Well, what is a good digital music strategy?

Le 25 mai 2010

Have you ever wondered how to succeed online as a music band? Hints and tips for a perfect digital musical strategy.

Version anglaise d’un article qui le mérite, dans lequel Virginie Berger nous donne l’ensemble des stratégies applicables en ligne pour les groupes de musique, ou ceux qui les entoure. Le document PDF est également disponible.

This article is also available in PDF and on Slideshare

What does it mean to be an artist in 2010? What is a record company? A music company? A recorded music company? How do we define and work on music marketing within an ever-changing environment?

“And what about music?” you might ask me. Surely, music is the core of everything. The artist should be able to offer a type of music in a place where someone will want to listen to it.

If only I had a good digital strategy...

Define your objective

First of all, you can’t throw yourself into marketing action, as small as it may be, without defining your objectives beforehand. It doesn’t mean you have to draw a 5 years business plan. But you need to define the results you expect from your action. What is your objective behind your action? Is it to improve your online presence? OK, but what for? Touring? To be signed? Do you want to sell records, products relating to your music (i.e: merchandising), gig tickets? How many? Why are you on Twitter? What are your expectations?

At present, we are witnessing an excess of actions in the music industry. Are there any results at the end of the day? What is the most important key? Time spent on actions or the final results from the actions?

Most people get frustrated with their online results because they confuse tactic and strategy. It seems that they prefer getting into action, even before defining the reason of their actions. My father used to tell me: “A vague objective leads you to perfect stupidity.”

Back to basics

Before starting off, let me remind you of a few tiny things:

> Not only do fans want to connect with your music, but they also want you to connect with them.

> Three steps for your expansion: getting attention, getting connected, and getting monetized.

> Adding value to what you create is the only way to compete with free of charge products.

> Cwf + RtB = $$$ (Connect with Fans + give them a reason to buy = monetization)

> Why get attention and get connected to your fans? Because the biggest issue in the music industry is not actually about the    price, but about the millions of content that is available. Nobody knows what to listen to and from what source? Which is why being visible and create a community space will give you a way to make money.

> You can’t force people to get into a relationship with you. But, on a daily basis, you can prove to them you are worth it!

Don’t forget: you don’t have to follow EVERY SINGLE thing I am describing. Focus on what’s important to you in terms of your objectives.

So, let’s get down to business: what will you learn from this white paper?

> If you are a band but don’t have a website, then you have just failed your career

> MySpace is so 2004, but it’s still a good idea to create your MySpace page

> Facebook, but why?

> Knowing your fans is vital, but what is the best data-analysis?

> Why register on Bandcamp? Because it’s like MySpace but slightly better

> You might not be Lady Gaga, but you can learn how to get 1 million of viewers on Youtube

> Why email and newsletter are still a weapon of mass seduction?

> Nobody uses Twitter but it reaches everybody

> Flickr, Wikipedia, Deezer, Spotify… strange words but you should use them!

> SEO is not a disease but a medicine actually

1 – Your Website

Everything goes very fast. What is hype now might not be in a near future (Don’t believe the Hype, never!)

MySpace was supposed to revolutionise the music industry. Now it’s Facebook (if you don’t have your fan page honey, then walk on the wild side), Twitter…

Some years ago, it looked very chic to own your MySpace URL. Not anymore. Twitter does. OK, but where will be Twitter in a few months time or a few years time? And what about the augmented reality? What for exactly?

To sum it up, what will you gain from it? ROI (Return On Investment) must be higher that your time spent on your action making. If not, it would mean you made a mistake about your action.

This is why your website has to be the core of ALL your online strategy.

Whatever exists, social networking, blogs, microblogs, your website only must be at the centre of it all. Microblogging will never replace blogging. MySpace will never replace your website. Staying uniquely on MySpace will NEVER get you to know your fans.MySpace is like a display that should lead them somewhere else. Mind you, social networks and your website are perfectly complementary. You need them all. Your external presence and outwards links must lead to your website.

A – Renew your content and offer it

Most of artists’ sites don’t offer their fans and visitors a real experience on their websites. They are usually static and motionless, and rarely updated. Your site has to be a channel of diffusion and distribution. It allows you to get connected to your fans, to get to know them, follow them and interact with them.

