Wrapping Up the Cloud (Pt. 5 – Finale)

Flatpicking acoustic guitar guru Tony Rice can be found in The Cloud at the music streaming service Grooveshark.

With the enormous amount of musical data floating around the Internet and the seemingly unlimited number of ways to distribute it, I begrudgingly admit that I only have a  limited amount of time and space to dedicate to the subject, therefore I am wrapping up my multi-part series on Music in The Cloud.  Constraints aside, this post will look at some of the other portions of The Cloud that help musicians promote their music.

The Swedish music streaming company Spotify has become a major player in the music industry in just four short years.  As a “freemiuim” service Spotify allows registered users to search through and play millions of selected music tracks from a range of major and independent record labels.  Commercial advertisements are frequently interjected into the music stream for the free portion of the service, but listeners who upgrade to the premium (paid) service lose the ads and gain access to higher bit rate streams and mobile phone apps.

The way that Spotify benefits the independent musician is that it pays royalties to artists and/or labels for every time they play their song.  Because all the music played on Spotify is tracked – all participating labels and artists have access to reporting from Spotify allowing the artist the ability to see where and how their popularity is growing.  Spotify actually encourages independent artists to use artist aggregators in order to license their music so that it can be  played on music streaming sites.  For instance, Tunecore is one of many digital music distributors (or aggregators) that enters into agreements with music labels and artists. For a fee, Tunecore will distribute and stream digital copies of single tracks or entire albums to retail outlets like iTunes and amazon.com or music streaming sites like Spotify. Some of the other benefits Tunecore claims to offer musicians (from Tunecore’s website):

  • Musicians retain 100% of royalties and maintain all rights to their music
  • Songs can be made available on music video games like Rock Band
  • Physical on-demand distribution at Amazon
  • A streaming music player for the musicians’ webpage that plays the artists’ own music
  • Physical distribution, licensing and endorsement deals
  • Free digital cover art or physical CD art

Music streaming sites are usually heavily embedded with social media features as well.  Grooveshark, another music streaming service, allows users to sign in with their Facebook, twitter or Google plus account. As users listen to songs, they can post comments and the link to the music on their social media page of preference.  This has huge benefits for musicians when building a fanbase.  For artists, the task of gaining exposure through “word-of-mouth” promotion is transformed online with these types of embedded social media applications.

I’m sure this will not be the last post regarding music in The Cloud, but I want to open the blog to another range of topics. And besides, it’s been too long since I mentioned Valient Thorr.

Till next time…

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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.

The Cloud – It’s a Reverbnation and We’re All Just Livin’ in it (pt. 3)

Even from "way down on the farm," The Carolina Chocolate Drops can access The Cloud through reverbnation.

In my seemingly never-ending search for information about how new media is used by musicians, I run up against a few barriers;  for instance, emails to new media companies go unanswered.  But the corporate cold-shoulder aside, my biggest hurdle is the size of The Cloud.  Everyday I discover different bands using an array of online tools to embed their music to a blog or to post gig announcements in some form of social media.  So, without admitting I’m overwhelmed, I’ll just say that I will try to give as much attention to each online service that I can.  Today I will start with a big one: reverbnation.com

Created in 2006, reverbnation.com claims to have “the best tools for musicians and the best music for everyone else.”  With nearly 2 million artists using their service, they certainly claim a large chunk of music real estate in The Cloud.  From reverbnation’s about page:

ReverbNation.com is the leading online music-marketing platform used by over 1,995,000 artists — plus managers, record labels, and venues — to grow their reach, influence, and business across the internet. ReverbNation.com provides free and affordable solutions to individual artists and the music industry professionals that support them in the areas of web promotion, fan-relationship management, digital distribution, social-media marketing, direct-to-fan e-commerce, fan-behavior measurement, sentiment tracking, web-site hosting, and concert booking and promotion

Quite a lot there, I know, but reverbnation is a monster when it comes to building relationships with fans, labels, venues and producers.  More than 100,000 artists use their free FanReach emailing service which allows musicians to directly connect with fans.  For a premium upgrade, artists can have access to FanReachPro which is for bands who are trying to grow their fan base, book gigs, and earn money from selling merchandise and music.

In the true spirit of the “freemium” service, rudimentary tools get bands started with a profile, which allows them to access to music players and widgets and a multitude of other services. If bands want upgrade to the paid service they can access tools to customize their e-newsletters and press kits and get more detailed stats regarding their fan activity.

Reverbnation’s GigFinder service helps artists find venues that showcase bands similar in genre to their music.  It also allows users to search in a specific geography which is extremely helpful when booking tour dates.  With over 100,000 venue listings around the world, bands can extend their reach for gigs beyond their own backyard.

