How can enhance artist/fan interaction

People rave about for a lot of reasons, but one you rarely hear is how it can get artists in touch with their fans. I’ve had three experiences like this in the last few months, and each has been a fun thrill in its own way. All have come about because I keep a journal on there about music, promoting the artists I like and reporting on shows I see:

Skywriter are a band from Copenhagen. They sound kind of like Leonard Cohen meets Brian Ferry via David Bowie’s Berlin era. They’ve got one record on an indie label. They’re not exactly tearing up the charts, but it’s one of my favorite records of the year. So when I got the chance to write a review to that effect at Its A Trap (a site I’ll write about in another entry), I did. And then, as I usually do, I cut and pasted it into my journal. And who should show up in the comments on my journal entry than Skywriter’s singer/guitarist/songwriter, there to tell me how good my review had made him feel. Now he and I send occassional messages to one another.

I also wrote up in my journal logs of all the concerts I saw in the 1980s (I kept records! though they should have been better). So I get a message from someone saying “I was in that scene, I was at a lot of those shows.” And lo and behold, it was someone from one of those great local bands I saw so many times back them. Someone I knew in high school and liked but never kept in touch with. Now we email.

Last week I wrote a report on the incredible reunion show I got to see by late 70s/early 80s underground icons, the Embarrassment, and this morning, I got a message from one of the guys in that band, telling me how “warm and fuzzy” my write-up had made him feel. Like the guy I knew in high school, this was actually someone I’d known in the 80s, but he didn’t know it was me when he wrote.

I have seen messages that artists leave in fans’ shoutboxes (visible on the page for all to see), things like “I saw you listened to our last record a lot, our new one will be out next week.” So at least for less famous bands, is working as a vehicle for locating the people who are listening to you, or who are writing about you, and engaging them directly.

I’ve written before about acknowledging the rewards for artists of having direct interpersonal connections to fans, and all these stories drive that point home. Performers, especially those who don’t sell a lot, are happy happy happy to have a way to reach those who are buying.

‘MySpaces’ for Sports

And the winner for first sports-based MySpace goes to … oh, well, looks like there are two vying for that claim. A press release from SRN announces:

the launch of the beta version of a new web portal,, on Wednesday, August 30th. is the world’s first online platform for the interaction of sports fans, created by fans, with content driven by fans. In addition to the major sports, will provide a national platform for sports such as archery, kayaking, and lacrosse, which are largely overlooked by mainstream media.

Super duper! Except for that there’s already another one out there: brings sports fanatics, sports rivals and sports enthusiasts to its site to gab and jab about teams and athletes they love and hate. Launched in late July, the site so far has about 1,800 registered users, including some from Santa Clarita, who take verbal shots at one another on personal Web pages about their positions on local and national teams.

“We view it as MySpace meets a sports bar meets talk radio,” said Elon Werner, director of communications for Beckett Media LP, the Texas-based sports publishing company that created the site. (The Daily News)

I’m sure there’s room for more than one.

A new model for connecting fans and bands

Here’s a piece about a business start up trying to connect bands with fans and people who are likely to become fans., based in North Carolina’s research triangle, a long-time hotbed of indie music, is set to launch this fall after getting $2 million VC$:

The Rosebuds are among the 100-plus musicians and bands that have agreed to test Reverbnation until the site launches publicly this fall. The artists are uploading concert schedules, sound files and biographical information.

The bands are also building links to their fans’ home pages, blogs and favorite song lists. Reverbnation wants to create a searchable fan database that bands and club owners can tap into to promote shows and CDs. The fans could be searched by genre, age and geographical location.

A musician’s economic value — and by extension Reverbnation’s — will be measured by the number of fans that use the site.

“It’s not just sales anymore — it’s eyeballs,” said Jed Carlson, Reverbnation’s chief marketing officer. “It’s how many hits is your MySpace page getting. That’s insight [for the music industry] into who should we call, who should we sign, who should we produce.”

Backed by $2 million from venture capitalists Novak Biddle Venture Partners in Bethesda, Md., and Southern Capital Ventures in Raleigh, the site is being developed by a team of seven marketers, Web developers and music industry veterans in Durham and New York City.

Music fans are hungry for sites that will effectively refer them not just to music they will like, but also to live shows in their area. If this site succeeds in getting its critical mass, it could be great. Or not. I’ll be watching with interest to see how the vision gets implimented in practice.

Cultivating Music Fandom: MySpace vs. Pandora vs.

While MySpace gets all the attention and Pandora builds ever-greater popular buzz,, based in London, has been doing some innovative things connecting music fans with one another. It’s loaded with examples of what to do and what not to do, so I plan to write about it here now and then. I thought I’d start of with a quick comparison between and its more widely known counterparts.

