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Thursday
May092013

Why and How ReverbNation Lost My Love

Summary: There was a time when I used ReverbNation daily to connect with fans, promote my music, and grow my network. Things were great. But then things started changing and I began using the platform less and less. I used to be an advocate for their services and now I find myself telling people not to bother.

Below I will share my perspective and experiences with the platform simply to provide insight to those who want it.

If you want to know why I wrote this before reading, feel free to skip to the why.

In the beginning…

Back in 1999, when I decided BUNKS was the musical direction I would take into the future; we chose to stay independent and use the Internet to promote and market the music.

There was no social media back then [as you currently experience it] but there were other ways to find and engage with the music community.

We were involved with various online communities through message boards and forums.

We engaged with hip hop heads on Rapmusic.com, Flowdoctors.com, Spitraw.com, and poetry forums such as Floetix. These communities were excellent places to make friends, share music, and collaborate with others. Unfortunately, Rapmusic is the only one that still exists.

Outside of Soundclick.com and Mp3.com (no longer exists). There was this other [developing] platform known as ReverbNation. I created BUNKS’ profile and began using the service to connect with fans.

From a marketing standpoint, it is important to be where people are so this was another reason for choosing to use the platform.

Everything was great. People listened to our music, they took time to leave us messages, and other artists would communicate with us about collaborations and swapping gigs. When we put our first album on iTunes, we saw sales.

As the web evolved and ReverbNation grew, the company obviously had to evolve and change with it. A lot of RN’s changes over the years have revolved around monetization and finding ways to charge musicians for premium services.

The price of not doing research

Many people accuse ReverbNation of preying on naïve artists. And I will have to agree with that [to a certain extent].

As much as we like to point fingers and blame others, it is YOUR responsibility (as an artist in chrage of your career) to educate yourself, seek guidance, and strategize before pouring money into anything…especially music promotion.

It’s not ReverbNation’s fault you pay them $250 for an advertising campaign that might do little to nothing for your music. You pay them, they provide the service….it’s not really their problem if your ads suck or nobody clicks on them. Their job is to give you ad impressions on the major sites like MTV, Rolling Stone, and what have you.

It’s also not their fault you are paying $17.95 a month for them to host your website when you could be using another service like Bluehost for $4.95/month.

Another thing that has always bothered me is the fact you have to spend $12.95/month for RN to host your RPK. That would be ok but you then have to pay anywhere from $5 to $20 just to submit that RPK to a gig, festival, or licensing opportunity.

You can see how quickly costs can start adding up.

If you are spending $250 to promote a show, will you make $250 at this show to cover that cost? If you are spending it to drive sales, how many sales do you have to make at .99 per song and 9.99 per album to recoup your expense? If you spend $250 submitting to gigs and other opportunities, will any of those opportunities move your career forward in a way that is worth that much?

There are plenty of bands who have the luxury of throwing money at the wall, but are you one of them?

Let’s say you pay $12.95/month for your RPK and then you spend around $50 to submit to 5 opportunities…that never respond to your submission. You just flushed that money down the drain.

Alternatively, I could use musicSUBMIT to create an EPK and then spend $99 to have that EPK submitted to 200 college radio stations that play urban music.

Would you rather have a chance at 5 opportunities or take your chances at earning new fans from 5 new radio stations? You are in control so you have the luxury of making this decision on your own.

There is no right or wrong answer, only what is right for the path you are walking.

With all of this said, (in a sense) they are taking advantage of naive artists - but they are not the only ones guilty of doing this online.

However, I am sure plenty of bands use ReverbNation’s premium services and are doing just fine. Remember, this is my perspective based on my experiences.

Integration with Myspace

The moment my enjoyment of ReverbNation began declining is when they integrated with MySpace and allowed bands to blast emails to their MySpace friends (on top of their FanReach mailing list).

The moment this happened every band on MySpace and ReverbNation began spamming the hell out of each other. Why? Because they know no better. Musicians are musicians…not marketers.

In 2008, I made money via digital downloads promoting through MySpace but when they integrated with ReverbNation it all came to a screeching halt. In fact, every thing I enjoyed about Myspace quickly went away. I have spoken with others who have shared this same experience so I know I am not alone.

Now, when I would log into MySpace, I would find 50+ messages in my inbox of nothing but ReverbNation FanReach blasts. This was a daily occurence.

It was aggravating, annoying, and a HUGE turn-off.

