ReverbNation Street Teams

Yesterday I wrote about ReverbNation’s approach to helping bands spread themselves across the internet by providing an easy means to create distributable resources and track how those resources were employed and with what success. Jed Carlson, CMO, gave me a guided tour of the site recently, and in this second part, I want to discuss their view of fans, Street Teams, and the business model on which they’re banking.

They view fans as a funnel. At the widest end are the people who listen to the music. Then there are those likely to buy (converting ‘fans’ to ‘customers’ is one of their missions). Then there are the “promoters,” those who place widgets around the net and spread your music on your behalf. ReverbNation gives the bands easy ways to give fans what they need to be promoters and to track which fans are doing the most and the most successful promoting.

They see Street Teams as the narrowest end of the funnel. Fans can sign up to be on a Street Team. Band can launch ‘missions’ (spreading the music, promoting shows, recruiting new fans, driving traffic, and spreading the word offline are the five mission types built into the interface). Bands can build in rewards (e.g. backstage passes for the five team members who bring the most hits). Street Team members can choose whether they want to join a mission or not, and on their site, the mission and those who have been most active in accomplishing it are displayed. In contrast to a site like FanCorps, they have very limited means for Team members to talk to one another – no chat rooms or forums. Instead, the focus is on the bands.

Right now the Street Team piece is in Beta. Four bands are testing it, and it is set to go live no later than mid-June.

I asked where the money is to be found for them in all of this since all of these services are free for the bands and the fans. They have three primary revenue streams. First, the pages have ads (which I think are rather discreetly tucked into the corner) and artists share 50% of the revenue that views of their pages generate (in other words, the more page hits a band gets, the larger their share of ad revenue will be). Second, the artists can sell their music on the site using SnoCap and ReverbNation takes a modest cut. Finally, they offer bands some “premium services” for a prices. These include what they call “Fan Reach” which allows bands to do highly targetted fan contacts (like: send an email to all the fans in Ohio), and the ability to have the ReverbNation resources appear without ReverbNation branding.

What I like about this scheme is that there are no built-in motivations to screw either the bands or the fans. The more money the bands make, the more they make, and the less the bands make, the less they make. If they don’t put the bands and their needs first, they won’t make money. That’s a powerful incentive to remember their own mission.

Update: Fan Reach is free, not a premium service.

Comments (7) to “ReverbNation Street Teams”

  1. I’d be very curious to see if they have any success with this, especially considering they’re not giving the fans a way to communicate with the band or each other.

    I’ve found that usually things like chats and forums are generally what keep a fan interested in wanting to promote an act – that need to feel like they know the other fans, as well as the band or act. That each one of them is an important part of the community.

    We’ll all be watching, I suppose!

  2. You raise an important point Robin, since sites like FanCorps are built to encourage fans to communicate with one another. Reverbnation does offer messaging, so that fans can communicate with each other and with bands on site, but that is very different from having a group communication space.

    On the other hand, they already have a big base of bands, and they’re free, so it might be a logical and easier extension of what the bands are already doing on there than setting up a new street team system on another site.

    Reverbnation also lets fans take things from the bands (pix, songs, etc) and put them in forums elsewhere, so in theory fan community building could happen somewhere other than Reverbnation yet still rely on the resources they provide.

    But I do wonder also about the consequences of not having a way for fans to interact in groups.

  3. what does the Hits & Exposure counters actually mean? does the Exposure mean that the visitors liked it and wants to recommend it? and Hits is just how many people looked at your profile?