MySpace is much broader than a music space, but it’s nonetheless an important space for musicians and music fans: bands put their music up for those who visit their profile, people describe themselves in terms of music by listing bands with which they like to be identified, and bands and fans can friend one another. I’ve heard complaints from people in bands about the time required to approve all the friend requests, since indie bands need all the friends they can get to have a credible presence. Famous bands have queues large enough to require professional handling. But people are clearly getting turned on to new music through that site all the time, and for any artist seeking new fans, having a presence there is simply required. For a fan, I don’t think that’s as true. Personally, I don’t care for MySpace. It is (famously) ugly, and I’m bothered by the visibility of its advertising (AdBlock has fixed that). I went there to hear a song by an obscure Swedish pop band called Peter, Bjorn and John and there was a banner ad for Paris Hilton. I thought “I will not go to a site that juxtaposes Peter Bjorn and John with Paris Hilton” [on that note, google just bought the right to manage the searching and advertising on MySpace for $900 million. Yes, that's $900,000,000.]. I do visit MySpace on rare occasion when friends recommend particular songs, but I don’t have a profile and haven’t felt particularly left out on account of it. And I hear that all the cool 20-something indie kids are suddenly done with MySpace.

Pandora has fine-tuned abilities to generate personalized radio streams of music you’re likely to like based on bands you say you already like. The selections are based on their own analysis of the music itself – they’ve developed a system for breaking down the sound of a song into components and finding others that share many of those qualities (e.g. lengthy guitar solos, emphasis on harmonies, fast tempo). Search blogs and you’ll find plenty of arguments over how well it really does, but a lot of people really like it. What Pandora doesn’t do at all is connect people who listen to similar artists to one another – it’s a personal site, but not a social one. I’ve tried Pandora a few times and haven’t been impressed. I realize that to truly reap its benefits you need to spend time with it, letting it know which songs you did and didn’t like so it can better learn your tastes. I found that although I could hear similarites amongst the songs it chose for me, they were still different in ways that made all the difference to me. takes a very different approach. When you play music on your computer, information about what you’re listening to is uploaded to your (public) profile on the site. generates personal charts of your listening habits and, out of its enormous and ever-growing repository of over a million users’ actual listening habits, it recommends “neighbors” (an interesting metaphor) who have similar taste and makes music recommendations. Like Pandora, it incorporates personalized radio streaming, but it has many more ways to personalize it. also offers an all-you-can-eat buffet of communicative possibilities for fans and for labels and artists seeking to reach fans – friending, shoutboxes, personal messaging, journaling, discussion forums, artist wikis, user groups. Like a true fan, I have a love/hate relationship with To have a social networking site that is based on actual music listening habits is just great. It enables me to find people I’d never otherwise find who are interesting to have brief chats with and who are able to make some really great recommendations. I also enjoy that it offers a space for writing about music and I think it’s inherently interesting to see one’s own habits laid out so objectively over time. Each week I’m surprised at who made my weekly top 10. I discover I like some bands more than I thought and others less so. But I find the site a source of endless frustration as well – they are trying to do too much with too few people. There are often glitches (though it has been functioning far more smoothly since its recent upgrade), the organization of the site is far from user-friendly, I don’t like the aesthetics of the new design, and I am continuously frustrated by the communication between staff and users.

At any rate, it’s all happening on — direct fan-artist communication, web radio, artist/fan fan/fan artist/artist label/fan label/label etc networking, and anyone interested in the future of the music industry and online fandom ought to be keeping an eye on the site.

Even the Arctic Monkeys aren’t a MySpace Band. Honest!

To follow up on my posting the other day, here’s more on the Arctic Monkeys’ use of the internet to rise to fame. And, oh yeah, massive protestations against the notion that MySpace had anything to do with it:

It is on the internet, too, that the implications of the Arctic Monkeys’ success seem most profound. It appears to invert the music industry’s long-held fears of free-music-based, web-led meltdown. Instead, internet file-sharing and discussion built a grass-roots movement of fans for the Arctic Monkeys’ music. This practice has been institutionalised, and perverted, by, the massive website where individuals and bands such as the Arctic Monkeys accumulate “friends”, who support and debate their activities. Rupert Murdoch’s buy-out of the company shows the way this briefly democratic set-up is likely to go.

The implications of industry-bypassing channels seem enormous. Most commentators see the Arctic Monkeys’ hit as its first above-ground eruption, the main reason their success this year is so crucial. The band themselves, however, beg to differ. In fact, they find the idea appalling.

“Somebody said to us, ‘I saw your profile on MySpace,’ ” sniffed drummer Matt Helders to US website “I said, ‘I don’t even know what MySpace is.’ [When we went to No. 1 in England] we were on the news and radio about how Myspace has helped us.

But that’s just the perfect example of some-one who doesn’t know what the f— they’re talking about.”

Just for the record, I find MySpace too ugly to look at and don’t spend time there if I can avoid it, but it’s more than a little interesting to see the conflation between the internet and MySpace, and also to see a band that has benefited from the net so much nonetheless seek to distance themselves from it.