Online Music Toolbox
Article by: Brian K. James
If you're in the studio, working on a piece of music, noodling around, or spending time to create that dance floor filling track, you've said or heard the following sentence:
"There has to be a quicker/easier/better way of doing (x/y/z)!"
No, that isn't limited to just writing music, but does come up in your mind more than you think. Well, there is... you just have to look for it. Some are going to be obvious, others not so much. I have compiled a list of what I have found to be some very useful resources to aid in getting things done, and helping you get your sound out.
01. COPYRIGHT YOUR MUSIC
The one thing artists worry about more than they care to talk about, is the possibility of someone stealing their music. Well, put those worries to rest by getting your work copyrighted!
This is the U.S. Copyright office, and you can get your work copyrighted online without having to go track down forms. It's all online, and it's simple to get your work registered. Last I checked it's about $35 or so to get your music registered, and you will also need to upload your work to their server. This will put your song in their database as having been registered by you, the owner of the work. In the mail, you'll receive an official certificate that your work is copyrighted, and it's something you want to keep for your records. If someone were to claim your song as "theirs", you have ACTUAL proof that that isn't true!
02. SELL YOUR MUSIC, YOUR WAY
If you're looking to sell your music directly from your own site, besides getting an SSL certificate, you're going to need a payment gateway (paypal, GoogleWallet,etc) to handle the actual transaction. Here's who we recommend:
This incredible website is quickly gaining ground for being the better alternative to PayPal for websites. Why? Because it offers its users something that lots of others promise on, but don't always deliver: A fast and easy solution for selling your digital goods on your own website, easily without having to wait to get paid. Upload your products to your Gumroad account, fill in the particulars, upload a graphic that best represents the product, set your price, add the code to your product on your site, and publish. Subscriptions? Yep, they have that covered too! Your customers will get a PDF receipt as will you, the seller. Head to the site for all the details.
Payloadz — www.payloadz.com
Selz — www.selz.com
03. FIND YOUR FANBASE
Okay, so you've written your song. Who likes this song as much—or even better—more than you? Your immediate family members count, but what about the rest of us who haven't heard your latest piece? Where can I go to hear music, that I haven't heard before?
Chances are if you're writing your own music, you've heard of SoundCloud. It's being called "The 'YouTube' of Music", and with very good reason. SoundCloud has become the defacto place to go to hear exclusive tracks from big name artists, and new tracks from artists you've never heard of—yet. Getting an account is free, and easy. You can upload your music, and have people check it out and comment right on the soundwave. From a production standpoint, this is awesome, because you can SEE what segment of the song your fans like most by WHERE on the sound wave they comment. You'll also have access to statistics about where on Earth people are listening from. Who knew you had fans in the Netherlands or Hong Kong?
Now, SoundCloud IS a community, and like any good community, participation is a must. Doing so will garner more listeners in the long run, so make sure you say 'thank you' to those who comment, or favorite your song. You can link your song (if it's available for sale) to where they can buy your music, or offer it up as a free download to get people interested. If you're a DJ, and you want to post your mixes up on SoundCloud, I would look into Mixcloud (not the same company) for that. There has been a rash of take-downs due to Universal's involvement in SoundCloud.
HearThis.At — www.hearthis.at
Mixcloud — www.mixcloud.com
04. KEEPING YOUR FINGER ON THE PULSE
You have the product, now it's time to keep the customer coming back for more. How? By keeping them in your creative loop with e-mails that let them know what you're up to, where you're playing out, even exclusive releases for those who've been fans since day one. How many times have you thought that they should let you in for free because you've been to all of their shows, bought all of their albums, or defended their music on some blog somewhere? Well, you can reward your lifelong fans, and get new ones on board by using email marketing!
While MailChimp has tiered pricing options, you can use it for free (12,000 emails at the time of this post) until you pass the 2,000 person marker. This is more than enough to get the ball rolling. There are instructional videos all along the way to help guide you from point A to point B rather swiftly, and to explain how best to use each part of their service. A look at their blog will give you some insight into how MailChimp is progressing internally, and when they have new features or customers have concerns, you can read about them there.
There are dozens upon dozens of sites like MailChimp, but I didn't find the others very user friendly, or easy to contact with concerns and questions I had. I asked a question to the boffins at MailChimp, and got a reply the same day. Now I realize that not every company can match what MailChimp has demonstrated. But the fact that you CAN contact them, and even get a response is a big plus. MailChimp also realizes that you may want to capture information while at a trade show, conference, seminar, or gig. There is an iPad app called "Chimpadeedoo" for iOS that will setup a form, where people can signup on the spot! If your iPad doesn't have 3G, no worries! It'll hold the info, and send it once it gets a WiFi connection, right to your MailChimp account. Another thing that makes MailChimp stand out from the rest!
Campaign Monitor — www.campaignmonitor.com
Constant Contact — www.constantcontact.com
Well there you have it. Four sites that I feel should have a place in your quest to getting your music protected, heard, responses, and the ability to promote and advertise for damn near nothing. Why didn't I mention Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, ReverbNation, and other social media sites with music ties? Well, having tried to tame Facebook, I felt there had to be another way to get content TO these sites from elsewhere, rather than having to sit on their individual sites to post what I need. That, and I have a need to keep things looking the way I want them to look. Sure there's sites out there that'll allow you to 'design' what you want shown in FB, or the others. Most of the ones I found, weren't free, or user-friendly, or the customer support I was looking for. A reply with just a link to a page with heavy text with nothing written by the person who actually responded, isn't my ideal view of "help".
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