You should update it on a regular basis, so it matches the image you wish to project. You have to offer: photos, videos, music (I take responsibility for it: offer music). Your fans and visitors chose to come to your website, so they can meet you. But if you are not around, the experience won’t be rewarding for either of you. Fans won’t be waiting for two years, or in between albums, to receive news from you. You have to be there.

Offer as much content as possible. Then again, OFFER… unknown recordings, studio or unplugged recordings… Get someone to shoot some footage of you. Not only onstage but outstage as well. Before or after a gig. You discovering a town. Make podcasts explaining what inspires you. Don’t hesitate to comment on your gigs. Allow your visitors to be able to contact you or comment everywhere. Wall, email, forum. Open your diary and update your gigs dates, TV and radio promotion.

B – Create a blog

Creating a blog allows you to be closer to your fans. Do not hesitate to post info, comments, music links you like. Let your viewers share your articles on Facebook, MySpace… Blogging has lots of advantages. Ask an artist who likes your music to say so (i.e.: Sigur Ros/Fanfarlo, Passion Pit/John Mayer). Your presence is multiplied and you are improving interaction with your fans. You can post different types of contents, with key words, so your online presence is increasing thanks to SEO (we’ll talk later about it).

But careful, again the blog is not your website. It can’t be your unique online strategy. It’s complementary. Do not hesitate to tease your viewers, play with them and inspire them.

C – Let’s talk about your site

1 > Music has got to be central. It might sound obvious, but I can ensure you that most of the time it is not.
2 > If you are not sure about which platform to use, try Soundcloud. Their Player is even customisable.
3 > Let your fans upload and embed their own videos, photos, remixes, comments, etc…
4 > You might want to use Wordpress as a tool for publication.
5 > Don’t forget your “shopping” page. A tool like Bandcamp will take care of everything (I’ll give you more details on #3). I would like to lure you on Exsonvaldes French group Bandcamp. Now Bandcamp combines on your website.
6 > Your web page design has to be light and fast.
7 > Drop Flash. It is a SEO jilt. It gives sore eyes and prevents navigation from a mobile. You can try CSS. Flash, for a whole website, was OK in 2002…
8 > Drop any complicated things as well that will force your viewer to wait for 5mn before getting on your site. (S)he wants to see you rapidly. Don’t we live in a simple era? Ipod is a rectangle with a circle. Google is a research application. Internet users are experimented and want to be fast. A 5mn loading time might flatter the artist ego, but you are losing contacts here.

Best artist sites: www.nin.com, www.weezer.com, www.fanfarlo.com, www.cyrilpaulus.com.

2 – Social Networks

In regard of social media marketing, I don’t agree with many “gurus” who pretend that social networking is the only way to make it as an artist.

In my opinion, it shouldn’t because social media is a fan management extension. Social networking’s purpose is about building a bridge between you and your fans who will then use words of mouth to “promote” you: positively or not.

Therefore, it’s better to look for your fans and build up your online social presence. The main objective is to get your fans on your website. That way they can discover you, share, interact and buy (which is the point actually)…

A – About Myspace

To be straightforward, MySpace is not dead yet. An artist can still do many things on it. So MySpace remains the n°1 site for artists and evolving bands. I have to admit I am not a great fan of it, but an artist can and has to use it.

Looking into the statistics, MySpace keeps growing. It is not as significant as the previous years but its growth is still ongoing.

MySpace is still a vital element for people to find you and discover your music.Why? First, it is very well listed on Google. And also, it is very useful to have a profile when you have no time, nor the competences, nor the finances to build your website. However, a poor and not updated profile will make you lose contacts.

1 > You wish to customize your background. Why not. But you don’t have to. The simpler you keep your background, the faster it will open. Therefore fans or record companies will find what they want.
2 > If you are CSS/HTML competent, get rid of MySpace Player which is the most non-user friendly around. Better to register on Soundcloud and use it on MySpace, so you can use its Player and all its functions (I don’t work for Soundcloud).
3 > No more than 3 videos with Youtube links. I don’t need to see more. If I do, I’ll go to Youtube (that links to your website, doesn’t it?)
4 > Thank you for leaving the layout as it is. There is a good reason for its design. Looking for the mail box if I want to contact you, but you changed its design and its place… is quite nerve racking!
5 > Write a clear and visible email address on your profile. I prefer to contact you directly rather than MySpace email customer service. I am not even on MySpace anymore and I have no intention to create a profile if I feel like speaking to you. Like many of us.
6 > Try to avoid Flickr slideshows. MySpace photo album is better. Again, simplify, simplify!
7 > Ping.fm or Artistdata are good sites to synchronize your updating.
8 > Say “Hello”, answer questions and communicate!

