Is Reverbnation a good social networking site for musicians?

Edit on 7/9/2017:

This post gets a lot of traffic. I maintain that my assessment is correct. I speak to songwriting (and business groups) frequently. I just spoke for three different groups of songwriters/performers in the last two months. Read this entry because it will clarify reverbnation and much of social in general. But, you should also look at:

I write about tools and promotion frequently, but if you have a question, ask me. I always answer.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.


NOTE: This post got a little lengthy. However, it covers some important ground so grab a coffee, tea, beer, wine, or water and cozy up..

reverbnation logoThe quick answer, No! It’s mostly a waste of time.

But there is more to the story and it involves the why’s and what’s of social media, making music, and gaining listeners. The truth is, you could insert a blank where I have Reverbnation above and get almost the same answer.

For instance: “Is Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/YouTube a good social networking site for musicians?”

The answer would be “no” for all of the above but let’s look at Reverbnation for a moment because it is uniquely positioned as a tool to help musicians grow their career.

What do musicians want from social networking?

The first question is what musicians want from a social network. The answer is new and engaged listeners. Oh.. they might say a place to network with other musicians and get support for their craft. The problem is, that answer is either a) a lie or b) ignorance.

It really isn’t difficult to “network” with other musicians. If you are a musician, you likely know several musicians already. And they know musicians, so in a couple clicks of the mouse, you can be “networked” with other musicians.

As it turns out, generally, when someone says they want support, what they mean is they want someone to “like” their Facebook page or follow them on twitter and, if the stars align, they want them to come out to a gig and support their music.

The problem is, other musicians make lousy fans. The reason is simple… we are narcissistic jerks who want our music featured. We aren’t primarily engaged in networking with other musicians in order to support their music and find new music to listen to.

FYI: This really doesn’t make you a narcissistic jerk by the way. It makes you an entrepreneur/musician.

You see, I network with other business owners to, primarily, help me grow my business. If, along the way, I find a business that I find useful and that I can believe in, over the course of my days, I will refer them to my network. But, I don’t, just because I am connected to another business, necessarily support them.

This is why, I rarely (NEVER) respond to the “Like my Facebook page and I’ll like yours” request. It is also why LinkedIn Endorsements are a waste of time.

MUSICIANS/SONGWRITERS I AM A FAN OF:

That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to new music and become a fan. In fact, here are 4 musicians I enjoy! None of them asked me to “like their page.” I liked their page because I like their music. And by the way, that is because I heard them play live!

Jim Pipkin: I met Jim at the first acoustic showcase I ever played. Inza Coffee in Scottsdale. It’s closed down but it was a cool place. Jim played before me and I became very frightened. He can play and flat out write a song! The first song he played was Tommyknockers. Listen to it.. it’s a scary tune. He gave me great encouragement that night.

Bill Wickham: Bill’s an outlaw cowboy poet. No really.. I met him at the Glendale Folk Festival in Glendale AZ. I was in a songwriter’s circle – everyone just trying to impress the other songwriters in the group. He impressed me! Song after song! One of the prettiest songs I’ve ever heard, “Here I Go Again”.
FYI: Yes.. Bill doesn’t have his website up and so I pointed you at Reverbnation. 😉

Bill Dutcher: He writes some songs and is one of the most entertaining and talented guitar players I’ve ever seen live. His looping, one-person harp-guitar rendition of Baba O’Riley is crazy! He was gracious and played on several of my songs back in 2009.

Julie Lindemuth: I met Julie at an open mic. She was too scared to climb on stage. We encouraged her to go for it. An open mic should be a safe place. She took the stage and beautiful voice, simple songs that are almost children’s songs but aren’t… and inspirational tunes! I told her I was a fan that night.. and I still am!

Back to our topic at hand.. Reverbnation…

Reverbnation – cool tools, confusing interface, no true engagement

Reverbnation has some neat tools. And for a time, I was really interested in them. The best of all tools was that you could upload songs and create a flash based player widget to embed on your website. People could show up to your site and listen to your music with a pretty effective player. They could join your mailing list. They could share your music.

And if that is what you use your Reverbnation profile for – to get access to those widgets – then cool! That can be effective.

