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Reverb Rip-Off and the Endless Music Circle

Is Reverbnation a good citizen in the music industry?


Reverbnation who currently boasts the title of being the #1 music site on the internet leads artists to believe that their tools, gadgets and widgets can help an aspiring musician achieve maximum success using their services.


There’s no doubt that with over 2.7 million musicians, venues, labels, and industry professionals Reverbnation must be doing something right. But what Reverbnation is really doing might surprise you. ReverbNation has managed to successfully mislead an entire generation of musicians and music professionals now for more than half a decade.


While Reverbnation uses phrases like “Conquer the web - more fans, opportunities, gigs, stats, and money” to describe what they can do for artists everything comes with a cost on Reverb.  To be a Rock star on the al-a-carte platform or at least to get the maximum use of their service ReverbNation offers a monthly subscription of $41.76 or $500.04 /per year, a generous 70% in savings as suggested by Reverbnation directly on their pricing page. But music is a business and one cannot be upset at Reverbnation for capitalizing on the market. What should disturb you is Reverbnation ‘s blatant disregard for the future of independent music, the artists they cater to and the 22 million unique visitors they mislead every month.


A closer look at ReverbNation revealed some very troubling facts to this writer that musicians should be weary of. The Reverbnation home landing page is always alive with fresh new faces of popular or top ranking artists on the music platform. These are usually the artists that rank in the top 10 positions in a specific region or part of the country; the motivational factor for an artist to sign up for an account. But something is very wrong with this system.


The music giant populates an artist’s rank using an algorithm that includes stats from other social sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook.  The problem with this: everyone knows that now a days you can buy twitter followers, Facebook likes and manipulate MySpace friends.


In the case of Cortez Carter ( for example Reverbnation reports that Cortez is the #1 ranked Hip-hop artist in Kansas City, KS.  According to ReverbNation the Kansas rapper has plus or minus 130K twitter followers, 90K MySpace friends and 3K Facebook like, roughly 225K fans according to ReverbNation’s calculation.


Additionally Cortez has about 300 Reverbnation fans of which more than half are other Reverbnation artists and less than 1000 total song plays on his profile page. Cortez does not have his YouTube channel listed on Reverb so he is missing a few stats; his YouTube channel: has 1 subscriber out of his 225k total fans and roughly 390 views in total.

My intention is not to discredit Cortez Carter as an artist, but is he really the Best Hip-hop artist in Kansas City, KS? You decide.


Cortes Carter and the many artist’s like him that use the platform as their secret ingredient to make it mainstream should really take a closer look at what they are really getting from the #1 music site on the internet.


Independent musicians must be cautious in today’s market because of the many companies out there vying for their business dollars, but at what cost? There are a few promising companies emerging in this space that I am keeping an eye on one worth mentioning is .You can read more about this new service here:


Bringing independent news to independent musicans- The independent music reporter

Reader Comments (8)

i,m a singer/ songwriter[ over 80original tracks, some available on[ most on u tube[ please google tim robinson100[ thank you[ plating gig [ camden rocks[ london 20th february[ thank you

January 29 | Registered CommenterTim Robinson

Although I can understand some of the frustration with our charting system (or any charting system for that matter), I thought it was important that I correct some of misinformation here.

Unless I have misunderstood this post, I think there are two main concerns going on here.

1. The author is under the impression that in order to go up our charts an artist has to be paying for one or more of our products or services.

This is simply false. Our charts do not reward artists that elect to buy any of our premium offerings, nor have they ever in the 6 year life of our charting system. I should know, as I am the inventor of the charting system algorithm at Reverb. In fact, when I checked the Artist Cortez Carter, it turns out that he does not pay ReverbNation for any products or services - which is the case with most of our Artists. The vast majority of what ReverbNation offers is 100% free to the Artist.

2. The author asserts that any chart which relies on data from 3rd party sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Myspace, etc. is, by definition, susceptible to manipulation due to the vulnerability of 3rd party sites to artificially inflated fan counts.

On this count, the author is not entirely wrong. Our charts do indeed attempt to take a broader view of the world beyond the activity on our own site, measuring dozens of inputs that come from activity on ReverbNation as well as the social web beyond our walls. We see this broader lens as an asset, not a liability. Our algorithm has measures within it that are designed to detect when manipulation may be occurring and then to discount those stats accordingly. It is not infallible, to be sure, but we spend time observing outliers and devising ways to mitigate the impact.

