The DIY Social Network – Rockin’ Your Own Cloud (pt. 4)

The Garage Punk Hideout is a do-it-yourself social network for musicians, podcasters, and lovers of all things 'garage punk.'

Nowhere is the The Cloud more dense than in a social network.  For most musicians, navigating the world of social media means trying to get the word-out about a gig on twitter, distributing a new video on Facebook, or sharing a  music recommendation link with fans on Tumblr.  Executing a thoughtful multi-platform campaign can mean the difference between an audience of  one or one hundred.

Musicians also have a need to communicate with other musicians. Whether it’s co-ordinating a  three-country European tour or just looking for some new music to refresh the ipod, social networks like Facebook or twitter, no doubt, have a an immense and immediate impact.  But sometimes, a musician may have a need to go deeper into a peripheral social network to fulfill sub-genre musical needs that isn’t as satisfying at the twitter and Facebook-level.  Ning, the self-proclaimed “world’s largest platform for creating social networks” is helping musical sub-genre networks to flourish.

Ning mainly offers users the ability to build a custom social network alongside other users with similar interests.  Whether the topic is cars, gardening, politics or music, a point-and-click social network can be built with relative ease.  With Ning, the technical hurdles of building a social network online are easily overcome with several different page design templates. Also, built-in “social integration” is made easy with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.  The next largest hurdle  to traverse is recruiting other users to help build content, but with the right group of people, the “do-it-yourself” social network could become a vibrant online community.  An example of a musical sub-genre that has successfully burrowed out its own niche in social networking is GaragePunk Hideout.

The Garagepunk.com url redirects visitors to the modest 1114 member network operating on the Ning platform. The Hideout offers musicians a member forum, chat room, band and musician groups, and (my personal favorite) GaragePunk Pirate Radio. This section of the network is a collection of garage punk-themed podcasts showcasing music from bands like The Swingin’ Neckbreakers and The Hydes.  The network also offers submission guidelines for musicians hoping to have their music played on a GPPR podcasts.  The submission policy requires prospective musicians to register with MeVio’s Music Alley to upload their music.  The podcast producers, who are also members at Music Alley, search through the appropriate musical genre (or in this case sub-genre: Garage Punk) for the bands they want to play on their podcasts.  For musician’s protection, the Music Alley submission policy stipulates that musicians and/or labels maintain full ownership of their music.  What really stands out to me about the Garage Punk Hideout is the coverage of the sub genre of the sub genres which can include: surf punk, psycho punk, rockabilly. Another admirable feature of GaragePunk is the idea that it’s somewhat a “musician’s hang out.”  The posting guidelines on the GaragePunk band and musician page claims:

This is the place for bands and musicians to talk shop. Discuss your favorite gear, recording techniques, how to get that certain sound, touring, promoting your band, vinyl pressing services, CD duplication services, etc.

This is just an example of how musicians and music lovers with a DIY attitude can carve out their own place in the social cyberspace.

Next time more Cloud Watching.

Buying In to Sell Out

For bands, making money from music alone is not enough. Sometimes it's all about the merch. (Photos from Kings Road Merch and Indiemerch.)

Taking more notes from Mr. PJ Bond who, as of this writing, is playing his music around the United Kingdom, a musician can not live on music alone.  A lot of the money generated for independent bands and musicians doesn’t come from the sale of their music, but from their merchandise.  Getting from one show to the next means keeping a tight rein on expenses and shilling t-shirts, stickers and posters out of a well-worn suitcase after the show.

Although selling merchandise face-to-face is the most efficient way to turn money into food or gas, it’s impossible for one person or band group to manage a “merch booth” while performing.  Keeping an eye out to make sure money and inventory doesn’t disappear can be handled by a manager but most bands and musicians barely make enough money to keep the tires from falling off the tour van so musicians turn to the internet for solutions.  While a dedicated website is a great way to get information to fans, it can be cumbersome when it comes to selling merchandise.  Also, “official” band merchandise is difficult to keep “official”, in that more popular bands have their name and image re-sold “unofficially” through sites that have no link with the bands, therefore the bands do not receive compensation for money generated on their name.

Online retailers are numerous but some specialize in catering to musicians and bands specifically.  In an effort to find out which merch retailers are used  I have subscribed to some independent bands whose music I like.  Metal/Punk band Valient Thorr uses indiemerch.com. From their website:Indiemerchndising prides itself on relationships and quality… with the industry’s most advanced manufacturing capabilities and distribution services.”  The site is subdivided into the indiemerchstore section which allows a band to sell their merchandise through a web-based secure interface (indiemechstore.com)and another section specializes in manufacturing the merchandise whether its t-shirts, pants or hats (indiemerchandising.com ).

Indiemerch.com also offers a value add service by allowing bands to customize the look of their site in order to brand their retail page alongside their merchandise.  From the band-specific page a band can place links to their official website, latest blog updates, and the site automatically lists the best sellers.  Here’s a look at Valient Thorr’s indiemerch page.

A more popular indy band, Social Distortion, uses Kings Road Merchwhich offers similar services but has a larger distribution network throughout the world. (Social Distortion’s kings road merch page.)  King’s Road Merch offers merchandise production, tour supply, design, online stores, and retail distribution but doesn’t allow the same page customization as indiemerch.

There are countless merchandise sites that perform similar services but may not cater specifically to musicians such as: grindstore.com; zazzle.com; cafepress.com; rockabilia.com; scrappyapparel.com; bandwagonmerch.com; bandwear.com

Still there’s many other sites that cater to musicians merch needs and if you know of any that need adding to this post or to my research please send it along.