Using MySpace as a contact centre is a good idea. Don’t forget to indicate clearly your email address on your profile as well as your manager/tour organiser contact if you have one. Also, don’t forget to write your website URL and/or your Bandcamp page (even though you might not have a website, be visible on Bandcamp). That way, people will discover you and if they need to know more about you, they will link to your webpage or Bandcamp page.

B – About Facebook

If you still haven’t got a Facebook fan page, here are some stats that might make you change your mind:

1 > More than 400 millions active users
2 > 50% of active users log in once a day
3 > 55 minutes per day is the average time spent on FB
4 > Over 1,6 millions FB fan pages have been created
5 > In terms of traffic, FB is ahead of Google

Looking at those figures and knowing that Google uses social networks (social content) in order to fix web pages ratings in its result pages, your FB absence should be hard to justify! You have to build your fan page wondering why people would want to join you.

a – Update your content on a regular basis. Give your fans a good reason to come back on your page.

1 > Do not hesitate to post new articles/reviews from your blog onto your FB wall.
2 > You can use a service like ping.fm in order to update your network in one go, FB as well as Twitter.
3 > You can install a widget on your Youtube and Flickr channel. That will synchronize automatically your videos and images on your FB fan page.

b – Get in touch with your new visitors

For the new ones, a wall can be intimidating. It’s like entering a new room in which everyone knows one another and talks about issues that you know nothing about.

So, before sending your new visitors on your fan page wall, send them to a landing page (a kind of Welcome) on which you can explain who you are and what you do… the “Like” button will be highly visible of course! You can use the Tigerlily application to build your landing page.

c – Launching a contest

If you want more fans, you have to give them a pretext to become one. How to do so? A competition! Competition for the best T. shirt graphics, best album cover, photo, etc = job opportunities, commitment and loyalty.

Watch out: since November 2009, FB guidelines have changed. You will need to follow a process and obtain consent before launching a contest.

d – Give your fans something they won’t find anywhere else

> Box sets

> Live gigs on your page

>  remixes

> Exclusive discounts (i.e.: Fanfarlo offering his album @ $1 for a few days…)

e – Do encourage interaction

> Straightforwardly, if your communication is not interactive and if you don’t exchange anything, your fan page won’t be a success.

> You can ask questions to your fans and seek their opinions

> Draw a survey

> Incorporate applications, games, quizzes

> Share! Do not hesitate to post info from other FB users that are the most relevant

Here are some interesting applications to use on FB:


ReverbNation – My Band

Poll Daddy Polls

Selective Tweets

Twitter/Facebook synch

Nimbit MyStore

C – About Twitter

Over 80% of the public would rather follow their “friends” recommendations if they wanted to see a film or buy an album than trust publicity or mags reviews. Twitter has become the first advisor in relation to the cinema box office. It’s becoming similar in relation to music…

Twitter shouldn’t be seen as a simple promotional tool for single talk. When creating your profile, mind your bio. People will decide to follow you according to what you wrote on your bio. Make sure you mention your website on your links (I do mean your website!).

On Twitter, you also have to make offers when building your community. Follow people who are likely to have an interest in what you do. Participate to debates. Keep doing it even though few people might join at first. You can post your comments, your photos (twittpic). Answer your fans. Do not hesitate to talk about other issues than music and gigs. If you don’t post your gigs dates, your time as an artist might be shortened.

Have a look on Amanda Palmer Twitter (@amandapalmer), the Dresden Dolls singer. This is an excellent use of Twitter. She talks to her fans, sells her merchandising ($19 000 in a month time)

Have a look as well on what does Charly de Charly et sa Drôle de Dame (@charly_sddd), a rising and DIY artist. Little by little he is taming Twitter and is creating his small community, sharing info that is not always about him.