That said, I think there is a bigger issue at play when any chart system is devised to rank Artists. For starters, the system has to come up with a thesis about what it is trying to measure, exactly. In other words, what things should be included when determining an Artists rank? An infinite # of possibilities are out there. For example, should the rankings be based on Record sales? Streams? Fans? Concert attendance? Time on site? Growth rates of any of these things? The list is endless, and no matter the outcome, there will always be room for debate about it.

We have chosen to base our system (called Band Equity) on 4 basic concepts:
1. Breadth of fan base (and growth of it) - i.e. # of fans
2. Depth of fan base (and growth of depth) - i.e. engagement per fan
3. Recency of activity (and growth of it) - i.e. is the activity happening now, or far in the past?
4. Accessibility the Artist has to the fans - i.e. are these direct relationships between fan and artist, or just casual ones that the Artist themselves cannot directly tap into?

One can argue whether or not these are the right things to be measuring, and it would be a lively debate with no end. I'd be happy to discuss our approach 1-on-1 with the author of this post, and listen to their point of view, if they would have the courage to step out from behind the anonymous moniker and identify themselves.

We have always had an open dialog with our users about what they feel the charts should represent, and have made modifications along the way when good ideas that are implementable are put forward. But the bottom line is that no two people are going to agree exactly on what inputs should be used to create any chart system in this day and age, nor what the 'weighting' should be for those inputs.

I would be remiss if I didn't also point out that ours is just one measurement. Its not the end-all of charts, nor have we ever positioned it as such. Its just one company's attempt at a way of creating a feedback loop for its community. When you do something that increases your Band Equity, we want you to know what it was so that you may adjust your strategy and ultimately improve your outcomes as an Artist. But it isn't perfect, nor could it ever be. Hopefully, with the time and energy we spend on them, the charts get "better" all the time.

Jed Carlson
President, ReverbNation

February 2 | Unregistered CommenterJed Carlson

Who is "Independent Music Reporter" and what is his/her connection to, the only one of "a few promising companies emerging in this space" that this anonymous poster felt compelled to link to (along with a press release link, how unusual)?

Might his name be Garth Soshashi, CEO of AAMPP?

Check out AAMMPP's terms of service: "...unless we indicate otherwise, you grant us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, publicly stream audio and video, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, and display such content throughout the world in any media."

Perpetual? Irrevocable? Nothing in here about the artist's right to terminate the agreement.

Is AAMPP a good citizen in the music industry?

Compare to ReverbNation's terms: "You may terminate your participation in the Program for any reason at any time by completing the online Reverb Store termination form."

The fine print matters, people — read it!

And never take the word of someone who won't reveal their true identity.

February 14 | Unregistered CommenterJim Santo

I would hope that I am wrong but I find Reverbnation and Sonicbids both to be kickback schemes for these festival promoters who really have no intention of putting anyone on other than the artists who they were going to put on in the first place (i.e. Brooklyn Bodega, A3C and the like) Reverbnation will require a fee for me to submit to a festival however and of course to submit I have to be on Reverbnation in order to get consideration. (see what I mean?)

Of all the artists I know I don't know ANY who can tell me about anything good about reverbnation helping them. ESPECIALLY Hip Hop artists. Speaking for my act, all we have ever gotten from reverbnation were "pay to submit" opportunities for gigs and airplay by 3rd party "promotional service offers" all of which tell us in order to get more gigs or airplay on the stations that accept submissions and more attention, we have to pay more money. Of course Reverb also charges to get more "Promotion and marketing visibility" which leads an artist to not want to deal with reverbnation at all.

