Music Sites 2.0: Giving Your Fans What They Want, How They Want It

Band websites have long been a crowd pleaser – at least in Internet speak. As we continue to grow into a society contingent on accessing content via various digital platforms, indie bands must expand their Internet presence to include more than just the traditional computer screens.

Most musicians create band pages and fan sites with one objective in mind: quenching the thirst of music fans by providing the latest music news, concert photos, newest merchandise, etc. etc. ad nauseam. But many indie musicians don’t know their screens.

Understanding your target market and the demographic of your listenership can clue you in on the mobile devices used by your fans. In internet speak, this is knowing one’s screens.

Knowing your screens is important for a few reasons. One, there is a heck of a lot of people online; and the amount of users accessing multiple screens is on the rise.  According to eMarketer, there is an estimated  34 million tablet users in the US.  Additionally, about 274.2 million Americans have internet access via traditional computer screens, and about 117.6 million Americans are mobile internet users, according to Nielsen.

Second, not all elements of websites translate well – if at all – to the different screens. With the amount of people consuming music, entertainment and news on a variety of screens, understanding little tricks to creating a mobile site will increase your ability to adapt your music to your listeners’ changing mobile tastes.

Know your screens tip #1 – Less (content) is more; be mindful of screen real estate. Different mobile devices have different screen sizes, different screen resolutions, and engage users differently. For example: Having a ton of content for a regular website is fine if viewed on a computer screen, but the ton of content will get skewed when viewing the same website on a BlackBerry.

Know your screens tip #2 – Reduce bandwidth. This goes along with the previous tip. Having a ton of content will cause mobile browsers to slow to a long, exaggerated speed. Even worse, when a website takes to long to load, the mobile browser will timeout. This is frustrating for you fans, and you could turn away potential fans who are annoyed with your website. This, however, is an easy fix. You can create a mobile version of your website, and you can get rid of big images or unneeded content.

Know your screens tip #3 – Use a sleek, simple layout. Decked out websites are cool, and can definitely convey your band’s personality. However, having too much going on for a mobile site can make your website difficult to follow on smaller screens and can take up too much bandwidth. You can work with website designers and your website host to come up with a unique mobile site design that shows off your band’s personality. Remember, simple doesn’t have to equal boring; but simple will keep your fans from hating you(r mobile site).

Know your screens tip #4 – Know your screens types. Consider whether your fans will be using touchscreen devices, scrollbars, joysticks, and all the rest. This is important when it comes to adding links to your mobile site. If you want your fans to click something on your site, you have to make it clickable. Make links and buttons big enough for a fingertip to press; and the one-size button/link can be used in a site created for both touchscreen and non-touchscreen devices.

Know your screens tip #5 – Keep navigation simple. Do not use up your valuable screen real estate with a million tabs, links, buttons, etc. Make your site easy to use. Again, this will keep your fans from hating you(r mobile site).

Know your screens tip #6 – Consider multiple mobile sites. If you are absolutely adamant about having the coolest, most content packed website, regardless of the device, then create a different mobile site for each mobile device.Customizing sites for the respective device will allow you to create unique, personalized sites. However, this can get pricey and time-consuming. If you have the time and/or money, your fans and your web  designer will love you. If you don’t have the time and/or money, simply following these tips will still help you create a pretty amazing mobile site.

Know your screens tip #7 – Let your  users decide: mobile site or full site. Providing a link to your full site is usually appreciated by fans who choose to navigate the full site. It is better to let your fan decide what he or she likes rather than you deciding for him or her.

Know your screens tip #8 – Be mindful of font size and colors. Small screens do not show small text and light colors well. If you respect your fans, you should also respect their eyesight.

Know your screens tip #9 – Flash – just don’t do it. Period. A lot of cell phones do not support flash. Until flash is widely available on mobile device, just consider other options.

Know your screens tip #10 – Make contact simple: twitter, facebook, youtube, blogs, etc. If you want to connect with your fans via social media, make following you easy. Plus, as a bonus for you, these sites are already dumbed-down for mobile device. Link to them, and let them do the work. Your job is done. Congratulations, your fans love you.

