Brenden Mulligan founded ArtistData in 2006, to help bands save time by updating all their online profiles (including Bandzoogle) in a single place. Since then, over 20,000 artists have joined the service. We asked Brenden for his take on social networking and growing your fanbase.
Can you share your background, and how ArtistData got started?
Before ArtistData I worked for a record label and management company in Chicago called Aware. We had a joint venture with Columbia Records, so we'd handle a lot of the grassroots marketing and direct-to-fan interaction, and then run the artists through the Columbia/Sony machine for their album releases. When I was there our big releases were John Mayer, The Fray, Five For Fighting, Motion City Soundtrack, and Mat Kearney.
When I was at Aware, part of my day was exploring the growing digital marketing landscape. Part of that "exploring" was keeping a lot of our artists' profiles up-to-date across a variety of websites. It was instantly a nightmare and a pain point I knew needed to be fixed. So I left to star ArtistData to solve the pain point of data management across a network of sites.
With the growth of Facebook "fan pages", is having a MySpace page still a requirement for musicians? Is there value in maintaining multiple social network profiles?
It's still incredibly important that artists keep their MySpace pages up to date with their latest music, tour dates, blog posts, etc... MySpace is still an heavily visited music destination, and any artist who chooses not to update it is putting themselves at a disadvantage. It gets top search engine ranking and still is considered to be the place to go if you want to hear music by a band. So, yes, still very much a requirement.
Having said that, I also tell bands that although I suggest they keep their content updated on MySpace, they should do all interacting with their fans through Facebook, Twitter, and their own website. MySpace is no longer a valuable place to spend time communicating. Fans use MySpace as a content source, but not a communication system. So artists should interact with fans and build their community on Facebook, Twitter, and their websites (and email lists). MySpace has taught us that if you invest all you time in building a community of fans on someone else's network, you're not protected if that network takes a dive and fans don't sign in anymore. But if you build your own community and develop a large email list, you're protected.
But back to Facebook. I hope you'll see Facebook Fan Pages becoming a lot more musician friendly. Right now 3rd parties have built apps that make them more usable, by adding music and things Facebook doesn't make easy. So iLike (owned by MySpace), Reverbnation, and a few new companies are basically installing their page within your fanpage. I disagree with this approach, as I believe to get the true power of Facebook, things should happen ON facebook, not through a window of Facebook to someone else's site. But, up to this point, Facebook doesn't have a better solution. I truely hope that changes, because Facebook has a HUGE opportunity to really help bands grow their fanbase. Of course, if they did so, I my answer to your MySpace requirement question would probably be very different.
Do you have examples of musicians that are "getting it right" in terms of social media?
Anyone trying to engage fans is getting it right. The problem with saying "this artist really nailed it .. that's the way it should be done" is that usually the artists that get the most out of social media do something really unique and creative. When everyone copies, that no longer is so special or effective. But I think those artists who invest time to connect with fans through social media will see a long term reward. But it's not easy and it doesn't happen overnight.
Can you share some tips for how musicians can best use social networks (and ArtistData) to engage their fans?
(Readers, I swear that I wasn't paid by Bandzoogle to say this.) I think the most effective use of social media right now in the current landscape is to go to where the fans are (Facebook, Twitter) and engage them there in a way where you can bring them back to your website, where you can make them a real fan by capturing their email address and engaging them on a deeper level. Post news on Twitter that a new track is available for listening on your website, not your MySpace page. Drive people to the property you own, not someone else's network. Post part of a blog on Facebook that links back to your site for the complete version.
As far as how to capture them when they're on your site, the best way is give them something for free in exchange for additionally loyalty (that could mean for them to tell their friends about you, give you their email address, etc...). It's okay to give away a few tracks. You need to give them something to chew on. When they're more interested, you can monetize them through buying more music, merch, and concert tickets.
This doesn't mean you can't spend time nurturing audiences on these social networks. Artists should spend time on there meeting fans, posting gigs, encouraging fans to share information to their friends and followers, etc... The connection is made on these networks because that's where the fans are and they're already talking. But when the time is right, take that next step and get them to connect with you outside the walls of the networks.
Oh, and one other piece of advice. Only do what you want to do. Some musicians don't like the concept of Twitter and have no interest sharing more about themselves. If that's how you are, don't do it! Don't fake it, don't ask someone to tweet for you, etc... It's important that the musicians are real on these channels. If they try to fake it, it'll do more harm than good.
What do you see in store for the music industry in the next five years?
I think people will stop bitching about the lack of album sales and move onto thinking about the industry in a new way. There will be new channels created to capture value from fans. More mid-range bands will be able to use cost effective tools to make more money and quit their day jobs. Concert tickets will continue to rise and hopefully touring will become more environmentally friendly. And there will be more music, which is better for everyone.