However, their backend interface is confusing at best, too many unnecessary tools and you are subject to a LOT of spam in the form of “opportunities”. I don’t really need to cover those but the opportunities are ways for Reverbnation to monetize their site and you don’t have enough fans or a high-enough profile for those opportunities to be truly meaningful to you. Sorry!

By the way, I know this because, if you did have enough fans and a high-enough profile for those opportunities, the opportunities will be contacting you directly. It’s that phenomenon where professional athletes get free (actually are paid) to wear a product when, in fact, they clearly have enough money to buy the product. And the rest of us, who “need” the product must pay for the product…

I’m not complaining.. I’m just pointing out the law of popularity. Popular, money-making artists, are NOT using Reverbnation to build their popularity.

Reverbnation Charts

This is the big carrot that I find most amusing. Reverbnation has their own charts broken down by music categories. I’ll see artist touting that they are the #3 artist in their zipcode for the sub-genre, “polka folk acoustic punk”.

I’m always interested in knowing who the #1 artist in that category and zipcode is

I see performers posting this on Facebook. “I’m the #8 artist in my zicode for’alt-grunge trance’ – help me get to #7.” And this is the problem.. they believe getting to #7 or #6 or #1 is going to help them sell CD’s and get new fans to performances.

I had a fellow artist who was always publishing this stuff. I asked them about their performances and CD sales. They were discouraged because they weren’t getting anyone out to performances.

There are NO new fans on Reverbnation

That is probably a stretch. I think there are a few fans who do, in fact, sign up as fans on Reverbnation. However, I’ll bet, if you are an artist, most of your “activity” on Reverbnation is other artist. Some become fans without any comment. Others become fans and send a message like, “I’ve signed up as a fan. Sign up as a fan on my page.”

This is the Reverbnation equivalent of “Like my page and I’ll like yours.” To which I always respond, “but what if I don’t like your page?” (remember, I’m a narcissistic jerk).

I’ve even had someone sign up as a “fan” and leave a comment like, “Cool tunes! Check out my songs.” – with a link.

I always send a message, “Which of my songs did you like the best?”

In 2 years I’ve received 1 response that I felt indicated they had listened to the songs.

Bottom line on Reverbnation

Reverbnation is a great idea and has some cool tools. Most of those tools I have no real need for. I semi-maintain a profile (meaning, I login every 2 or 3 months) because.. well.. I feel like I should. I’m considered an “expert” on this social media stuff.

But for the most part, it really doesn’t do anything special for me. I no longer use the widget/players and I run my mailing list with mailchimp at the moment. I can add video and music to my website – built on WordPress – using built-in WordPress plug-ins.

Secondly, it diffuses my effort. This may be the most dangerous part of any social networking site. We all have limited hours in our day. The danger for musicians and entrepreneurs alike (I really view them all the same) is the desire or need or fear of being left out by NOT signing up for the “next” social network.

So.. everyone signs up for everything and all your same contacts follow you and you follow them. It is like a big roving band of gypsies or an incestuous tribe. Everyone is scrapping and clawing and grabbing at the few unpicked morsels and even reducing themselves to a sort of social media cannibalism.

There is a more rational way.

How do I find new fans/listeners?

And there we go.. let’s be honest. You want new fans! You want listeners. You want people to hear your music and to like your music. That’s okay! And it doesn’t make you a narcissistic jerk. You are a narcissistic jerk for other reasons but not because you want people to hear your music.

You want people to hear your music because you are a creator and that is what creators crave! Some type of acceptance of their creation.

Note: drop the B.S., “I only create for myself because it is in my soul.” blah blah blah blah. Then you wouldn’t be performing or on Reverbnation or Facebook or Twitter or even reading this blog.

Now that we are honest, how do we find new fans?

1) Make good music

Yeah.. there is that. That means you need to spend more time making music than you do moving up the “acoustic goth hip hop” charts in Southern Hastings Nebraska.

2) Perform your music… well!!!

Get out and play your music for people. And give them something they can take with them.. your music preferably. At first, it doesn’t matter if they guy a CD. Give it away! 1 or 2 engaging songs. Something! Trade them that for their email. Ask for their feedback. Shake hands with them. Thank them.. profusely! Connect with them.. it’s called “social networking.”

3) Reduce your social media footprint

What? Yes. Be in fewer places, not more places. If you feel compelled to setup an account on every site, do it. But then post information on where they can “really” find you.

My take is that you need no more than the following profiles and places to find you.