It suddenly became near impossible to effectively market music through Myspace because the fans were now pissed off by the RN band spam. Myspace was already dying but this put the nail in the coffin for me.

Also, more and more as time passed, it became clear that the only people signing up for RN FanReach mailing lists were other bands hoping you would subscribe back to return the “favor”. Band spam does me no favors…neither do mailing lists with a 1% open rate.

This might have sparked the mass migration to Facebook (especially bands) but I have no data to back up this speculation. I remember a time when Facebook meant nothing to music marketing but obviously this changed with the launch of Pages.

I will say that ReverbNation’s FB apps for band pages are/were pretty groovy but there are so many other options for Facebook this comment really has no weight.

The integration of Myspace with ReverbNation was the beginning of the end for me.

ReverbNation Promote It

ReverbNation is always changing, adding, and editing features but the next big thing that came after the Myspace fiasco was RN’s advertising network - Promote It.

Now, if I had the money to spend AND knew I could get my return on investment (ROI), I would use this…but I am satisfied with Twitter Ads, Google Adwords, and Facebook Promoted Posts so I will stick with what works for us.

For $250 on up to $XXX, you can run advertising campaigns through ReverbNation that reach large networks such as MTV, Rolling Stone, CMT, VH1, Amazon, Datpiff, and many more.

Nearly every time I log into ReverbNation now, I am asked to start my free trial. But when I try to go through the steps to start my free trial, I get  asked to pay so I have yet to try Promote It.

However, I do know that you can spend LESS money on other advertising networks and get MORE results.

For example, I can pay ReverbNation to promote a show on Facebook… but I could also just go to Facebook, set up an ad campaign for the show, and spend a lot less money to reach a larger, more precisely targeted audience over a longer period of time.

Since I cannot give you a proper analysis of Promote It, I will simply share my thoughts about it.

ReverbNation has a strong list of powerful networks which display their advertisements but unless you 1) have the budget, 2) have a solid strategy, and 3) know what you are doing or have guidance - it will turn into a waste.

If ReverbNation offers thorough help documents or any type of education program for PromoteIt, I am not aware. It would be nice if they did.

I say this because the average musician is not going to understand online advertising and marketing…much less how to plan, execute, and target an effective ad campaign.

You’re not expected to know these things, you make music!

In my opinion, the price that RN charges to run these ads is not worth your dollars. Most DIY, indie musicians I know do not have the resources or funds to spend the type of money ReverbNation asks for their premium services and advertising.

Conclusion

Since we have been on the indie, DIY path for over 10 years…we are speaking to those of you just like us.

If you have a label, agency, or management behind you and can work with a decent budget, then your experiences are going to be a lot different on ReverbNation than mine have been.

What is the take away from all of this?

  • THINK (critically) before acting blindly - especially when it comes to spending money to market your music. You can only be taken advantage of by your own ignorance.
  • Do NOT pigeonhole yourself to one service or network. If ReverbNation works for you, then it works for you but if Facebook gives you better results…go spend more time on Facebook.

ReverbNation is a huge company that has been doing what they do for many years. I don’t see them slowing down any time soon.

Why write this?

Once I got out of college and began working as an online music marketing consultant, it has been uber important for me to keep up with everything going on in the online sphere.

I am asked often “why facebook?”, “should I use reverbnation?”, “why do I need a website?”, and other related inquiries.

After being asked the same questions over and over again, I decided to start blogging about marketing music on the web.

The most visited article (every day) on the Middle Tennessee Music blog is titled 3 Ways To Improve Your Rank on ReverbNation.

The interesting thing is this article was published in 2011, but it is still one of the most viewed posts on the entire site. RN has even gone through 2 or 3 site re-designs since it was published.

100% of this traffic comes from search engines and people who are looking up info about ReverbNation. Below is a short list of the search phrases people use when they find this article.

  • what do you do with reverbnation band equity
  • how do i get higher ranked on reverbnation?
  • how to get more reverbnation fans quickly without paying?
  • where do you leave comments on reverbnation
  • reverbnation charts important?
  • how do charts work on reverbnation
  • reverbnation chart ranking formula
  • …and many, many more

This means people all across the globe are working ReverbNation and trying to learn how to improve their band equity and chart ranks.

You can also see that people want to know how to use RN to grow without spending money. I see the search phrase “how to cheat reverbnation charts” pop up in our tracking data consistently.

This article is simply me sharing all of my thoughts, observations, and experiences in hopes to provide some insight.

