8 Must-Have Apps for Gaining and Keeping Fans

By Caleb Hsu

In a world teeming with innovative marketing strategies and constant social media advancements, it’s more important than ever for artists and bands to develop an astute understanding of self-promotion in the digital realm. Musicians are being forced to become overnight entrepreneurs due to the stiff competition within the industry, having no real barrier to entry. While there are bands at the pioneering forefront of creativity that set themselves apart (i.e. Imagine Dragons’ dedicated app for fans), it’s a tough venture to rise above the competition.
Thankfully, there are a number of fan engagement apps designed with the on-the-go musician in mind. Here are eight essential apps to acquire and interact with fans.

Get new fans

Building a fanbase as a musician comes down to two simple requirements: branding yourself and getting your music heard. These apps help both in creating a brand and sharing music with millions.

1. MobBase, by MixMatchMusic


via AppMakerReviews

What better way to realize a brand than to create your own official app with MobBase? This app is great if you want to build a completely personalized app to represent your brand in its entirety. With MobBase, artists can connect with fans anywhere and everywhere to share music, photos, videos, tweets, info about gigs, sell merch and more. You can easily set up your app and publish it in under an hour, removing the guesswork from app development. Track analytics reports and manage ticket purchases all from a single app. The only setback about this app is the lack of support for iPad and the somewhat high, upfront activation fee for iTunes (along with the required $99/year iOS developer account). 
Price: Initial setup and app are free. Monthly costs vary depending on types of account/services. Check the pricing page for more detailed information.

2. SoundCloud, by SoundCloud Ltd.


via Smashing Magazine

SoundCloud is an amazing platform for getting discovered by true music lovers. With extensive content tracking, specific categorization and tagging, your music will be available to over 250 million mobile app users. This app makes sharing music seamless. With the fluid integration of other platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, you can easily reach a huge audience of future fans. My only complaint is that the free subscription plan only allows two hours of uploaded content, and minimal statistics.
Price: App download and basic subscription plan are free. Pro and unlimited service prices are listed here.

3. ShoutEm, by ShoutEm Inc.


via ShoutEm

I love apps that take complex tasks and make them accessible to anyone – and ShoutEm is simply genius. With its intuitive interface, you can basically become a mobile app developer overnight. Imagine being able to create an individualized app for your band where fans can easily access all of your news and media. ShoutEm gives ordinary mobile device owners the ability to create an entire platform to connect and interact with fans without knowing anything about developer coding or HTML languages. Although ShoutEm offers Drupal and WordPress website integration, as well as more customization options over MobBase, it has weak marketing help and lacks complex monetization options. Still, it’s a great way to create your own unique app for fans. 
Price: $19.90/month for HTML5 and from $29.90/month for native apps

4. ReverbNation, by eMinor Inc.


via ReverbNation

Give your fans unlimited access. Whether they’re at home or on the road, your fans can listen to your music, see upcoming shows, check out photos and view recent news. This is a great app because it accomplishes both tasks of fan engagement* – it enables effortless music promotion and statistics tracking, and encourages existing fan interaction through show schedules, news feeds, backstage access through photos and videos, and a dedicated blog.
Price: Free with a ReverbNation artist bundle.
*A close contender is Mobile Roadie

Keep their attention

With social media, the fans themselves help promote music by utilizing mobile apps, taking a lot of pressure away from performers. These apps help strengthen the connection between the artist, audience and music.

5. Ustream, by Ustream Inc.


via Wix

You may have seen Livestream, Google+ Hangouts and YouTube Live sessions, but Ustream is by far the easiest method of connecting with your fans directly. Nothing is more engaging than a personal, real-time conversation, and Ustream provides the outlet to make that happen. With superstar artists like Taylor Swift utilizing Ustream’s Facebook app to host live chat sessions with exuberant fans, it’s clear that keeping your fans engaged requires a little more than sharing occasional status updates. Ustream offers easy customization, real-time chat and is ad-free. The free plan allows video embedding on other websites such as Facebook, and does not require viewers to register. 
Price: Free initial 30-day trial period. Monthly plans are competitively priced based on services and viewer hours. 