I didn’t intend for this entry to be a reverbnation commercial, but I have to admit that the sheer breadth and depth of their services for musicians is staggering.  It is an excellent alternative for bands that don’t have the time and resources to build and maintain their own website. For more about what they have to offer check out reverbnation’s Artist Features Page.

To see an example of reverbnation in action, check out The Carolina Chocolate Drops page

Next time, you guessed it, MORE CLOUD!

 

Happy New Year from The Cloud (Pt. Two)

While the SOPA opera continues to play-out in Washington DC, I have become more aware of so-called “music piracy.”  It’s obvious to me that if  bands do not want their music downloaded illegally, they have an option: don’t release any music. No albums. No singles.  Just play live shows.  Unfortunately there is the off-chance that some one could illegally record the live show and upload the recording to the internet for all to “steal.”  Personally, I think bands should be flattered if someone goes to the trouble of recording their shows, but that is going down a long and winding path; I’m here to discuss The Cloud.

I recently discovered that Soundcloud uses a flash video format for embedding audio files onto web pages.  The benefit of the format is that it allows listeners to play the soundclip but it prevents them from downloading it.  Musicians also have the option to “unlock” the audio clip in order to allow people to download it.  As part of the embedded audio/video file, Soundcloud  shows the audio wave form (a graphical representation of sound) while the audio clip is playing.  Here’s a link to an example of Souncloud at work:  Geneva punk grrl duo The Chikitas have embedded the audio clips on the music page of their website.

Many radio stations simultaneously stream their broadcast signal on their dedicated web sites.  If a band is lucky enough to get the station to play their song, then they have successfully had one-play on the web.  Not very significant or user friendly for the fan.  An online alternative, Last.FM is a music recommendation service that uses a process called scrobbling to identify music that a registered user likes and makes playlists and recommendations for the user based on the scrobbling data.  Here’s how Last.FM describes scrobblin

  • Scrobbling is a little note The Scrobbler sends to Last.fm to let us know what song you’re playing.
  • Scrobbling helps us tell you what songs you play most often, which songs you like the most, how much you’ve played an artist over a certain amount of time, which of your friends have similar tastes… all kinds of stuff. By focusing on the music you already play we can help you discover more music.
  • The Scrobbler automatically fills your library and updates it with what you’ve been listening to on your computer or iPod.

Essentially you build your own radio “station” by adding recommendations to your playlist.  If a musician wants to upload his or her music they simply play it on their ipod or computer and it automatically uploads to Last.FM.  Sorry SOPA.

In the United States there is a similar service called Pandora where a registered user can play musical selections similar to song suggestions entered by a user.  The user provides positive or negative feedback for songs chosen by the service, which are taken into account for future selections. While listening, users have the option to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. But Pandora does not allow users to upload their music like Last.FM and play of a single artist is limited.  Pandora provides similar music, not a play-on-demand service.

There is still a lot of more information about The Cloud.  In part three, I will be taking a look at a build-your own social networking site and more.

 

Happy New Year from The Cloud (Pt. One)

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Taking time out over the holidays to visit friends and family in the US, I managed to have a few conversations with different musicians and what I’ve quickly learned is that there are a lot of choices available when it comes to getting their music out there. In lieu of radio airplay which can be unheard of for certain styles of music, the “cloud” is the de facto place that hosts music. Because this post could get excruciatingly long, I am going to break it up into different parts.  Welcome to part one.

I was going to reserve an entire post for itunes and I may revisit it later, but one can not talk about hosting music in the cloud without talking about itunes’s contribution.  Whereas music was once bought, sold and traded as a tangible formats (CD’s, tapes, vinyl records), now a single song takes up virtual space on a server  in Silicon Valley and can be downloaded in an instant.  But in order to be a partner with itunes musicians must enter into agreement that shares rights with Apple on all downloads and meet stringent requirements (like a 20 album catalog!)  But I don’t want to turn this into a itunes post.  My goal is to cover just a few of the other cloud hosting spots for music.

Youtube is also another good source for musicians to post their music. ( I’ve created a page that has some of my favorite videos here.)  Although some bands can’t afford to produce a music video they can simply post a picture of the band or of their album cover (or even a video of the song being played on a turntable) while the song plays.

Soundcloud not only allows musicians to upload their music but record directly onto their “cloud.” The sounds canthen be shared private publicly or posted to social network platforms.  Musicians can also join groups within the website and communicate with other musicians or fans.

Bandcamp is quickly becoming a favorite among artists.  It is a site that allows bands to truly “own” their space.  Bands can create the look of their page, upload their music and videos, host comments, etc.  Bandcamp also doesn’t have awkward ads and links that clutter up the artists’ page.  The website earns a 15% commission on all sales from the artists’ sites.

And with that, I’ll end part one.  Next time, more cloud.