  • Your own website. This is where you get to be a true narcissistic jerk. It’s all about you! That’s good. It should have a blog attached. I use WordPress and recommend that. I host at Bluehost and recommend that (although, they’ve lost some luster of late due to some outages). I know some artist who are using Bandcamp and love it. It has great tools for artist and you can blog.But when I say, your own site, I don’t mean, “myname.bandcamp.com” or “myname.wordpress.com”.. I mean, you pay for a domain and you get it hosted. Don’t say you can’t afford it. Go get a job and pay for that.
  • YouTube. I wrote about how my daughter connects with artist and why I should be using YouTube more. I won’t belabor this point. I shouldn’t have to.
  • Facebook. I suppose you should have a Facebook profile and also have a Facebook music/business page. I do. It’s sort of expected. However, I engage with listeners and readers WAY more on my Facebook profile than my “fan page.” This is largely because Facebook continues to remove features that let you connect with “fans” on your “fan page.”Truth is, they haven’t been called “fan pages” for awhile. They don’t let you send messages to your “fans” and  you cannot communicate with them directly via your page. Only through your profile. So guess what, your Facebook profile is probably your real source of engagement.
  • Ummmm… That’s it!

But Matt!! What about Twitter? Tumblr? Soundcloud? You are on them? Shouldn’t I be?

No.. if I can convince you to stay off those networks, I get all those fans!

Or…. It might be that you want to spend enough time and effort on your website, YouTube, and Facebook, to get 4 or 5 or 10, 20, 200 or more people engaged with your music. There are enough potential fans in those areas alone. Oh.. and playing live! That’s a topic for another blog entry.

You don’t get fans by being in “lots of places” online. You get fans by creating music that people like, taking the 2 or 3 or 10 people who like your music and provide them the means and the permission to share that music.

There is also the standard, promotion, PR, etc. And there is a place for that. But you need to first work on those first few passionate fans!

Do you agree? Disagree? Have a specific or general question? Leave a comment below.

Posted in Blog, Music Business.

22 Comments

  1. “It is like a big roving band of gypsies or an incestuous tribe. Everyone is scrapping and clawing and grabbing at the few unpicked morsels and even reducing themselves to a sort of social media cannibalism.” — GREAT!!!

    You really should include Airplay Direct in the list of necessary sites. This is only if the artist is ready for radio play, but I have found that, for about $100 a year, I can reach out to radio stations worldwide with this one service. My last CD was released to radio exclusively through APD – no mailings, no packaging materials or postage, just a few hundred dollars spent on their e-blast service and some follow-up advertising. I found it very effective.

  2. Matthew- Thanks for distilling out and clarifying the things we veteran RN users have been mulling for years. Having already set up several channels and automated them, I will let them run on autopilot until they begin to glitch, then shut them down. Your point about FB, YT and a dedicated web site being sufficient and more effective is very well taken. If it were not for FanReach and the widgets, I’d be off RN already.

    • In retrospect, I couldn’t disagree with you more. 1st, in my opinion & 25+ yrs. of experience I found fellow musicians CAN actually make great fans. Some musicians fall under the category I like to call “cult”, where a great deal of their fans ARE other musicians. Not all are egotists. Musicians do buy music, at least the ones I have & still know & when they do, they’re diehard. I feel that way about John Mayer, Miles Davis, Amy Winehouse & Jaco Pastorius.
      2, I very seldom have players asked for a ‘like in return for a like on my RN. I also recall bands like fellow Canadians Rush, who have major musician fans. Under that heading “cult” falls the kind of music other musicians must have. Workshop. And they will buy the music.
      3. Reverbnation has a constant flow of FREE opportunity which many other sites charge for. A lot don’t take advantage of this
      4. Last & most unfortunate for all of us, it’s become too easy for everyone to get free music online! I’m studying licensing (for airplay, etc.) bc I believe therein lies a possible. solution to piracy.
      Summary: No, RN is far from perfect but the customer service is thorough & prompt! There’s always great potential for success where the customer is valued. As for most musicians, they need a refresher course on what it truly means to NETWORK!
      Thx

  3. Yes, anyone can be No. 1 in there Zip code, city etc… while sounding vewy vewy bad but…What if your music has some commercial potential, I’ve read that most people (usually just fans) that go to the RN site will just look at the first page of charts and listen to the top few artists. If you’re in the top 10 spots of say National “singer/songwriter” then you may get some exposure. Another thing that could be useful is the “crowd review”. I just had two done, both got me a “feature artist” spot for a week, they also spam you out to countless people…
    I have to agree with you for the most part but for someone who has some commercial potential do you think there is any use for social media sites. Im going to be taking Music Business online from Berklee here starting in April and im excited to hear about the demise of the music industry…

    Thanks for a great Article – Rollie

    • Rollie,

      First, thank you for taking the time to comment and sharing your thoughts on the subject.