6. SoundTracking, by Schematic Labs


via iappsin

SoundTracking is an app that elegantly displays the latest music, using content IDs to create a competitive user experience. Instantly share songs to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, email and SMS. Add photos, hashtags, captions and song identification tags to increase your visibility in user searches. This app is fantastic for enabling your fans to help promote your music by allowing them to easily share the songs they love as they listen. While it’d be great to see integration with more iOS/Android apps, a native iPad client and the possibility to share music from a computer, this app holds too much potential to pass up.
Price: Free! 

7. Instagram, by Instagram Inc.


via Instagram

If you’re not using Instagram, you’re already playing catch up. With over 200 million users, there’s a whole wealth of potential not only to be discovered by new fans, but also to interact with current fans. Fans love feeling close to the artists they worship, and Instagram bridges the gap between an artist’s onstage persona and their everyday life. Considering the app is free, it’s a no-brainer for performing musicians to help keep fans engaged.
Price: Free! 

8. ARTPOP, by Relative Wave


via ladygaga.wikia.com

The idea this app represents is what’s most impressive. The potential for fan engagement goes beyond the music itself – it’s about the experience the music can create. Last year, Lady Gaga released an app to accompany her ARTPOP album, creating a “musical and visual engineering system that combines music, art, fashion and technology with a new interactive worldwide community.” The mobile app enables fans to create animated graphics and interact with other fans, while listening to Gaga’s album. Similarly, Metric’s app, METRIC Synthetica, lets fans interact with music from the band’s latest album using finger gestures to re-mix tunes and create their own music. Fans can toggle different instruments and speed up and slow down tracks, creating more of a conversation with the band. I encourage emerging artists and bands to play around with these apps to get inspiration for more ingenious ways to utilize mobile technology in keeping fans entertained.
Price: Free!


SoundExchange Pays Artists and Labels $162.4M, Biggest Q1 Ever

image from blogs-images.forbes.com
SoundExchange paid $162.4 million in royalties to artists and record labels in the first three months of 2014, according to figures released today. To date, they have paid out more than $2 billion in royalties with payments come from both subscription and ad-supported non-interactive streaming services. 

The new stats come as part of SoundExchanges first ever Digital Radio Report which will share payments stats along with a state of digital radio streaming for artists and labels quarterly.
Some highlights of the new report:
  • $162.4 million – paid to recording artists and record labels in Q1 2014. SoundExchange’s largest Q1 payment to date
  • $7 billion – total U.S. recorded music industry revenue in 2013
  • 8.4% – SoundExchange portion of U.S. recorded music revenue
  • 41.3 % – SoundExchange percentage of total U.S. music streaming revenue in 2013
  • 38% – SoundExchange payment increase from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014
  • 21% – percentage of music revenue from streaming in 2013
  • 2,500 – number of digital radio providers now using the statutory license that SoundExchange administers (up from 2,200 in 2012)

Keys To Successfully Launching and Promoting A Music Video

In 1995, Michael Jackson spent $7 million dollars on his music video ‘Scream’ and the world watched on MTV. Two decades later, Bob Dylan made his video ‘Love Is Lost’ for $12.99 and everybody watched it on online. Music videos have changed immensely over the past couple of decades but they are more relevant than ever. We have all heard the stats on Youtube being the number one music streaming site, the billions VEVO views, and the influence music videos have on streaming charts and recognize the importance of music videos. So how do you capitalize on a music videos marketing power? Upload it to Youtube and walk way, right? It would be nice if things were that easy, but there are several things to consider to maximize your views.