 

About Joshua Smotherman 

Known as the fertile father of 3, Joshua is also a songwriter, producer and an entrepreneur. Since 1999, he has been writing and performing as BUNKS and has launched Middle Tennessee Music and Middle Tennessee Hip Hop. He also acts as consultant, webmaster, and online marketing director for bands, indie labels, and small businesses.

Reader Comments (6)

Excellent piece, Joshua. It's important that artists share their experiences in so much detail, and in an unbiased, "test it out" way. I hope this helps many artists out.

May 16 | Unregistered CommenterJames Moore

Joshua, I'd love to have a conversation about this with you and win you back! How do I reach you?

At a very minimum, I need to correct a few things that are not accurate in your story:

1. Our Reverb Press Kit (RPK) costs only $5.95 per month, not $12.95/month
2. Our Promote It product campaigns start at $35 minimum, not $250. The only campaign that starts higher than $35 is the 'promote a release' campaign, which starts at $199 I think.
3 Promote It does offer a free trial - its for the promote a song or promote a show campaign types.

More importantly, I'd love to talk with you to learn how, in your opinion, Reverb could be doing a better job driving value for you.

Best,
Jed Carlson
President, Co-Founder
ReverbNation.com

May 18 | Registered CommenterJed Carlson

I'm not sure there is any "winning me back" but thanks for reaching out and correcting my errors.

If you really want to add value to RN for the average, DIY, indie artist - then put together some type of education program that walks us through your platform, how each feature works, what the advantages are of using your premium services, and provide us with some real life case studies of how these services have helped artists who use them.

If you already provide this, then figure out a way to make that information more prevalent...

Watching our site's SEO/analytics shows me that the entire world wants to know about your platform and how to use it.

Even if you were to somehow "win me back" I cannot financially commit to any of your services without knowing (with 0 doubt) that I would somehow be able to earn my money back. With life, kids, being a DIY, indie artist, and everything else I am doing with my life - the ROI does not look practical for the lack of budget I (and most DIY musicians in today's world) have to work with.

Like I said in the article, I am sure you guys work great for bands who have a support system and a budget to run with, but I am speaking directly to the average, DIY musician who has no budget but trying everything possible to take advantage of the web.

I still use your platform for certain things so it's not like I ever left, I just want artists who are new to using the web to think before wasting their money (and being pissed off about it later).

I plan on writing articles in the future that are less critical of the platform and geared more toward the ways I still find it useful (via free services).

I received a lot of e-mails, messages, and comments when I first published this on my band's blog so I wanted to see if MTT would let it through.

Thanks again for reaching out. RN is doing great things but the bottom line is that indie artists need to THINK before they ACT, specifically when it comes to spending money to promote music.

May 19 | Unregistered CommenterJoshua

Didn't Jed Carlson consider this worth a reply?
Doesn't exactly inspire confidence for a newcomer (like me) to invest time in using Reverbnation!

October 22 | Unregistered Commenterplanetqwerty

I can't even figure out how to upload my music, the site is so poorly designed, I just want an UPLOAD button!

January 16 | Unregistered CommenterBrooke Saunders

Joshua, great article.... and I am impressed by RN's response and yours. Being new to RN, I appreciate where you are coming from, and I was already cautious about the pre-mature frenzy to promote, promote, promote. Anyone can tell you, I am pretty good, but not that good yet.

So... I am in a honeymoon period with one great payoff from Reverbnation: I find the Crowd Reviews very honest,helpful, and encouraging, with the good far outweighing the bad (translation...brutal... example, one reviewer dislikes me so much that I was advised to leave music immediately..LOL. I loved it.).

The RN Crowd Reviews are a HUGH incentive for me to focus on the things that need work, like production. I have had radio airplay before and have a songwriting track record, so, while finding some amusement from brutalistic comments I probably needed to hear, I am also charged up to work on the couple of tracks with production flaws and vocal lazyness. Without RN, I probably would never have found that focus.

And for some reason, I didn't at first get the significance of the fact that RN is about the "artists", and not about the song. It is all important, but songwriters are not necessarily artists, and I am looking for a songwriters site that is a RN "look-alike", if that makes any sense.

Your take away from your article is so on point, and pretty well balanced as to RN and who-needs-what from RN. Very, very good and inciteful article. Thanks for posting. Cheers, Ron Patrick

January 17 | Unregistered CommenterRon Patrick

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