  4. I know I’m coming at this long after the original blog post but well into the establishment of Reverbnation. I use the street team option on The Dreaming’s site as an additional source. I have a Myspace, Facebook and dedicated site for the team. Our websited contains a message forum that I got free from dhbb where the teamers can communicate and do. Myspace is really just a one-way street and it’s the devil that all of us in the music biz are stuck with. I use it mainly for recruiting. Facebook? enhh! It’s just coming into it’s own. It does offer more two-way communication but for the music industry is still not taken seriously. Reverbnation provides THE BEST email interface out there. It is so easy for myself or the band to do mass mailings and filtering the mailing list is a breeze. I demand all my teamers at least sign up for FanReach. I also love the missions interface. From building the mission to tracking activity…duck soup. I just need to get my band to use the gig results option. I want to see how good the metrics are with that because all the other tools are incredibly powerful and FREE! Both my band and I have access to their site so that works well for us too. They are completely DIY and technically unsigned…they are private labeled. Reverbnation has been such a success for them that they earned Spotlight Song of the Week within their third month on the site. They’ve posted all the widgets on their homepage and between them and the team have garned over a quarter of a million widget hits, 3000 song plays and 1700 site visits in 4 months. Reverbnation wins hands down for us.

  5. Hi – I’m artist Johnny Rei -I’m currently no. 5 on reverbnation – global – all genres. I was around top 10 in global all genres charts for whole April 2009. To my huge disappointment, my Fair Share for April was $5 (Five Dollars). I’m really, really disappointed. So if you are an artist who is working really hard for a whole month on promoting and if you think you gonna earn big money, forget it. Even if you are in Top Ten. I think this whole Fair Share is rather a big scam for naive people, who are going to use widgets and other promotional tools to increase traffic on their reverbnation profile – which is eventually not gonna pay off at all – you are making promotion for reverbnation basically for free. I think you would be better off promoting yourself without any reverbnation tools. Fair shair doesn’t work with Band Equity, fair share doesn’t work with number of visists on your profile…
    By the way – reverbnation admin deleted this post before. I was working really hard for 2 months to promote reverbnation. If nothing happens, I’m going to do the opposite for next two months.

    Well, let me tell you how this works:

    You (artist) set up a profile on Reverbnation. Every time you visit a profile,you are creating impressions for adverts, which are placed on most sites on Reverbnation. Companies, who placed the adverts are paying for impressions you create. Now imagine 300 000+ ReverbNation users running around every day. That must create a lot of daily or monthly impressions. This is the main income for reverbnation owners. Plus – some artists are also purchuasing products such as Mega Storage, Fan Reach Pro etc., for which you are paying monthly fees. So what is the advantage of being on reverbnation? Apart from interacting with other users, there is none. Even if you are in top 10 charts – global – all generes – your traffic stays basically the same, there is no potential managers on labels interested in any of the artists. You can create same widgets and players as Reverbnation offers and advertise on myspace by yourself everything would be the same. But in this case, you are earning money for ReverbNation company which proimises to share 50% their advertising revenue – which is a great motivation for artists to ’’run around’’ or promote ReverbNation by placing widgets and players. This eventually doesn’t happen – users are not discussing their earnings – when they recieve small amount of money, they think they’ve done little work comparing to others. Let me tell you the truth: No one earns more than 5-10 dollars a month. So when ReverbNation is saying: ’’Some of the artists will recieve very nice paycheck each month’’ maybe they are talking about themselves or artists like 50 cent – who are there just because ReverbNation paid them to be there.

    Two months ago I thought ReverbNation is great honest website and if I work hard -I will do really well. Turns out the owners are just another bunch of ’’Flippers’’ who earn quick buck from Unsigned Artist’s naivity.

    I’m not just another naive artist, who’s gonna walk away and that’s it. I’m demanding a refund for my 2 months of hard work. If Reverbnation is not going to respond in anyway, I’m going to work hard for next 2 months…

  6. Here are responses I’ve recieved via messages:

    Artist – Wes Davey

    Keep Yer Songs on here though, cuz Yer Music is GREAT!!!!
    Share them with the ‘PEOPLE’ Man!!!! :-)