      I don’t think I suggested that social media is of no use. In fact, I didn’t say that reverbnation has no use… just that spending any time worrying about your ranking on RN is mostly a waste of time.

      As far as someone with commercial viability getting noticed or discovered this way… hmmm.. I would suggest that connecting with connectors directly, blogging effectively, YouTube, and other avenues and sites would provide a MUCH greater chance of that music being discovered.

      While I have heard of, and know of, some artist who have gained notoriety through effectively using YouTube for exposure, I’ve never heard of any getting that through RN.

      My admonishment to artist remains.. have your site, YouTube, Facebook, Tumblr (if your audience is that age group), twitter (perhaps), but most importantly, your mailing list.

  4. The single most enlightening piece of info since I began reading the ‘This Business Of Music’ books some 30 years ago! Most musicians are ignorant to the way the industry works & even more so how to use of social media. A must-read for every player pursuing “FAME” (so called). Thanks, Xen

  5. All of this means nothing to me…Why…I love having an outlet to share my music. I don’t care if I “make it” I love to make my music and I don’t care if it gets anywhere. I do it because I love to make music. I have some fans, and I thank them for listening, however I must be selfish. I really do it for me and the members of my band. We do it for the love of music. Music as a business has always been evil. People who do make music just to be #1 are doing it for the wrong reason. That being said…I am #1 in Brandon Florida as of 12/2/2014. But not for any money…lol…Johnny

    http://www.reverbnation.com/johnnypieandtheoneeyedguy

  6. A great read. I have been messing around starting a small label , selling a few tracks etc and was reletively new to social media. I found the numbef of social sites bewildering. I got a few thousand followers on Twitter mainly by following first. I actively try and engage followers but only a few respind in any meaningfull way. I do have one thing that most others starting labels lack and that is a live audience and set of venues for my artistes but even that is hard to mobilise into sales because the public are now so used to getting their music for free. Having said all that I’m having terrific fun generating modest returns so it’s all fine, but I do feel for the truly talented and creative who are drowning in a completly oversaturated ‘new music economy’. I think Itunes, You Tube, a website and live sales with some interaction on FB is about the most effective.

  7. APD I havent used enough to make anything from. And Reverb Nation seems like a money grab for dreamers. Thats how I stumbled accross this blog. I get so much RN spam, I’m almost tempted to give them money… argh! My YouTube vids have sold probably $100,000 worth of instruction DVDs and CDs. YouTube is the best marketing strategy I’ve ever used. FB is good too. I’m also a member of some local Nashville communities that really don’t do anything to help you’re career other than some crap demo work for terribly written songs. Thanks for an honest assessment of RN.
    BTW… I’m #1 in my zip code!!!! yaaaaay lol

    • Thanks for joining the discussion. If you are selling $100,000 of merch and music, you are way up the food chain and can probably continue building your brain using YouTube, direct mailing list, and your website.

      I checked out your website link and the one thing I would recommend is to get rid of the gate.. the full-page with the logo. I want to get right to your stuff.

      But you are doing well.. so keep it up!

  8. I would just like to say I agree with you, but would add Twitter and at least one distribution based site to it, whether BandCamp, SoundCloud(I have a dislike for this because it almost seems they want you to give everything away for free), HostBaby, or BandZoogle(my current Host/Distribution choice, great templates). Twitter and Facebook can cross post, and you can plan out some posts using apps like HootSuite, thus allowing you to post everything on Twitter and Facebook simultaneously. I do agree you have to choose which tools to focus on wisely, but basically it comes down to Facebook, Twitter, a hosting and distribution site, Instagram(occasionally…..can be great for fan interaction at times), and one video site(I am doing YouTube because it is where people look….Vimeo and Vevo don’t have the pull yet.). Bottom line, it really comes down to getting everything working together smoothly, but I am not as social media saavy as some are. I just know a few things coming into pro music from an earlier business, and am applying those skills. I don’t have to the biggest or baddest(wait, YES, I do), but my goal is to make great music I am proud of and sell it.

