Promote your band on free mp3 services
… and do a good free job for the major labels and owners of those services. How do those free mp3 services actually make money? How can they afford standing firm behind the independent scene and helping the million of promising young artist to get some attention?
They do not do anything of this sort – to the contrary, you are the useful tool who is going to do the job and earn money for them.
Just to clarify: I picked Soundclick and Lastfm just as random examples, I try not to mention others because I do not want to promote them for free, that is all. The business model is roughly the same for all those free mp3/band promotion/social sites. Of those Lastfm actually has some value (and is not purely free-mp3/social), as a measuring tool, but this is outside of the scope of this article.
Before we start, a little riddle to solve for you:
Try and guess how many song plays in a year’s time you will get on Reverbnation without promoting your profile? You will find the answer in the last paragraph of this article.
The useful tool: yourself
You are looking at one of the free mp3 / social sites and think it may be a good idea to use them to promote your band. You have nothing to loose, you give your music away for free anyway. So you create a profile, upload your songs and… guess – nothing happens.
You are getting an odd visitor or two a month and that is it. You go to the help section of your free mp3 service and bingo, here it is – “how to increase the number of your visitors”. So how? Very simply – pay for various premium services.
Or, even simpler – advertise your profile, tell your friends, family members and their dogs, put the address up on all your promotional materials. Send emails, friend requests, ask anybody you can to join. Put it up on your Myspace. Easy, isn’t it?
Hold on a second, who is promoting who? The goal was to promote your music, and the effect is that you are promoting some exotic free mp3/social websites. They will be glad to make money off the traffic you generate for them, and sell the ads to the big guys in the music industry with corporate packages on Soundclick starting at 5000 US dollars. Instead of doing something for yourself, you have just done a great job for the free mp3 service owners – well done.
Thanks to yourself and thousands of other famous-to-be band members the guys in the big recording companies (same guys who mercilessly prosecute those downloading mp3s) have a medium to push their stuff through (if they do not actually own the service themselves). You will see all those famous burger kings among the ads on “your” profile on the free mp3 service – competing for the attention of the people you manage to get to go to your profile. Thank you for promoting Britney & Co.
To promote or not to promote?
It makes no sense at all to promote your free mp3 profile. It gives you no benefit, why should you advertise it? To get more visitors? But why on earth should you promote something you do not own and what does not work for you on its own? You have actually to promote the profile by yourself to get your visitors. I have seen reasonable people falling for this trap, do not feel ashamed if you did yourself.
What to do then? Is there an alternative? This obviously goes back to the mantra you have certainly heard already: make your own website. Hosting packages including domain registration can cost around 35 euro a year, with reasonable traffic allowance of about 50 gigabytes a month. Now you can promote something you really own. Your domain, your website, your band name. If you need more bandwidth, use the likes of rapidshare, but place the links on your own website.
If you are bored, you can make your profiles on Soundclick and other similar websites but do not be stupid and do not advertise them. If you get a visitor or two per month, ok – was it worth the hassle? But do not put the addresses on your promo materials, do not waste your time and effort on promoting somebody else’s business. Promote yours instead.
Premium paid services
The free mp3 sites usually offer some paid services, so it is worthy to give an example here. On lastfm you can get 100 guaranteed radio plays for 16.50 euro – about 25 bucks. Of those, 10 people will click “skip”(it was supposed to be 100 guaranteed plays – it is not, skips do count as played), two will ban your band (never play this again function – counts as played also), 1 will “love”. So 88 people will actually listen, if they are not in the loo, on the phone or walking their dog. You gained one fan for 16.50 euro.
You must be joking guys. Tried it once, never again. At ten times cheaper it would still be too dear from the bang-for-your-buck point of view.
For this money (16.50) euro I can have roughly 300-400 unique visits to this website of which over a half of the visitors will listen to at least one song and browse a couple of pages and a quarter of them will download a whole album, and a couple of them will sign up for the newsletter, and one-two will place some link back on their website, blog, on digg and so on.
Here I am the king, I can do and say whatever I want, I can slag the rich and famous and nobody can delete my profile for the violation of some vague terms of “service”.
How does this compare to the “value” of the premium service offered by lastfm? Odd 88 guys having listened / not listened to one song? Just forget about it.
For 16.50 euro I can have half a year of stable web hosting, domain registration included – and I can concentrate on promoting only one address, the one I own and control, an address where nobody can display bands’ and vacuum cleaners’ ads and distract my hard won visitors by offering services to them.
So, to put it all together: if you read closely the help files of your free mp3 service, you will quickly realize, that it will not do anything good for you until you pay. If you do not pay, at best you will get some accidental views of your profile. Even when you pay, you will not get value. Their goal (if not the main goal) is to trick you into doing something for them – usually promoting their website for free (advertise your profile to everybody and his dog) generating traffic and providing free content, so they can make money on ads displayed on “your” profile.
Mp3 site profile on your promo materials
Having a lot of different addresses on your promo stuff sends a confusing message – what is the right one to contact you? Which one contains the complete information? If a potential fan chooses to go to your Sounclick profile instead of your regular website (because he is curious what the hell this thing is) you have lost already. Instead of concentrating on your music, your visitor will rather try to discover this new website, or click on an ad, or do everything but what you actually want them to do. Well done, you have gone all the way through with the ball, to hand it over just feet before the goal. Again, Britney & Co thanks you for your cooperation.
In my opinion there should be only two addresses on your poromo material: your website – bigger and emphasized, and your myspace, clearly marked as less important (also see etc). The reason for putting myspace is, that for a lot of people this is the only mean of communication, they use myspace’s private message system instead of regular email.
You can easily skip all the exotic free mp3 addresses, because putting them in will not do you any favor, and can potentially hurt you by diluting your message, confusing your fans and distracting them from your goal – to familiarize them with your band and music.
You can try to use the free mp3 services, usually with no or little effect, but never give them the free promotion, concentrate on promoting yourself, your music, your own website. Play it smart and please, do not be another useful tool in the hand of those in free mp3 business.
Now the answer to our little riddle: about a year ago we created Bodycall’s profile on Reverbnation. The results are really awesome: a whooping 4 (yes, four) song plays – in a year’s time. One play every three months. I think I played once myself to check if it works.