So, what to do on Twitter:

1. Share what you are doing: post links, take photos

2. Tell us what’s happening

3. Share your info and other people info

4. You can ask questions and seek advice

5. Look for those who talk about you via the Twitter research function, follow them and answer their questions

6. If you also use a private Twitter, you can send special offers to your followers

7. Update in case of problems (site not working, gigs problems, etc.)

8. Launch a contest

Have a look on @noushskaugen Twitter (1,2 millions of followers!!). She is a DIY unsigned artist. In her article, she talks about Twitter, social media and connecting with fans.

Have a look as well on @trent_reznor Twitter or @lcdsoundsystem who twittpics studio recordings photos, etc.

D – About Flickr

Flickr is the first photo community in the world, used by over 300 million people. When creating your Flickr album, you are exhibiting yourself to a very wide audience. You might want to create thematic, allow your photos to be found by the community via keywords.

Do create a Flickr profile with your name and integrate a link to your website. Flickr is very well listed on Google. So you will come up first or nearly first on the research engine.

E – About Youtube

9 out of 10 videos researched on Youtube are music videos. That shows a real public interest for those kinds of videos. Also, 60% of Youtube traffic comes from a Player Embed.

Try to create a channel and upload videos frequently. Not necessarily video clips, but videos like you in a studio recording, touring, rehearsing, etc. Talk to your fans and get someone to shoot a video of you backstage or even at home. Not necessarily you, singing on and on…

1. Use the most relevant key words with the video name. DO NOT FORGET to write “video”. The most important info you will give is lodged into your title because the research engine word used by people includes “video”. The result will come up faster.

2. Coming next is the video description which is as relevant for the research engine as the title. Key words are the key! And of course you will use your website URL or FB fan page right at the beginning.

3. Take advantage of writing directly on the video: notes, subtitles, descriptions and links. At present, you can only click on links that will send you towards another Youtube link. However you are very welcome to try something different. Of course, you have incorporated a link at the beginning of your description…

4. Install a call to action button on your video that shows: “click here to become a fan on our FB page”, and the viewer goes to your site…

5. Tag your video with key words. I mean significant key words.

6. Invite people to join. Activate the option diffuse and share on each video.

7. Do not hesitate to post your videos as an answer to the most popular videos.

8. Watermark your videos (place a tiny translucent logo in the corner of the video). Very easy with the help of a video soft editing. Why? Because it’s your video. It’s your symbol, your brand. So show it!

9. Youtube Insights is the Youtube analysis data, so use it. It will give access to demo info, time spent, number of views, or when your video viewing was left.

Make sure you don’t prevent your videos from being shared. Big mistake if you do! It’s crucial to let your viewers interacting and embedding your videos. Shall I remind you the huge mistake EMI made by blocking OK Go latest video?

Also, Youtube has just launched a new program “We Want You”, aimed at independent artists. The intention is to give them the opportunity to make a living from their music. Here is a good analysis: http://bit.ly/aGO8Tg. To be continued…

F – About Wikipédia

Internet users prefer to log first on Wikipedia rather than MySpace if they want to know about a band (2 to 1 ratio). So, obviously, be on Wikipedia.

> Create your profile

> Incorporate your website link, photos

> Update it on a regular basis

> Also, Wikipedia is very well listed on Google. You will come up on the top 3 if someone was to look for you on internet.

Of course, interlacing your info is a must. You can link your FB and Twitter status = one twit and FB is updated, and vice versa. Make sure all your videos, new photos are regularly updated and that you announce your new album release (with a link on iTunes). Warning: do not interlace everything. Your Youtube audience is different from your website, or Twitter and FB. Try to work as well on singularity/originality. Technique tools might help you to post the same info everywhere, but it doesn’t mean you have to do so. Adapting to your audience is a good idea. Try not to industrialize everywhere.

G – About Spotify

You have to be on Spotify and Deezer in order to maximize your online presence (of course, not for the royalties). Your music will be more visible that way. Zimbalam will help you to be present on those sites.

Also, thanks to the playlists sharing, especially on Spotify, your music will be broadcast a lot faster than any other social network. If you get broadcast via a playlist and your track gets noticed, you might find yourself between the likes of Kings Of Leon or Black Keys… and get sent to a friend… Share as well your own playlists.