Music Video Targets
Before you begin, developing a promotional strategy for your music video it is really important to decide what purpose it will play in your career. Will you use the video to promote a music release or tour dates? Are you trying to build a social media following? You should begin asking these questions before filming and keep asking them through your promotional campaign.
The most important period in the lifespan of a music video is its infancy. Take OK GO, the kings of viral videos, for example. They are premiering their new music video at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, before releasing it the following day on Youtube. Your goal should be to secure a premiere that will create the most buzz and drive traffic to your video. Try to find a local theater that will screen if before a related film or debut it at a local music festival between sets. The more creative you are with the premiere the better. Online premieres can also drive a lot of traffic, so find the biggest blog that has supported your music and work with them to drive traffic to the video on the day of the launch. Lead up to the premiere with clips and photos teasing the content of the video.
Youtube Optimization
While Youtube shouldn’t be the only outlet you use to promote your video, it is an important platform because of its influence on streaming charts and as a metric for audience reach. Some ways you can optimize your channel and video are:
  • image from s.ytimg.comCustomize your banner and add social media links
  • Build a robust channel with different playlists
  • Add a watermark to attract subscribers
  • Improve SEO with target keywords and captions
  • Select bright and intriguing thumbnails
Youtube’s TrueView ad campaigns are the surest way to drive meaningful views to your music video. Other sites may promise views but they may not be organic, stick, or drive interested people to your video. Youtube has great analytics that you can use to target and drive your campaign on the site. Remember, the goal is to put your video in front of real people that will react to it, not just drive up numbers.
For more information I recommend reading Youtube’s Creators Playbook.
While you can earn 4x the ad revenue within VEVO’s network, there are some things to consider about joining. If a video is included in VEVO’s network, only their annotations will appear on the videos. This keeps VEVO traffic within the network. While it does help drive views, it also prevents you from using custom annotations with your video to promote your music, tour, website, merchandise ect. Also, the master recording and video can only appear within VEVO’s network. You will not be able to add it to your personal channel. You may want to consider joining other multi-channel networks that are less restrictive or use video optimization to drive traffic organically.
Blog Promotion
It goes without saying that obviously, the more places your video is placed on the internet, eyes will fall on your video. If you are technologically inclined The Hacker’s Guide to Getting Press is an easy way to comprehensively build a list and promote your video. You’ll have to modify parts of it to fit your purpose but it is a great guide. If web scraping sounds too intimidating, you can quickly use Google’s blog search to find blogs that have posted related music videos and contact them. Remember to keep the pitch short and simple. Just a few sentences to preface the video should be enough. Be sure to include relevant links to personal and social sites, so if the blog is interested they can quickly find more information.
Video Distribution Networks
While Youtube and VEVO are dominant players, there are other video distribution networks that can improve the reach of your video online and through new outlets like Roku apps. Networks like Videodetective.com will place your video onto Sony Bravia systems, Allmusic.com and Windows Media Player. ClearChannel can also place your video within their iheartradio.com network. Apps like Rormix give your video an additional mobile platform.
Additional Video Content
The promo machine never stops. Once you have your music video, work to pump out additional content. Research local live performance shows in cities where you are touring. Shows like Balcony TV, SerialBox Presents, and Live and Breathing can provide focused exposure within their local network and broader exposure through the internet. Encouraging fan videos and parody videos will also boost your music videos view count.
Music Video Promotion Services
While there is a lot of DIY promotion you can do promote your video, sometimes it helps to enlist the help of a promotional company, especially for harder to reach outlets. There are many music video promotional companies out there that offer a wide range of services, from placing videos on national, international, and regional broadcast and cable music video shows, to placing videos in retail and entertainment locations. Many also offer to help you with all the strategies listed above. Some also have consulting services to help you create a more effective music video.
All too often, artists and bands don’t plan to market and promote their music. While the cream naturally rises to the top, some strategic planning will ensure you get there faster and stay there longer. Music videos are no exception and strategic promotion can do wonders to help your visibility and reach.

What Should I Expect From My First Tour?

