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..
The 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.
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.
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.