3 – Monetize

Let me give you a tiny advice:

It’s great to get an iTunes link on your site, but it’s even better if your visitor can buy directly from your site. First, because of proximity: (s)he wants to buy from you. Second, because it might be a compulsive purchase. Don’t get a “chance” to lose him/her by sending him/her on another platform. Third, not everybody is on iTunes or another platform. Check out: the last UK study shows that almost 60% of 15-24 years old have no clues about legal platforms. What a shame if (s)he pirates somewhere else when (s)he was about to buy it on your site.xt

A – About iTunes

If you use Zimbalam, it will take care of submitting your tracks on legal downloading platform for about $/£30 (I don’t work for Zimbalam either). 6 ways to be noticed on iTunes:

> Creating an Imix (playlist)

> Marking your Imix

> Commenting your Imix

> Bringing it up regularly

> Writing album reviews

> Doing covers

B – About Bandcamp

By far, the best site for an artist (again I don’t work for Bandcamp). To sum it up: BC helps independent artists to sell their music. The cherry on the cake: BC is now available on your artist site. You can use BC page to FB or Twitter thanks to widgets.

1. Layout: make it clean and simple. Your users know where your music is and can download it.

2. Free of charge: for now, 100% of profits are yours (if GCS haven’t changed)

3. Emails: on BC, you can either sell your music or give it for downloading, or leave some tracks for free and some others for purchase.

4. You can even use a PWYW system (Pay What You Want) since BC allows micropayment. Therefore, each time BC sends a free track to a user, you collect its email…

5. Stats: you will know who comes onto your page, who listens to what, at which frequency, for how long and where (on your BC page, FB widget, etc.)

6. Distribution: you will be able to distribute your music differently. It’s also a better alternative to iTunes. Your public is different. You sell what you want, when and where you want, @ your chosen price.

For example:

> You join physical sale and offer “digital” (either the opposite way or together)

> You can go for a special offer treatment (release of an album: CD @ $5, or CD + Dig + T-Shirt @ $10)

> You can use vouchers. I.e.: I bought an Exsonvaldes CD and they gave me a voucher so I could download some tracks from BC. In regard of direct sales on your site (merch, tracks, box sets).

4 – Do become  a geek, be obsessed with your stats

Don’t be afraid to use as many data analysis as possible in order to focus on what will produce the best rates. That way you will be more efficient. You have to analyze every single action, so that you get rid of the less productive ones and improve the others.

Those free data analysis from Google or Soundcloud will show you where people listened to your music thanks to a specific action, where they came from, where they went, if they shared it, bought it and what are their tastes. You should be able to analyze the opening and click rates on your newsletter and email links.

What tools can help: FB Insights: You will know what your fans do on your Fan Page. You will be aware exactly of your impression numbers at specific times. It’s like segmenting per gender, age, country of your fan. To know more: FB Insight.

FB Insight is alright, but in comparison to Google Analytics, it won’t get you far since those Stats are only about fans. So, if you are not afraid to get your hands into the dirt, you will use Google Analytics to analyze your FB stats. Yep, it’s possible. Follow the guide.

FanBridge: Regarded as the best email management tool at present. You’ll be able to appreciate its real efficiency on your email campaigns. Who opens them, who clicks on links, who forwards… Service charged!

ReverbNation: Regarded as the second best email management after FanBridge. It gives you a sort of stats summarize when you log on your account. You will access “All Areas”: how many new fans, daily listenings, widgets uses…

Next Big Sound(free): This free of charge service will track down how millions of fans interact with your music on a daily basis. They will keep a record on the number of plays, views, comments, mentions, etc. on over 400 000 FB, MySpace, Last.fm, Twitter artists… On the top of it, Next Big Sound will send you daily emails to let you know what’s up around you.

Band Metrics: Gives the opportunity to groups / labels / managers to identify its fans, measure their regularity and commitments as well as identifying new markets, tracking down online radio listening and discovering new hypes

Sound Cloud: Online platform. For stocking, saving and sharing your tracks. It also offers widgets as well as gives you access to stats in regard of your tracks. There are many more to try (which I am at present). You will quickly see how you’ll get excited about your stats on your site, charts about your visitors.

5 – Email/newsletter : the holy Grail

You have to retrieve all your fans email addresses from your website and social networks. It’s your only way to build a Database of your fan/future consumers.

