected for each campaign. This gives you control over how many Band Bucks you spend. Additionally, you can stop any campaign at any time by simply clicking on "Withdraw this promotion." We have no problem crediting people when something goes wrong, so we'll gladly refund you the Band Bucks that you spent on that promotion.

Regarding adding a BandCamp-style player or widget, our goal is focus on our core function: exchanging recommendations. This is why we don't host uploads or sell music. We want to do one thing for artists right now: help them market each other for free. There are plenty of social networks out there, and we believe many of them are trying to be too many things to too many people. However, we will keep an open mind as we grow.

Even though you don't plan on upgrading to a paid subscription, (which we respect) we would like to point out that we do have many users who are very happy subscribers. Most of the acts in our year-end top 10 list for 2011 were independent artists who were paying for extra Band Bucks and reach. We can't guarantee the same results for everyone but we are willing to try our best. We hope you will see some benefit from the remaining time on your subscription and we look forward to helping any way we can. You can find plenty of tips, examples and screenshots on the blog, as well as more info in our FAQs and Artist Guide. Here are some links:

Thanks again for your input and for trying Headliner. We are all music loving geeks here, so we sincerely wish you the best of luck with your music, however you choose to promote it.



February 13 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Hernandez

I have seen CD Baby sales double. One I have running now is hitting 160 thousand fans. My only complaint is there is no way to spend everything you have or a chuck out it. Face it, 160 thousand is not anything from 7 million. Try expanding your genres. Do not just select your genre. Select multiples. Not many people like just one kind of music. Music fans like many different genres.

In Oct I did a heavy Promo for my halloween single. I made over 600 in digital sales that month.

Thanks for your detailed response Jorge! I'm grateful that you took the time, and the fact that you're so open to suggestions makes me optimistic about the future of the service.

"And anytime your promotions are deleted, you get your Band Bucks back." My understanding is that applies only to status updates that haven't already been scheduled. If you realize there's a mistake in your promotion, as I did with the missing URL, you're still on the hook for all scheduled updates, even if they are weeks in the future.

The 100,000 free band bucks seems more than fair to me, but since it said 6-month "pro account" I figured all the pro account features, like the 300K monthly allowance, were included. Thanks for clarifying.

Headliner vs. Facebook Ads. While it's hard to argue with free, I'm at the point now where I need to either buy band bucks or stop using the service. Sure, I could spend some time searching for artists to recommend, but that would only earn me 11K band bucks a pop for all three social networks. If my math is correct, that should generate about 6 clicks, which isn't worth the potential unfriends/unfollows.

While the CPC for a $30 spend may be better on Headliner, each Facebook click is also a like, which is much more valuable. I'd also be willing to bet that Facebook users are more engaged, considering the lack of likes, retweets, and comments on updates posted through

Hopefully that will change as you modify the engagement scores algorithm. One easy tweak would be to blacklist or penalize Twitter accounts following more than 1000 people, because obviously no individual can keep up with that many updates. The only reason for following more than a hundred people is to get them to follow back, to artificially boost your numbers.

Whatever you choose, I'm sure it will boost the ratios and engagement, and I look forward to what you come up with!

February 15 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Double post. Grr.

February 15 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Hi guys,

Dan, we'd like to talk to you more about the sales and how you've been using HFM. I'll be reaching out.

Fabien, thanks for the suggestions. We agree we have to make the messages better and we're working on several idea.

Please feel free to reach out directly, thanks!

Jorge /

February 20 | Unregistered CommenterJorge Hernandez

I just signed up for headliner fm within the hour and was curious about how successful it actually was; and was redirected here. I completely agree with everything you've mentioned and have decided no to even bother with the application. Thank you for the insight. Cheers!

thank you for review, Brian! you just save our time from useless tool.

August 25 | Unregistered CommenterPublic Different

There are so many of these services and none of them are great. You know what I've found works? Going to people's facebook/reverbnation/soundcloud etc pages, messaging them saying "hey, I'm a musician too, lets support each other"... and, if I had to put a percentage on it, probably 50%+ within each platform say high back and maybe 10% crossover and like you on several platforms. And then you can start communication with them. If you add 50 in a day (easy to do) thats 5 new fans a day... 150 in the month you coulda been sitting there waiting for people to respond to your "" campaign

November 21 | Unregistered CommenterFronz Arp

That's true Fronz, but I find that other musicians typically don't make for the best fans, because like you, they have their own music to promote. Not to say you shouldn't look into cross-promotional opportunities, but those should be directed towards non-musicians. IMHO.

November 22 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

Thanks a lot! That was about my impression when I just went through their FAQ and TOS - I didn't dare to hope finding a not only decent but obviously competent review of a promotion site. Only seven pages full of results repeating the same superflous PR-babble separated me from it :)

November 23 | Unregistered CommenterCosmodrome

Since it's been over a year now, I would love to read a follow-up article to see if your experience with Headliner improved at all (if you tried it again)!

March 3 | Unregistered CommenterRose Hemlock

Honestly, I haven't been motivated to try it again.

March 4 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

My 2 cents after a well planned month long campaign through a 180 plus “artists”

# 95% of the promoting artists have Facebook pages of which all news items are only promotions...So these are facebook pages that are a waste.

# You cannot exclude “waste” artists with no actual fans or real artists with thousands of facebook/twitter fans but no interaction on their pages. The clicks of people actual listening to a song for 3 seconds or more through these pages are none.

# Promotions by partner firms like Soundcloud are not accepted. After contact with Soundcloud they didn’t even knew what was. So if you expect to buy a promotion by a famous artist or partner company. Forget it. Not happening.

# Twitter and Myspace promotions. The waste of this is even bigger than through Facebook only promotions. Many have thousands of myspace and twitter followers. But close inspection just shows no activity or social media interaction. Waste of points (or worse $).

My conclusion; is a nice concepts but is very flawed in its execution. From a music marketing point of view is a waste of time and in my opinion money. The biggest drawback is that all social media is valued the same and you cannot enhance the quality of promotions by excluding 'artists'. When this will happen you will see that there are only few small artists with social media pages you want your promotions to run on.

March 29 | Unregistered CommenterFreddy

Great stuff Freddy! Thanks for the update. Seems like we'd be better off making the same sorts of arrangements directly with similar bands at the same level.

March 29 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

I am an Author and I started using it but just the free version. I see about a very small bump in sales in a two week period for a given promotion. Since I use the free version, and since I am a new Author, the free version seems worth it.

I agree, though, that it is hard to find promotions I would like to promote and earn points with. One key is to have followers. Since I have 3100 twitter followers, I get 3100 points when I promote.

December 26 | Unregistered CommenterJ. Abram Barneck

Hmm... I've got over 1M followers, so maybe I should give it another shot! Just one tweet would give me enough ammunition to test it thoroughly. It's been a long time since I wrote this article!

October 14 | Registered CommenterBrian Hazard

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