How is driving our fan traffic to a site that does nothing to benefit us and whose algorithms allow it to be manipulated like so. (Obviously I should just do my marketing everywhere else and let my reverbnation stats reflect that.) And yes youtube, twitter and facebook are all the same in terms of the number manipulation but at least our demographic will frequent those sites. Reverbnation is the only one who seems to benefit from the way they are set up. Maybe new to the business independent artists will benifit from Reverbnation but more established ones wont. I hope they improve these things about the site soon

February 15 | Unregistered CommenterPriestForever

ReverbNation is out there only for themselves and your money. Most artists are just barely scratching their way financially and cannot afford to pay such exorbitant prices to "get themselves out there" while the high profile artists would not even touch this or any of their promotions to be promoted. Be it 1st hand, 2nd hand or 3rd party, all are just after your hard earned cash. Kudos to the ones that come forth to expose ReverbStagNation.
I'm CEO of where Our Members Help Members to Succeed. We are Non Profit and do not charge a dime to promote artists. I find that ReverbNations comment here to cover their butts is a lot of "Beat around the Bush" Flin Flam. My major concern is that they take your money even if you have canceled any of their promotions in due time. I as one canceled the second day (when they said I had a trial grace period of 3 days) by their standard form and emailed them as well. They said they would send me an email before the true promotion period kicked in, which I never received (others as well) and still almost two months later they were taking money from my credit card to the tune of $175. Balderdash I say...RickyFingerz

February 16 | Unregistered CommenterRickyFingerz

It's a 'buyer beware' world we live in, so we need to make good and informed decisions about whom we choose to work with in our careers.For my money, (and career) I consider that an entity that tries to anonymously knock down what someone else built isn't the sort that I want my career and music associated with. To the extent that Reverbnation provides some useful free tools that I can use to promote my music in a limited way, I see no reason not to avail myself of the service and its traffic, but it's tough out here for a pimp, these days, and when it comes to purchasing services, I find it's good to read the fine print. Charts are really beside the point; there has never been a chart that can't be gamed, and for me and my fans who think like me, popularity is not a valid reason for pursuing a relationship with a band or brand of music in the first place.

My artistic and business integrity are important are me, however, so there are a few factors I consider before parting with any cash, and among them are rights, royalty rates and 'pay-to-play'. Rates are negotiable, and better dealt with in other fora, but 'pay-to-play' is unfortunately a part of the music landscape that's unlikely to die out, because as Mr. Barnum famously reported, there's a sucker born every minute, and like it or not, since we're open stakes players in this poker game of a business, the losers are apparently happy to subsidize the winners. I don't have to be happy about it, but I benefit from rubes who'll pay $12-$50 for a "chance" to get their band on a bill that they have literally no business being on. It's the reason I pay nothing for the bandwidth and server space that allows you to hear my music from anywhere, gratis.

That is ultimately what pays the bills at any number of music sites, and while it may not be unethical on the face of it, it provides tremendous incentive for unethical practices, which are almost certain to follow. Who doesn't remember the SonicBids scandal of a few years ago, where music festival advertisers were accused of accepting applications (and attendant fees) long after all festival slots were filled, and in some cases, after the the event was held, and/or cancelled? I'm aware that SonicBids and others have made strides in weeding out this sort of behavior, but the sheer volume, the number of offers from week to week almost guarantees that you need to be at least twice as diligent in weeding out iffy "opportunities" as these sites are, if only because the sites share the fees with the listing parties.To me, that's a red flag.

February 28 | Unregistered CommenterMojo Bone

Im a bit concerned about this site as well. We are the predominant band in our area and we went from 2 to 5th position and the number one position is a 19 yr old girl that has never seen a headline stage nor a damn gig on her on period. This site is much like the BBB as it does nit require payment nor does it promote that your "rank" will change with it. But I will tell you what as a business owner and a music MONEY TALKS and it F'ing BS… 2 to 5th in a day looks us up and you'll see

The Buck Naked Band Wadworth, ohio

Here's my story - I was about to submit a song through one of the Reverbnation's "free submissions", but just when I was about to click the final Submit button, there was this tiny little obstacle, the credit card number was required.... waaaait a minute, why would anybody want to have my credit card number, if it's a free submission?
Luckily it's relatively easy these days to do a little research in the internet. I also came across one of your earlier posts:

Thanks RickyFingerz! You're doing the right thing.
The bastards are counting on the numerous desperate souls globally, who sign up in order to submit this one song for free, and BANG - they're billed, second BANG - they're unable to unsubscribe (oh, and there is no person to contact), third BANG - they're not smart enough to close their credit card... so they get billed again.

If no authority is going put these crooks out of business, then let's hope that enough people would try to do a little background check at least, before typing in their credit card numbers.

May 9 | Unregistered CommenterDWL

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