> Ask them beforehand if they agree to receive emails and newsletters

> Offer them a free track in exchange of their registration on the newsletter

> Ask them as well to mention their town. You will be able to let them know via email if you play a gig nearby.

> Remember that only if you do have some content to offer, should you send emails and newsletter.

> Don’t be pushy! If someone wants to be withdrawn, do it!

Look at what Jonah Matranga does on his homepage. It is simple and basic. The viewer has a choice to accept or not. Then, via some cookies Jonah Matranga will recognise you.

You can use emails as well for your business deals like offering some merchandising, or a special offer on your albums, or integrating an iTunes link.

But your newsletter content has to lead to the deal offer. Not the other way round. Emails and newsletters shouldn’t be a pretext to offer constantly albums and other merchandising to be purchased without any content in it.

Analyse each emails and newsletter results. Look at what made your viewer click or not, and improve them thanks to these analyses. Try not to overwhelm your viewers with too much info, and relieve your emails and newsletters by inviting them to contests, surveys, quizzes, photos and videos.

A simple figure: 30% of artists’ income using Direct to Fans Topspin platform comes from an email. Http://tinyurl.com/ydjb7cq.

6 – SEO or Search Engine Optimisation

What is SEO? It’s a positioning and rating technique for websites on Google, Yahoo and MSN research engines: a crucial tactic for online marketing.

The real stake relies on the SEO optimisation since it can increase significantly your site visitor numbers. Appearing on Google first page for a strong request (like MP3) ensures you a bulky traffic in volume. As a matter of fact 2/3 of users click on the first page results, and most of them don’t go beyond the third page.

2 searches out of 10 on Google are music related. The rate of transformation on these results is the most important Google results: 40%.

It is of prime importance to build your site according to the SEO guidelines in order to come up fast. I.e.:

> Having some text (blog, content association, reviews) in order to incorporate “meta tags” that will get you listed on research engines.

> Using relevant key words in your reviews

> No Flash.

SEO evolves rapidly. Its techniques are more and more innovating. So, if you are not a pro, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice. A poor SEO might lead you to the wrong effect.

Have a look to this simple article explaining how an artist can use SEO: http://is.gd/a9JbD (Plugola)

7 – Adwords and Pay Per Plick (PPC)

What is an Adword. They are keywords or key expressions related to your activity. When Internet users carry out a search on Google with one of your key words (I.e.: gig, your name, merch or album), your ad or website will come up next to the search results. Your ad reaches a public with an interest in your activity.

You are targeting a specific audience (national, regional or local). You only pay when a user click on your ad and goes to your website. Adwords gives you the choice for the amount you pay, so it sends an Internet user on your site (Cost Per Click).

If you are a beginner, Google.com will quickly help you to create key words and write your ad, and chose your “Cost Per Click).

8 – Viral Marketing

> Do use viral marketing as to promote your contents and website. Its great advantage: it spreads by itself.

> Launch a contest on your site about musicians (who is your support act?)

> Launch a contest about customizing a CD, T. Shirt. Or on iTunes by creating your own Playlists.

> On Youtube, offer Internet users to participate on your video making.

In one word, INTERACT to create a vibe, a buzz, and “diffuse the virus”.


We agree it requires a lot of work, but you can’t avoid it. Your promotion and income depend on it. We also agree that it is not your job. You have to be surrounded. A DIY artist doing it all alone is a myth. If you can’t do it all, ask your fans to help, your manager, your record company…

Other artists’ experiences will help you to get inspired. I.e.: Trent Reznor, Amanda Palmer, Weezer, Paramore, Tara Bush, Imogen Heap, Corey Smith, Fanfarlo, Exsonvaldes, Cyril Paulus (…) they will feed your creativity.

Let’s sum it up:

> Collecting your fans emails (with authorisation)


> Data Analyses, data analysis…

> Your website is your house and your base. The most precious thing.

> Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = monetisation

> Added Value. Why buying when it’s possible to get it for free? Think of value.

I agree there is far much more to talk about.

I’ll come back… quickly to give you more info…


Questions: virberg@gmail.com
Meet me on: www.digitalmusic.tumblr.com (in French)

Credit Photo Flickr: twcollins, manuel cristaldi

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