Over the past five or six years, the arrival of Web 2.0 has captured many column inches. It describes a shift in the focus and interactivity of websites. You’ll notice the ubiquitous comments field at the bottom of this article as an indication of this, along with the Twitter shortcuts and the Facebook “Like” buttons.
In its infancy, the Internet was a marvel that could make information and opinions from the usual “reputable” sources instantly available to their usual clientele. Magazines, newspapers, publishers: all of them took advantage of this instant delivery system for their content.
However, the bulletin boards that had dominated the early years of networked computing became forums, tacked onto the sides of popular websites to provide users an environment for discussion and the sharing of links and opinions. When the companies that developed the bulletin board code started allowing users to set up their own forums, thousands of them sprang up on every topic imaginable. This format carried over to kickstart the net’s shift toward what journalists came to describe as “Web 2.0.” A company provides a template for users to insert their own content and automatically generate their own sites; blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, and all the major social networks operate on this principle. The ability to have an online presence is no longer limited to those familiar with coding and complex HTML.
There are a number of sites available that are popular avenues for promoting and raising awareness of your work. This seems to be great for the working DJ, as it gives you a medium through which you can share your work, promote your shows, even sell your own music, to an audience that is already part of the network.
The way social networks link people together through their personal relationships can draw an even bigger audience to your shows. Previously, you had to go out and meet the audience, who would then follow your progress online. Now that same audience is just as likely to discover you online in the first place. Here’s a breakdown of some of the best sites out there right now.
Dedicated Music Pages
ReverbNation is a Facebook affiliate that advertises on Facebook, and provides some useful features for professionals. In addition to the usual track uploaders, photo albums and show notifications, ReverbNation offers a direct link to your iTunes account, allowing you a second outlet through which you can sell your music.
It offers a number of tools for managing a mailing list, tracking buzz about you elsewhere on the internet, and booking shows. However, the premium services are not free, and you’ll be required to pay a subscription if you want to get the most from the site.
SoundCloud is a less commercially focused site for musicians and DJs. It is geared more toward listening to and commenting on the tracks of others. With a SoundCloud account, you fill out some basic information and a photograph. You can then upload as many tracks as you like, up to a total length of two hours.
Other users can listen to your tracks and comment on them, and “Follow” you in a similar way to Twitter, in order to receive notifications when you update your tracks and sets. Tellingly, SoundCloud features the option to post your update notifications directly to your Twitter feed and Facebook page.
BandCamp is a resource for selling music. The emphasis is less on promotion and marketing, and focuses solely on the process of music retail. The idea is you set up your products on the site, and then post links to them on external blogs and social network sites in order to draw people in. Once again, it is quite telling that these sites choose to work in conjunction with the social networks, rather than separately. Few sites are foolish enough to try and compete with the size of Facebook and Twitter, so once again, those familiar Web 2.0 characteristics the “Share” buttons make an appearance.
One of the original social networks, and the first to really become a global phenomenon, MySpace has now been largely usurped by Facebook and Twitter. However, MySpace has always offered musicians the option of creating a dedicated band page, with an embedded player that automatically plays your tracks to any visitor. While you were initially limited to only a handful of tracks, this has now expanded to allow a greater selection, and the downloading of tracks by users. There is also an “Upcoming Events” notification tool that will send out an alert to your MySpace friends of any imminent shows. Unfortunately, these upgrades and benefits have come at a time when MySpace’s popularity is dwindling. However, because of its early support of musicians and DJs, it is still a great place to meet other artists for collaboration, it just lacks the populist appeal to help pack out your shows with bigger audiences.
Twitter, the micro-blogging site allows users to publish 140 character notifications to a master feed that can be read by your followers. While much is written about the candid and personal revelations of various celebrities, it can also be a quick and easy way to notify your fans about upcoming shows. Due to the “Re-Tweet” function that allows users to republish your posts on their own feed, it is also possible for your followers to easily pass on information to their own friends.
Twitter’s main drawback is the limitations of what can be included in each post. There is a strict 140-character limit to posts, and no additional media can be attached to them, so flyers and music have to be uploaded to an external site, and then linked in your Tweets.
The big name amongst the social networks, Facebook doesn’t permit embedded streaming like MySpace, but there are a number of features that may prove particularly useful to the working DJ. Charlie Pishington, producer and musician with False Flag, says “I’ve found that by using Facebook liking pages such as the Ableton one I’ve ended up finding alot of cool tutorials that I dont think I would have gone looking for otherwise.”
The creation of groups and dedicated pages for artists allows you to keep your musical notifications and updates separate from your personal ones.
Dedicated music sites are a practical way to connect with other DJs and producers. Their organizers know the services that might be useful to you, so they’re great for putting you in touch with “behind-the-scenes” services such as looking for gigs, searching for labels, renting P.A. systems and teaming up with like-minded individuals. The problem with such sites is that they are aimed at DJs and producers, so that’s who uses them. Your real audience can be found on the standard social networks, Facebook and Twitter, and the web-like network of users offers a great way to organically expand your audience.
The key to getting the most from Web 2.0 services is to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each of the major sites. You have nothing to lose by creating an account at each one, and experimenting to find how each of their services can help you. Social networks are one of the most time and cost effective ways of spreading the word about your shows, and once you’ve got people on board, groups and mailing lists make it simple to keep them up to date with new developments.