Saturday, December 16, 2006

Myspace - are you there yet?

I'm writing this blog entry after about 4 hours of sleep on the last day of our tour where we head from Chicago (last night) to Washington DC (tonight) before heading back to NYC (later tonight). Does this sound like the kind of performer/tourer you are? In which case you can really use Myspace to go way beyond "hey I have some friends" to using it as a tool to get your band out there.

Are you on it?
OK, Myspace has been around long enough that the schoolkids have gone off to Facebook. The punk scene has their own site. But music people, well.... we're always a little behind the curve, aren't we? And it just so happens that right now, EVERYONE is on Myspace.

To the extent that many bands I know are asking "Why am I still updating my website?" since everyone goes to Myspace for their info anyway. As of latest 2006, many bands' sites are languishing as their Myspace slots have their actual gig dates, latest info, etc. Clubs are ditching their websites altogether and just putting all their information here.

Why? Well, here's 4 reasons.

1) It's super-simple. You don't need any html skills. It's made for bands. Everything that you need is ready to go (except a press kit, and even that you can figure out). Upload a picture, tunes, bio information, and gig dates. And you're set to go - you have a site!

2) You're not separated from your community. By listing your Top 8, 12, 16, whatever, Friends, you've made a statement about who you are and the company you keep. Or, in some instances, where you want to be. Most major bands have myspace sites. Be Wilco's friend! Or, why not give props to Beethoven in your Top 8? This is part of your snapshot, and gives your viewers a sense of not only what you sound like, what your bio says, but what scene they can place you in.

3) You come up in Google searches - and anyone can see your profile at any time! Google your band name, and your myspace page shows up. Then anyone can click on it, and hear your tunes & get your info. Automatic Google placement, that's pretty cool, right?

4) Oh yeah: it's free! You don't have to pay for hosting costs, bandwidth, nothing. Good deal, right?

Make connections!
The great thing about Myspace is it's created with bands and fans in mind.

People are connecting in relation to the music they love. Sure, not every profile has music on it, but most do -- if someone doesn't make music themselves, they can take someone else's music and put it on there. If your fans put your tunes up on their Myspace page, it also boosts your official play count! Plus it's like radio play - everyone who goes to that page can hear your song.

That said, some of the really great work goes on behind the scenes. Say you're a DIY chamber music collective in Cleveland. You want to tour Toledo, Cincinnati, Columbus, and get a show at Oberlin. What's the old way of doing this? Find clubs, art galleries, cafes, call them, give them your credentials, and beg them for a gig.

What's the new way? Make friends!

Locals will do the work for you!
So, do a Myspace search for "chamber music Toledo" and see what comes up. Or maybe "Charles Wuorinen Toledo" to find someone who's playing similar music. Add those guys as your friends. Make some nice comments. Check out each other's tunes. And now - it's time to go behind the scenes. Use the Messenger - not the comments field - and write them a note. You're going on tour in April and wondered if they wanted to help you set up a show in Toledo? You'll trade them for a hometown gig in Cleveland when they come out your way.

You won't believe it, but those guys in Toledo will be psyched to make the connection, and will - most likely - not only book the space for your show, but help promote it to their audience! You show up in Toledo, and, presto, you've got a gig - and, an audience! It doesn't always work that smoothly, or is that easy, and certainly isn't an automatic audience, but you'll be surprised by the power of this - especially if your work is compatible to the other group and you are ready to reciprocate.

Now, you won't be getting big money gigs, in all likelihood, from this. But if you're ready to be a little crazy and just *get on the road* to get your music out there (see above reference to current 11 1/2 hour drive to the next gig), Myspace is a great tool. Or, if you've got a good tour with some decent-paying gigs, it's a great way to fill out the off-days.

Quick marketing tips
OK now that I've talked about how to get gigs, there are some things you can do to boost your profile. The first thing is obvious. Get some friends. People like people with other friends. But here are some other pointers for Myspace newbies. Have fun with it!

1. Don't just add friends. Leave comments. If someone wants to be your friend, actually check out their page and say something nice. For two reasons - a) everyone who sees that page also sees your comment. More linking! b) Said person will often reciprocate and write something nice about you. Thus giving you more comments, thus making your page more active.

2. Don't change your songs every day. Get your play counts up; have at least 1 song in solid rotation so it's clear that people are really listening to your stuff. This gives others the feeling that you're a hot artist that they should actually listen to.

3. Get your friends count up - but - good friends. There are programs/spiders you can buy that will automatically add friends. You can get your friend count way up artificially, but it's better to have a smaller, solid group of fans.

4. Leave around e-flyers. Speaking of the comments field, create a little jpg graphic for your next gig, and go to your friends' pages and leave it as a comment. This will get your gig in the head of your friends, but also - again - everyone who sees this site will see your comment.

5. Keep it legible - be creative on your site but don't go nuts.
If you DO know html, you can mess with your Myspace page, from changing the background color to adding pictures to changing where the different boxes are on the page. You want the page to reflect you; and the Myspace troller's eyes will perk up when it's not a plain-jane white background. Give people a video or two they can watch. Get your logo/identity up there somehow. That said, if it's too busy so that you have to strain to get critical information - like "When is the next gig?" then you've done yourself a disservice; it's the internet -- people have limited time to see if they want to stick around.

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