On the Up: Music Based Ad Revenue

Ad revenue has been an important funding source for many music based services, and is becoming a foundation in the era of digital music. With terrestrial radio ad revenues remaining unparalleled in the music world, mobile and internet based music services are finding sustainability in the once overlooked digital ad-generated business model.

When internet music service Pandora announced that it was going public on June 15, 2011, skeptics doubted the company’s ability to break even, let alone profit.  Since digital radio stations pay statutory license fees – unlike traditional radio stations who are not required to pay for playing music over terrestrial radio waves – skeptics questioned ad-based music services’ ability to rake in enough money to cover license fees and to reach the point of profitability.

Pandora, however, proved skeptics wrong, receiving a majority of its total revenues from advertisements. The company’s ad revenue jumped 102% to $66 million in the its third quarter after going public.

Pandora is not the only digital music service to thrive off of ad-based models.  During the D: Dive Into Media conference, Vevo’s CEO Rio Caraeff announced that, “In the last year alone we’ve generated over $150 million…We paid the labels about $100 million [over the last 2 years]. So we’re making money.”

Digital marketing and media research company eMarketer estimates that revenues from ad-supported mobile music services will increase 52.7% in 2012, bringing in an estimated $433.8 million. Further, eMarketer puts ad-based mobile content in the $1 billion range by 2015, projecting 30% of mobile music services’ profits to come directly from ad-based revenues.

The much-anticipated music streaming service Spotify, however, is struggling to stay afloat. Although the company saw 458% increase in revenue in 2010, the company had a net loss of $41 million.

With the projected increase in ad-based music services, advertisements play an important  part in creating a sustainable business model. Whether used alone or in conjunction with a subscription model, ad-based music services will continue to drive the music world.

It’s 2012: Revisiting Predictions – The End of the (Music) World?

With 2012 officially underway, rumors that major record labels will end CD production by the end of 2012 have subsided.  These rumors have alarmed music fans fond of the physical music world, but the rumor has never been confirmed by major labels.

The idea that physical music will soon become a mere afterthought is nothing new (you can read more about it here), but 2011 record sales have largely quieted doomsayers.  
Last year U.S. album sales rose for the first time since 2004, increasing 1.4 percent from 326.2 million units in 2010  to 330.6 million units in 2011.  Cheaper CD prices and the raising popularity in vinyl records is largely attributed to the increase in overall record sales.
Interestingly, however, CD sales fell by six percent, leaving the increase in album sales being attributed to vinyl and digital album sales.  Digital album sales alone made up 103.1 million units sold, with vinyl sales increasing to 3.9 million units.
With the 2011 stats showcasing CD sales continued decline, independent music retailers are becoming a great resource in predicting the fate of CD production in the relative future. One of the top independent music retailers, CD Baby, has shown an interesting shift in the indie music scene.  
The 2011 CD Baby stats highlights a unique trend in album distribution by artists. Of new albums listed on the site, 62.1% of titles had CD and digital units for sell.  Despite the 8.4% decrease in CD sales, dropping from 691,340 units to 633,2800 units, CD sales remain a vital revenue source for the company.  With the increase in CD units being offered on the online retailer, indie music offerings prove the strength of the CD market.
For a full 2011 music sales data, check out The Nielsen Company and Billboard 2011 Music Industry Report.

Capitol v. ReDigi: Just the Beginning

Citigroup, Inc.’s Capitol Records was denied a preliminary injunction against ReDigi in a decision rendered earlier today.

The preliminary injunction was denied by U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, stating that Capitol failed to show proof of irreparable harm. Judge Sullivan also dismissed ReDigi’s motion to dismiss the case, finding the motion premature.

With ReDigi – a website that “recycles” digital music files – having previously come under the scrutiny of record labels for copyright infringement claims, Capitol’s lawsuit is no surprise.

As preliminary injunctions temporarily restrict a party from undertaking a certain action during the course of litigation, today’s decision is just a stepping stone in what’s sure to be a closely-watched case.

…And Then There is the New Year!

As we prepare to bring in the New Year, I am open to feedback as to ways to improve my blog, topics of interest or concern, and any other comments or questions that you want to pass on.  Please fill out the form below if you have any input that you would like for me to receive in confidence.

Cheers, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!