Here are some questions that an individual recently sent us about booking for a first-time touring band. No doubt some of your reading will have these same questions:

How much should a band expect to make on their first tour?

The short answer is: NOTHING. When your’e going to new cities where you’ve never been and nobody knows your name, you should expect to go into the negative. You might spend $45 on a tank of gas and leave the show with $20. You might blow $40 to feed the whole band and only sell 3 Cds that night.  This is why we say “nothing”.  Its incredibly hard to pull out fans when you dont have any (read: 5 Lessons I Learned From My Terrible Tourand that’s usually the case for any artist playing in a brand new city. It’s important to try and get at least 1 or 2 “anchor” gigs. Those are the ones that pay a few hundred bucks and help subsidize the rest of the tour.  Read: The Best Way to Book a Tour.  But if you‘re a band, expect to lose money on your first tour.  Breaking even is a dream come true. Making money is like heaven. 

How many people should we expect at our show in a new city?

Well this is heavily dependent on who you’re splitting the night with, how well you’re promoting, where the venue is, and what day of the week your show is on. It’s pretty easy to gauge the turnout for a show based on how much traction you’re getting on Facebook, Twitter, and all other other forms of communication (email, Instagram, conversations…etc). No RSVPs, no tweets, no responses, no likes…it usually means you’re not going to get the turnout you want. Im not promising this is always true, but Social Media is the new Word of Mouth. If you’re not hearing anything, that obviously means something.

How do we get people in the door?

As an artist playing in a new city, your primary concern is linking up with local bands who can help with their draw. In fact, that’s 10x more important than making money. Get potential fans in the door. Work your butt off to find quality artists to co-bill with because they will be your ticket to making real fans. When you have fans, the money will come. Trust me. It might not be on this tour, or even on your second tour. But the more you focus on fan-building, the easier it will be to fill a room, and make money on ticket sales and merch.

Should we expect to play to an empty room?

Ugh! We hate this question because the answer is yes…kind of. Don’t expect to play to an empty room but definitely brace yourself. It’s easy to jump head-first optimistically into a tour, but low turnouts happen all the time and they can totally kill your spirit. Do everything you can to notplay to an empty room. Look for venues that have solid foot traffic and do all the publicity you can to make sure you’re not wasting a drive.
Good luck on your first tour!

Building and Keeping Your Band’s Twitter Following

By Patrick Hertz of Tinderbox for the Sonicbids Blog.
As you (hopefully) know by now, Twitter is one of the best online marketing tools you can have in your band’s toolbox. It’s a free and simple way to communicate directly with your fans, but you’ve got to be strategic about when and how you use it to really make it an effective platform for fostering your fanbase. Here are nine strategies to make your Tweets count:

1. Make yourself easy to find

If you want to gain traction on Twitter, the first step is to make yourself easy to find. For starters, make sure your Twitter handle has your band’s name in it. If you have a ubiquitous name, put “music” or “band” at the end of your handle. If that doesn’t work, you can always try an abbreviation of your state or location. Lastly, make sure that you link your Twitter page on your band’s website and in the info box on your Facebook page.

2. Follow others

One of the easiest ways to get more Twitter followers is to follow others. Look for bands in your area and other bands that share the same sound. Follow the venues that you play at, or the radio stations that you’re getting played on, or the music supervisor that you’re trying to impress. It’s also a good idea to follow your followers back, but always double-check to make sure that you’re not following a spammer. Try to build a community of followers that are genuine Twitter users.

3. Make use of Twitter’s profile customization features

Your Twitter page should be consistent with how you represent yourself as an artist or band. Choose unique profile and header images, match your color scheme to your website and other social media pages, have a concise but descriptive bio with a link to your website, and pin important Tweets to the top of your profile so that it’s the first thing people see when they visit your page. Here are step-by-step instructions for customizing your profile.

