I recently had to write a position paper for my internship over at Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR. Just figured I'd post it here! I hope you find it to be a great read about widgets for musicians.
Basically, visitors have been given more power to do what they want on the web. For example, when iTunes started offering individual songs for download as opposed to whole albums they captured much of the digital download market. This is living proof that web users love having this kind of control over their online purchases. A Fourth element of the Web 2.0 revolution is the concept of social networking. The insemination of websites like Myspace, Facebook and Twitter, and the concepts of blogging and podcasting have revolutionized the way people interact with each other, on both personal and business levels. Initially, these social networking & blogging sites were inhabited by individuals. Today, businesses are utilizing the evolving features these social networks & blogs have to offer in order to achieve success (eg. http://www.linkedin.com). One industry that is doing an excellent job utilizing social networks & blogs is the music industry. Both major-label & independent artists are creating, discovering & utilizing web-based applications in order to create buzz, expand their fan base & reach out to existing fans. One tool in particular, the “web widget,” is an extremely effective application musicians use to make social networking easier, and to achieve their desired success.
According to Webopedia.com, “when people use the word widget, in a Web 2.0 world, they are referring to piece of self-contained code — a small application actually, that opens up a doorway to a much larger application.” These pieces of code can be embedded into existing websites, and can do a variety of things. Widgets come in all shapes and sizes, and target different user audiences. However, widgets made for musicians to use function a bit different than consumer widgets. These tools usually fall within the following categories:
- Allow musicians to upload their music for purchase or free download.
- Link visitors to the other social networking sites the musician may have.
- Syndicate information (tour dates, contests, news, etc) to all of the musician’s social networking sites – the musician only has to update the information in the widget & embed the widget on each of their websites.
- Let visitors sign up for mailing lists & enter contests.
- Display musician’s videos posted at sites like Youtube, Vimeo, etc.
These widgets simplify information access for the visitor, so they don’t have to waste time searching five different websites for upcoming tour dates, or the most recent contest. Some even provide useful backend statistics that musicians can view and track in real-time to determine target demographics, frequency of hits, clicks and views, and much more. For example, ReverbNation and Facebook do an excellent job of collecting and processing all sorts of activity for artist pages; they make it extremely easy to comprehend for the musician.
Also, artists must understand the potential clout these widgets have to increase their reach and availability to potential and existing fans. With sites like Twitter, musicians can update their real-time status, giving fans the ability to view and comment on what musicians are doing at that exact moment. And there are Twitter widgets the musician can embed on each of his/her sites to display that status, so people don’t even have to visit their Twitter page if that is all the information they are seeking from the artist. This quick and easy access to information is making it much simpler for new & existing fans to connect with the musicians they love. If musicians find a way organize this information neatly and effectively on each of their sites, new fans will become easier to recruit and old fans will become easier to retain.
Musicians must also be aware that careful selection & organization of these widgets is just as important as the widgets themselves. If an artist decides to exhaust every option available to them and messily embeds 20 widgets on all 5 of their websites, the chances are that viewers will become quickly fed up with the clutter and leave your pages within a few seconds. This is extremely similar to the concept of dimensions of success for a business. The business must not try to excel in all 7 dimensions (cost, quality, speed to market, flexibility, customer support, predictability and safety and environment), but should focus on a combination of 2-3 dimensions that give them a competitive advantage. It is impossible for a business, as well as a musician (which can be considered a business in and of itself) to competitively distinguish themselves on all 7 criteria. This means that musicians should decide which widgets (dimensions of success) are most important to them, select their options carefully, and organize and utilize them effectively in order to make themselves stand out from their competition (other artists in their genre).
Through my experience with my own band and several internships I have worked for, I have come across dozens of these nifty tools. I have personally gone through this process of widget selection without the prior knowledge this document provides, so I’ve had the advantage of learning from my mistakes. My extensive journey through the world of widgets has helped me recognize some of the most effective tools available to musicians. The list below (in no particular order) describes some of the best widgets available to musicians that I have stumbled upon:
1) Music Glue (http://www.musicglue.com) – Quote from website: “…provides artists and record labels with all the tools required to release digital music globally in a way that engages internet savvy fans that currently expect to get their music for free.” The most effective service this website has to offer musicians is the ability to upload your music to their database and share it with fans for free. Fans simply have to be willing to give out their e-mail in exchange for a free song/album. The musician benefits from this because they can now add another potential fan to their mailing list. They provide a “music player”-based widget to embed on artist sites that links to the free downloads offered by the musician. If you don't like the music player widget idea, you can also just create your own custom banner and link it directly to your MusicGlue page (this is what I do for myspace, since they already provide you with a music player).
2) ReverbNation’s Mailing List Widget (http://www.reverbnation.com) – I have recently implemented this for my band. It is an excellent, free mailing list service for artists registered at ReverbNation. Artists simply place the “FanCollector” widget on their website, Myspace, Facebook, etc. and fans will have the ability to sign up for the artist’s mailing list. The widget is simple to embed, neatly designed and comes in several shapes and sizes.
3) YouTube (http://www.youtube.com) – The extremely popular video sharing website YouTube allows anyone to embed any video onto any website in the form of a widget. You can customize the size so it doesn’t screw up your websites’ layouts, which is a very important feature when it comes to organization.
4) ReverbNation’s Show Schedule (http://www.reverbnation.com) – This widget is extremely useful in helping musicians upload their tour schedule onto their websites. Instead of doing just that, musicians can upload all of their show dates into only the “Show Schedule” widget and embed it into all of their websites. This way, the musician only has to upload new shows in one location, which can be a huge time saver.
5) ReverbNation’s Press Widget (http://www.reverbnation.com) – Instead of having to upload all press clippings, reviews, blog blurbs and other musician buzz to several different websites, the Press Widget is a one-stop solution, much like ReverbNation’s Show Schedule. All musicians have to do is upload all of their press into this Flash-based widget and throw it up on each of their websites.
6) SNOCAP Store (http://www.snocap.com) – Recently acquired by iMeem, SNOCAP provides artists with a simple yet versatile online music store. Artists create an account with SNOCAP, upload their tracks to the database, name their prices, embed the widget on their site and start making cash! This widget makes the purchasing process extremely easy for fans since they won’t have to search for the artist on 3rd party sites like Amazon; they can purchase the music directly from the SNOCAP Store widget provided on the artist’s own websites. NOTE: It has been brought to my attention (do a google search) from several people that SNOCAP's customer service is very poor, and that IMeem is looking to be acquired, so this widget may be a bit risky to try out. I just wanted to give readers this heads up.
To conclude, widgets are a powerful tool for musicians in the 21st century. Because of the decline of physical CD sales in the music industry, artists must find creative and innovative ways to promote and sell their music online by using the technology Web 2.0 has to offer. Widgets make the exchange of information between the artist and the fan much more personal, efficient, and effective. These pieces of self-contained code act as gateways and filters for fans to help them find the artist information they are seeking. Web 2.0 is a doorway for musical success – if you are an artist and have yet to utilize the different elements of the new “web as a platform,” you are missing out on a considerable amount of potential fans, and potential profit. Get started today!
Sorry for the long-winded post but hopefully this provides some decent information! Feel free to comment.
Chris Bracco is an aspiring producer/music biz entrepreneur. Chris currently attends Penn State University, working towards a major in Business Management and minor in Music Technology. He is also currently interning for Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR, doing promotion for artists they represent. He also plays guitar in & manages a funky rap/rock quintet named "A.S.B.P.K."
If you would like to learn a bit more about Chris, please visit his personal e-portfolio, his blog or his band's website:
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Tight Mix -- The Future of Music & Audio Recording
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