I’ve had an obsession with websites that support indie musicians for well over a decade. The original version of MP3.com (it’s since degraded into a commercial wasteland) was a pioneer in this area and they made the music industry pay attention! Some indie artists were earning 6 figures by simply posting their music there. Many sites have been launched since MP3.com’s debut and some are so amazing and useful that you simply must visit them. Indie musician sites get better all the time, and it’s inspired me to compile a must-see list that will hopefully help empower your web presence.
Launch your browser!
Here’s the 2010 List of Top Websites for Indie Musicians!
Last.fm developed a song-playback-tracking system it calls Scrobbling. If someone listens to any of your songs using a player that scrobbles, like your computer or portable mp3 player, it will create an artist page on the site for you automatically and list your playback frequency.
As an artist you can assume control of your page and customize it. Once the page is yours, you can then make your music available for streaming and downloading. As your music’s play-count grows, and gets tagged by listeners, it becomes even easier to find your music through Last.fm’s search engine.
Another great feature is Last.fm’s music-similarity algorithm. Through this music-matching system, you’ll get paired with other artists whose respective popularity can push your exposure even higher, as you can theirs.
I highly recommend that you take advantage of Last.fm!
Up until January of this year I would have given thesixtyone (a.k.a. T61) a first place prize. It turned music discovery into a Role Playing Game where listeners earned points by doing quests and rating (in their vernacular: hearting) their favourite songs.
What was really great about T61 is that the first person to heart a good song would be highly rewarded, and this helped keep players/listeners motivated to explore new music. By encouraging listeners to explore new music as often as possible, it made it very easy for any artist to gain exposure and find an audience they would have otherwise not known existed.
Unfortunately, in January 2010 a major design overhaul occurred that killed all the discovery/game mechanics that made this site stand out. Although it’s no longer as effective, I still think it’s a good place to host your music to gain a bit of exposure.
Bandcamp is a fantastic site to use as your main storefront.
It’s free, and in my few years at the site I’ve become convinced that its creators and staff really care about making it the best resource for artists.
Some of its more notable features include:
Support for many formats (including flac)
Social networking options, like sharing and embedding
Flexible pricing for your work and download mechanisms
The ability to sell physical goods individually or as packages
Support for multiple currencies
Bandcamp offers all of the above, and so much more. It’s highly Recommended!
Reverbnation is a great catch-all solution for someone who has little time or interest in a multi-site approach when seeking to establish their web presence. If you aren’t very tech savvy and don’t have a team of geeks at your disposal, then Reverbnation is a highly productive choice.
Reverbnation offers an exhaustive list of capabilities for any artist. A full list would be outside the scope of this article, but here’s some of the good stuff:
Song hosting for direct electronic access
A distribution mechanism to get you on major music stores like iTunes
Opportunities to sell and market your productions, like with a storefront
Methods to tap into social networking sensations like Twitter
Most of the services Reverbnation provides are made possible through partnerships with third parties. Its magic lies in its integration of independent services into a harmonized front, which saves you from having to jump all over the Internet looking for different web sites that only provide piecemeal solutions.
Obviously not all of its partners are created equal. You could find a better stand-alone solution for some area of your digital musical life, like keeping Bandcamp as your storefront. However, even if you can find better pieces, Reverbnation remains an excellent home for you and your music, and it does so through a hassle-free package.
Many of Reverbnation’s features are free while the premium ones are fee based, so make sure to do some reading before you decide to jump in.
Social Networking is essential when it comes to music promotion now, and facebook reigns as king for many reasons. In a nutshell, facebook offers an immeasurable number of creative opportunities to keep in touch with fans, and makes it really easy for you and your work to propagate.
As an artist you can create your own web space within facebook and have fans follow/connect with you. Through its content management solution you can post any number of updates and news items which fans can comment on, or integrate into their own account’s web space. It’s all very interactive and intuitive.
Your facebook presence can be further enhanced through the use of applications which are dynamic and interactive pieces of content. There’s no limit to what you can do with these!
For those who are software development savvy, the facebook Application Programming Interface (API) integrates nicely with many other sites and this makes it a great platform for viral marketing.
Another site that takes great advantage of social networking, is Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic platform to keep your fans informed on what’s happening with your music and what you’re up to. It’s also a great way to offer last minute deals, quick details on impromptu concerts and so on.
With Twitter-power, fans and followers can keep a pulse on your activities and be more involved with your journey. The amount of information you offer is always up to you. You can post pictures and videos for example to keep people interested and buzzing.
Communicating through Twitter (called tweeting, or posting tweets) about your next video, album, single release, or your upcoming live appearance within its text-length limit gives your web presence a perceived jolt of movement. Tweeting tweets makes you seem more exciting and on the move.
Twitter’s content is heavily data mined and is often pulled into mixed-content web sites (called mashups) on a regular basis. All it takes is one tweet and you get a chance to show up on the screens of computer users all over the world, like with the Twittervision mashup: http://twittervision.com .
If that wasn’t all great enough, people who pay attention to your tweets are also able to repeat your tweets (called retweeting) to their own followers, which is a fun way for fans to share their excitement and appreciation; this in turn connects you to other potential fans.
Slicethepie is an interesting site that monetizes a listener/fan’s relationship with you and gives them the opportunity to invest in you. You in turn then share some of the returns from your success.
Here’s how it works:
When a predetermined amount of money is raised through listener investment, that money is given to the artist to put towards their next release in any way they like. Artists get to choose if they’d like to use the money to hire a great producer, get studio time, launch a promotion, etc. The investors that invested in the artist own shares of the revenue generated by the results.
Another innovative feature offered by Sliceofthepie is its review system. When you upload a track it first goes into an anonymous review system where people get paid to review your music. Although the integrity of the reviews are sometimes questionable, the final report can still indicate the potential of a track’s success either within an album, or as a single which can later be put towards an album.
That’s right! YouTube made the list! It’s one of the most powerful viral marketing tools on the Internet. If you have any live performances or music videos to host on YouTube, please take the time to do so; it will be well worth the effort.
YouTube is one of the top 5 websites in the world in terms of visitor traffic, and just about any kind of content can go viral. It therefore has the power to make you a worldwide sensation literally overnight.
If you’re keen on leveraging the power of social networking, YouTube videos are heavily supported and are easy to embed within the content of other sites.
Having your own personal site is a huge bonus. It can help you establish a brand, and a web address that will always be there no matter what happens to all the other sites in this list. Plus, you can enhance your visibility by having your name, or band name exist as a web address as it ups your rank in search engine results like with Google.
That’s the list for 2010. I hope you benefit as much as I have from using the tools and services these sites offer. Most of what’s available to you as an indie artist doesn’t cost anything, so don’t miss an opportunity to enhance your web presence with a bit of registration, uploading, and content writing! Your fans will love that you’re online, close to them within their favourite web sites, and that your music can be purchased and/or downloaded at any time.