    Artist – themightysmall

    Hello Johnny Rei,

    Thank you for posting up your honest opinion! I have to admit when I began using the reverbnation facility I kind of ignored the profit share part of it mainly because with the amount of people sharing a piece of the profits it was unlikely that much would materialise. I was more interested in the facilities they had set up for artists. I have realised in the last five years the huge increase of record industry minions and middlemen who are setting up business on their own has increased dramatically. The irony of this is that the huge corperations with all their wealth and power have realised the hugh sums of money they were wasting on insignificant middle men, and now these middlemen have begun to set up there own companies the only thing that has changed for them is who’s paying their wages and guess what it’s the artist again only this time its more direct, the promises are bigger and reality is that it is their hope, hard work and (in some cases) talent that props up this crumbling limb of an already dying system.
    Where does the answer lie?
    Well maybe it’s about time musicians began to get a little more business aware.
    Even though the thought of something as wonderful as music being described as a business can be a turn off for any musician.

    Warm Regards

    Artist – Under Pressure Music

    Hey Johnny
    I read your blog…I gotta say that we tend to agree with you.
    There have been several situations with RN management that have arisen lately with us as well.
    With us, it was the cap on favorites was limited to 500, so every time we favorited 500 artists we would get a message saying we have hit the limit…-YET- When we went on other artists sites we would sometimes see as much as 750 artists that they had schmoozed…yet we were limited to 500??? I told them this and they said I must have been mistaken…then I replied to their email showing the actual examples and said they don’t know how these guys got that amount(one guy has 1200+)..Now normally I wouldn’t get too upset, but when these guys start overtaking you in the charts, then it becomes an issue of fairness.
    Since giving them the sites, they replied with ‘we will set your limit at 750’…so this tells me that certain acts are given favours over others. Not exactly a fair way to play ball.
    As it is with the ‘fair share’, we had some months back when we started that we earned $52/35/28, and that was when we didn’t have a whole lot of traffic …now that we have a good fan base, its just the opposite. The last report we had about fairshare was something like $1.83..embarrasing considering the promo we do for them and the fact that we were #1 act in Canada for a considerable time (#5 today and #93 Global).

    Artist – Washington’s Crossing

    I think you are right. I have been promoting my band for a few months here and I find very few active fans that use the site. I find more street team fans that are fake, and many other problems with top “artists” that have no right to be on top other that they paid to.

    peace, john

    Artist – cee knowledge and cosmic funk allstars

    yo thanks for sharing that info…you are da man…im with you homie…good luck with promoting your music and dont let these scammers deter you from your dreams…peace cee knowledge

    Artist – Katerina Stamatelos

    I know, my friend! I have noticed the “trap” myself!
    But: I am not expecting any “big checks” from reverbnation-just the fact that i meet new fans here is for me enough.
    Don’t get discouraged: that’s how all “business” people are!!!

    Take care and keep fighting!!!

    Label – Toxic Highway Recordings

    Yeah, that is certainly a gyp. I’d love to see how much the bands signed to major labels that are on here make…would you be willing to bet it’s a lot more than $5?

    That being said, I guess I’m just glad I’m earning anything at all for doing something I enjoy doing. But then again, ten hours a day is quite a bit of time to waste to only get $5 in return, and I’d be pretty pissed, too.

    And no response from Reverbnation on that issue?

    Hmm…that does seem to be a little shadier than I thought, however. The least they could do would be to explain why, but attempting to shut you up on the subject certainly isn’t right.

    Especially since that one guy in the forums supposedly made $10 in two months, roughly $5 a month, and he didn’t make it sound like he was in the top 10 of anything…you may have a greater point than I originally expected.

    Artist – Modad

    I almost did it too. Thanks for lettin me know it’s just like everywhere else.Again,,,,, thanks.