    • Hmm.. yeah.. but no.. Actually.. twitter was somewhat more relevant 1-3 years ago but it becoming less critical daily – the platform is bleeding users as better/more integrated platforms get introduced. Note.. monthly twitter users was 400 million 2 years ago and is down to about 100 million.

      In fact, we only need to look at engagement numbers.. “likes” versus actual click-thrus – twitter has one of the worst rates these days. Follows and the like are rarely indicative of the effectiveness – which is always click-thru and purchase – especially for musicians.

      However, as indicated above – your audience also dictates where you should be. Twitter is a much stronger platform for consumer to brand engagement than it is for developing/finding new music fans. Younger fans are on tumblr, snapchat, and still a little bit on instagram, They are not on twitter. Older fans are much more likely to be on Facebook and directly on a mailing list.

      Large audience musicians garner a twitter following because they already have a following – NOT because they developed it on Twitter. At this point, it is a better post engagement platform.

      I’ll re-iterate.. it isn’t that you cannot find something of interest – and utilize twitter or other platforms. But, as with all such engagement, you must weigh the time to engage and develop the audience with other optionss that are out there.

      Pick 2 to 4 – and go deep. It twitter provides true engagement leading to click-thru, listen, and purchase, you should, by all means, use it. I’ve found other – much more effective platforms to spend my time on.. but I watch it all the time and spend time on it weekly as part of my work. So if the waning numbers get better, we’ll change our position on it.

  9. ReverbNation is an internet site that allows artists and musicians to broadcast, display and publicize their songs. Followers can watch, purchase or download songs based on the alternatives the celebrity has picked. A pleasant touch is that musicians can choose some of their songs to sell off where 50% goes to one of the variety of charitable organizations and the other 50% goes to the artist.

    • Hi Jamez.. I do appreciate the input. I am certainly aware of what Reverbnation is.. and some of the tools are amazing! As the article points out – use the tools if you want.. but RN is NOT a site that attracts much attention in the way of new fans. They aren’t signing up on RN to find new music. YouTube is much more relevant for that.

      New ‘fans” on RN are typically other musicians – asking you to like their page.. it’s fine..but probably not growing your career.

      In the end, I’m a pragmatist.. you should do what works amazing for you!

  10. This post was most helpful, inspiring even. Thank you, Matthew. …I GET IT!

    I had a major beef with ReverbNation this week. It started a year-1/2 ago when they “locked” one of my songs for their so-called curation department:

    “Curation team has protected your song because they think it has real industry potential! Congrats! ReverbNation’s Curation team has established partnerships with music industry executives to connect them to talented artists. Our team reviews our artist’s [[wrong punctuation btw]] songs to determine if there is a potential fit with opportunities we are cultivating on behalf of our industry partners. Should we identify appropriate opportunities for your music, we will let you know.”

    They also state on the site (when you try to edit a locked song) that the “process generally takes several weeks.”

    You can imagine I was elated at first… but then time kept passing…

    Finally after eight months I sent them an inquiry. I got your basic form letter back, repeating their congrats and curation-team-thinks-your-song-is-special routine, adding that they didn’t have any specific updates on my curation status, but…

    “Sometimes our Curation Department keeps songs in Curation for a long period of time, so that they can access them as they discover new Opportunities for our Artists.”

    In the following months, eight more of my songs systematically became locked and protected by their curation department. Now that I am taking these songs (which are only demos on reverbnation) into a real studio, I sent another inquiry, because I was beginning to suspect that my songs were being chosen by algorithms, algorithms NOT programmed for artist potential or quality of songs (as much as I would like to believe), but programmed for musicians and songwriters who potentially would pay for industry services.

    In fact, I have been getting inquiries from dudes wanting to develop me as an artist, and of course I would pay them. One letter didn’t have the decency to actually address me by name. Holy cow! These must be the music industry partnerships that reverberation’s curation team has established.

    OMG!!!!! I’m really angry! Not just for me, but for any artist who gets their hopes inflated by business tactics that go right for the jugular, an artist’s vulnerabilities.

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