The Anti-Social Network

Every ten minutes another Indie Music website is born.

Okay, that statistic is a completely ad rectum statement, but sometimes it seems that way. I get emails from these budding young social networking sites weekly. Almost daily. Honestly, I’m not sure whom some of them are trying to kid; nobody wants to go to a website to listen to indie music.

Every one of these sites function the same: They expect musicians to upload their music, bio, photos, tour dates, and videos, a process which can take upwards of an hour for some of us with extensive catalogs. The sites don’t really do any outreach of their own to connect these musicians with new fans, relying instead on the musicians to bring their own audience to the site. Why the hell would I funnel my fans into someone else’s website just so they can reap the rewards of ugly banner ads and pre-roll commercials?

I have yet to see a site whose events calendar can interface with… well, any other calendar known to mankind. This is why ArtistData exists, the only good service Sonicbids offers (and they didn’t create it). And let’s not even talk about hidden, indecipherable, dubious clauses in these sites’ twenty-page Terms of Service. Who owns the rights to what? Perpetual license? Are you selling my music to MTV reality shows and pocketing the money, or just making sure I don’t sue you for carrying music that I uploaded in the first place?

Occasionally there are real innovators. Turntable.fm lets users play DJ with other users. Pandora developed an alarmingly accurate recommendation engine (robot voodoo, I say). Noisetrade.com gives you a handy widget to trade free tunes for email addresses and even some Paypal tips. New music social networks aren’t always bad, but for some reason the good ones are few and far between.

General Ebel’s Advice

My advice to musicians: There are only two things you should focus on when looking at social networking sites. The first question is obvious: is anyone here but other musicians? Normal people and potential fans are on Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. Why waste time on some unknown site that’s only full of other indie artists trying to pimp their latest hip-hop remix tribute mashup album?

The second question is harder to answer but is still important: Does this site do something that I absolutely, positively need to be a part of? If it’s not so cool that your fans will jump out of their chairs in excitement, maybe your time is better spent reaching out to new people on the big sites. Scratch that… how about playing an online concert or releasing a new track to the fans you already have? Tell them to share it, let them do the social networking.

My advice to anyone who wants to start up a new music site: If you don’t already have a significant population of non-musician users, you’d better provide some kind of service that musicians actually need. If you expect musicians to drive their fan base to your site (and your site ads) without offering anything they can’t already get from Facebook, Twitter, or their own website, you’re just wasting your time. Worse yet, you’re wasting my time.

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