    Artist – Ben Green

    Yeah Im not a Huge artist on here but April I did the most traffic i ever had in the past year put together, yet my fairshare was the lowest…0.05……needless to say i was pissed, It’s good to see I’m not the only one who notice somethings not right…

    Artist – JoeytheSaxMan

    Hey Mr. J

    Considering I got .23 cents and I’m first in Eastern Canada, you’re not that bad, but I know what you’re saying Dude. RN gets half of all revenues, then the rest is distributed among all the thousands of people promoting RN. Have a great day!
    Keep the Groove Alive!
    Ciao … Joey

  7. Johnny Rei,

    I was disappointed to read your criticism of ReverbNation’s Fair Share program. It appears you misunderstand the nature of the fair share program in terms of what it is, how it works, and what you should expect from it. While you are certainly entitled to your opinion, I would hope that you could be better informed before you editorialize in public. We have always worked on behalf of the artist, and it shows in almost every aspect of the site and decision we make.

    Under the program artists share advertising dollars where their content is instrumental in generating the revenue. It was initially designed as a response to Artists’ concerns about how they were being treated by sites like MySpace (driving fan traffic and generating ad $$$ for MySpace, but not receiving a cut of the money). It was never intended as a primary revenue source as the total pool of advertising dollars is too small to accomplish this.

    Viewing ourselves as more of a business partner to the Artists, in 2007 we launched the Fair Share program with a commitment to split 50% of the net ad revenue with those who enrolled in the program. We have been sharing that ad revenue ever since, and we can’t think of any other site that has been bold enough to follow our lead.

    Admittedly, the amounts per Artist ‘will not make you rich’ (as stated when you sign up). But those payments are essentially ‘free money’ for Artists who are going to be promoting themselves with our tools anyway. If you are going to use our email tool, music/video players, Facebook app, gig finder, digital press kits, digital distribution, etc, why not signup to get something back? It’s not all that different than a Discover Card or a Costco Membership that pays you back some cash at the end of the month or year.

    In your case, you actually earned the equivalent of $2.47CPM (per thousand impressions that you drove to your ReverbNation page, where we show ads) for the month of April. This is significantly higher than the average CPM. It should be noted that ReverbNation does not place ads on widgets, emails or application pages. We refrain from this in an effort to preserve the integrity of the artists’ content (we don’t think shoving an ad into your music player on your blog will enhance your efforts to become a successful musician). Additionally, we must be sensitive to where widgets are placed. If we were to place advertising into a widget on MySpace, we would be violating their terms of service.

    But, it’s important to note that Fair Share is not designed to replace making great music, gigging, selling merch and tickets, getting sponsored, etc as an income stream for a musicians. This isn’t a ‘get rich quick’ plan of any kind.

    Let’s take a look at the math to understand how Fair Share is calculated and distributed to the Artists:

    At the end of every month, we take 50% of the net ad revenue and create an ‘Artist Pie’ full of money. We use a proprietary formula (so people can’t cheat with automated bots, fake emails, etc) to determine how big a slice each Artist receives. So, each Artist will receive a monthly ‘slice’ based on:

    1. The overall size of the ‘Artist Pie’.
    2. The Artist’s portion, based on the formula.

    It’s very important to understand that the size of the pie varies greatly from month to month due to overall ReverbNation site impressions (growing over time), and the dollar value of each advertisement shown on the site (which is down significantly, due to the economy).

    It’s also important to understand that the portion any individual Artist receives depends on how many other Artists are enrolled in the program. If you have to divide a pie among many more people, each slice will be smaller. As you would expect, we sign up lots and lots of new Artists every day to the program.

    My final point it that the program is 100% voluntary. It is not a requirement in order to use our site or anything we offer. By the sounds of it, you might be happier opting out of it.

    Johnny, while I am happy (but somewhat confused) that you are still using our widgets on your MySpace page, I really wish that you would have contacted us prior to flaming a good program like Fair Share on blogs and to our user base. I have reached out repeatedly in an attempt to speak with you directly, but so far you have chosen not to have that conversation by telephone. That is your choice, but it is difficult to reconcile your actions when you write so strongly, but refuse to confront the problem directly.

    To anyone else that has questions about Fair Share, I’m happy to answer.

    -Jed Carlson
    Co-Founder, Chief Operating Officer