This is a re-post of a piece I wrote last year. I think its still relevant, and figured it was a shame to have it hidden away in my blog archives.
@Autorotation (on Twitter) posted a comment about whether to join “yet another” music site promising ‘increased exposure’, ‘earnings from your music’ and ‘a way to contact your fans’. The issue was that the internet/market/whatever-you-call-it is oversaturated.
I myself have joined many a site which claims to be able to give the artist a portal through which they can upload and sell their music and increase exposure; and the listener a source of free or cheap downloads.
Most sites take the form of a simple band webpage containing a biography, a photo and a flash player for songs.
Some sites go a bit further and offer somewhere to write a blog, a video player, somewhere to put widgets, etc. But they’re all pretty much the same.
The lack of originality employed in the creation of these sites is stunning. The edict seems to be “find a way of repackaging the format of a truly original concept, and then copy it ad infinitum.”
So, for a true original like Last.fm which lists and tracks listening habits and provides tailor-made radio stations, there are clone sites like Rhapsody and Lala, amongst others. For every Reverbnation, there are a whole host of sites which claim to get you more listeners and fans and get you noticed.
There are also social networking sites which ape the format of ‘the big 3′ (Myspace, Facebook and Bebo, which in turn appear more and more to be imitating each other) which allow the inclusion of your music for increased exposure. Some of the newer sites seem to be incorporating elements of all three catergories: internet radio/tracking; promotion; and social-networking.
I currently have my own band profiles on last.fm, ilike, reverbnation, myspace, besonic, facebook, virb, amazingtunes, twones, aralie, soundcloud and many others which, to be honest, I’ve forgotten the names of, and doubt whether they exist anymore! (Bandpump.com anyone?!). And judging by these sites’ membership and listener-bases, nobody actually uses them regularly anyway.
Of course, some natural selection takes place where the fittest or best sites survive. Last.fm has millions of users throughout the world and is some countries’ only portal to new music. My artist’s ‘playcount’ exceeds 30,000 only because the site is so far-reaching. I would never have got so many listeners otherwise. Some artists have really benfitted from this.
It was originally conceived as being the ultimate database of music. Last.fm’s original remit was to catalogue every piece of music ever published, and eventually, provide every track as part of a ‘radio’ stream based on users’ individual listening habits, tastes and moods. Thus freeing listeners from the dogma of conventional radio programming. It has partly succeeded: you can now have your own radio station which plays Moby, The Stones and Beethoven all in the same ‘programme’. Last.fm benfitted from being technology-savvy, changing with listening trends and employing some great code-writers. However, as with all great internet institutions (ie Google, Myspace, etc), it became too big for its creators to manage and when the corporations came knocking with vast sums of money, Last.fm’s creators gave in and surrendered their dream to CBS. And who can blame them?!
As a result, music on Last.fm is now subject to all sorts of legal wrangling which has compromised the service it set out to provide. But its still the best service of its kind…
As technology changes and user demand trails off, what is needed in this field is true originality. What is the point of regurgitating the same old formula; with site after site providing exactly the same services as one another? And, indeed, what is the point of musicians slavishly subscribing to these sites in the hope that it will get them more exposure when, in fact, it just dilutes their listener-base? There must be an alternative out there, brewing in a creative coder-writer’s mind!
I myself have a wishlist:
A central site which allows the upload of music but which syndicates the music out to all other sites in much the same way as RSS syndicates text. Therefore eliminating the tedious process of uploading music again and again and again and again to other sites which all provide the same content anyway.
Currently I think the best option for musicians is to join one or two of the more established sites and concentrate on promoting the music/ gigs/ etc through them alone. They may be owned by corporate giants, they may be mainstream, but they are so because they have been proven to be successful. Though gone are the days when an Arctic Monkeys or a Lily Allen could promote themselves exclusively on Myspace without any corporate assistance (I’m sceptical as to whether this was actually the case anyway).