4. Keep it conversational

Twitter is much more than 140 characters of space to gloat about your next show and how awesome it’s going to be. It should feel more like having a conversation with your friends – so in general, try to keep it light, keep it fun and ask questions!Your goal should be to make people want to interact with you. If you’re witty, let it show. Don’t force it though, because your fans will be able to tell in a split second that you’re trying too hard, which just comes off as inauthentic.

5. It’s not all about you

Part of the appeal of Twitter is that it can be so personal and you can allow your fans to peer into your life. But just like in a conversation with your friends, you don’t want to always make it about you. Keep 80% of your content about day-to-day life activities and thoughts, both band and non-band related. Share things that are interesting, amusing and/or relatable. Then, you can use the remaining 20% totalk about your shows and new music.

6. Use photos, videos and links to increase engagement

It’s been shown time and again that posting more than just a plain old status can do wonders for your fan engagement. Supplementing your Tweets every so often with relevant photos, videos or links will help tremendously with increasing your retweets and favorites.

7. Tweet often

If want to gain and sustain a Twitter audience, you need to post content regularly. With smart phones and near constant internet accessibility, there’s really no reason why you can’t. If you’ve got a lot on your plate during the week, a great solution is to set aside some time over the weekend and schedule out your Tweets in advance using a free service like HootSuite.
There are no hard and fast rules about how often you should post, but as a bare minimum, you should make an effort to Tweet at least once a day. There’s a ton of research out there on the best time of day to Tweet (mid-afternoon is generally agreed upon as a good time frame), but your best bet is to pay attention to whenyour fans are the most engaged, and adjust your strategy accordingly. Save your best Tweets for when your fans are most likely to see them.

8. Use the list function

Perhaps one of the most underused functions on Twitter, lists allow you to create curated groups of Twitter users. Try creating lists for radio stations, record labels, bloggers and fans to help you stay up-to-date in an organized manner.

9. Use proper Twitter etiquette

If you want others to interact with you, you need to interact with others in a genuine and non-spammy way. For example, if you’d like a blogger to consider you for review, don’t expect him or her to reply to your unsolicited Tweet that says, “Hey man, review my album.” Instead, try favoriting a few Tweets from that writer every once in a while, or replying to something that’s interesting to you. If you give first, it’s much more likely for others to want to give back. That being said, here’s a breakdown of best practices for Twitter interactions:
  • Mentions and @replies: There are two different ways to mentionsomeone in your Tweet. If you start your Tweet with @username, it will be treated as an @reply and will only be visible to people who follow you and the other user. If you’d like to start your Tweet with someone’s username but you want all of your followers to see it, a common method is to put a period in front of the @ symbol. Mentions and @replies are great ways to give a shout-out and get people to interact with you, but make sure your mentions are relevant and not excessive. It’s spammy to mention users just for the sake of trying to get more visibility.
  • Hashtagging: You can use the hashtag symbol # to organize your Tweets by topic or keyword, which help others search for them more easily and therefore increase the chances of your Tweet being seen. Twitter recommends that you don’t use more than two hashtags per Tweet to keep it legit.
  • RetweetingRetweeting is one of the most essential functions on Twitter, and it takes very little effort to use retweets to help create content for your own Tweets. You can simply click the retweet button to share on your page as is, or if you’d like to add your own commentary, add the letters RT and the Tweet author’s @username in a new Tweet.
  • Favoriting: The Favorite button is similar to the Like button on Facebook – it’s less engaging than @replying or retweeting, but it’s a quick and easy way to show support on Twitter. Users whose Tweets you favorite will be notified, and Twitter collects all of your favorited Tweets under the “Favorites” tab of your profile so that you can look back at them.
It may feel like it takes a lot of effort to manage your social media – and it does – but make it a habit and make it fun so that it doesn’t feel like a chore. If it really starts to feel too overwhelming to keep up with (and you’ve got enough of a budget), it might be worth getting help from a social media manager. Otherwise, just follow our tips above and you’ll be a master Tweeter in no time!