Conversion optimization is one of those terms that sounds a bit jargony and like something one would want to avoid. DIY musicians have plenty on their plate without getting overly technical about web design and ecommerce. But learning a few principles can go a long way in getting your website visitors to check out your music, find out more about you or purchase music, merch and tickets.
If you’re selling stuff on your website, from music to merch, or you’re promoting a concert and linking to the ticket providers, finding ways to encourage fans to buy things is an important part of online success. Though conversion optimization often focuses on sales or signups, getting people to listen to music and find out more about you is also something you can encourage.
WHAT IS CONVERSION OPTIMIZATION?
Conversion optimization in internet marketing is described in Wikipedia as a:
"method of creating an experience for a website or landing page visitor with the goal of increasing the percentage of visitors that convert into customers."
A landing page is a single page on your website that is designed to take a visitor you’ve attracted through such means as social media and email newsletter links or via advertising and encourage them to request information, sign up for a newsletter, listen to music or sell them music, merch or tickets.
This can be approached a lot of different ways from putting the info and offer “above the fold”, i.e. in the area that appears on one’s computer screen before one starts scrolling, to creating a much longer text and image sales pitch with multiple points at which your visitor can click to take action.
The latter is a bit more likely to be found on sites marketing services or related products. For a music page it’s typically better to make the music player or newsletter sign-up form or concert announcement with ticket links easily identifiable and ready to go.
Though I’m focusing on one’s official website, the landing page concept is also relevant to one’s social media page or blog posts when you’re hoping to get some sort of response or action.
BEYOND THE LANDING PAGE
But conversion optimization is also important for overall website design. Different visitors are at different stages in their relationship to you and your music. A landing page is typically designed to do one thing. A website is typically designed to do a lot of things.
So making it easy for visitors to find what interests them through clear navigation and overall simplicity is one way to get started. As one design expert encouraged:
"Improve Visitor Engagement…if you can increase the amount of time that visitors stick around by improving your visitor experience, it will impact your conversion volume, as well."
Since every page of a website can be considered a landing page, in the age of search engines and direct page links, one way to use your whole website to promote an action, like downloading a single or signing up for a newsletter, is to have a popup box that encourages just that action on whatever page your visitor first lands.
As you see specific tactics that others have used you’ll start to develop your own sense of what fits you best while taking into account your visitor’s experience.
Source: Hypebot (by Clyde Smith)
As an independent recording artist, do you think of your music as a service or as a product?
When the phonograph debuted in 1877, the traditional service of music (live performance) was transformed into a product (recordings). This product was stored on physical media — wax cylinders that eventually evolved into vinyl records, 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, digital downloads, and other formats. This single innovation, through its ability to reproduce recorded sound, forever changed the way we experience music.
It wasn’t long before people started thinking of music as something to own and collect as much as experience. When someone bought an album containing the music of Louis Armstrong or Benny Goodman or Les Paul, they owned it. They could keep it or they could sell it. It was theirs. And they could enjoy and appreciate that music without ever seeing the artist perform it live.
Virtually no one alive today remembers a time before vast, personal record collections, a day when music could be experienced only in the moment in which it was performed. But that is exactly how it was experienced for thousands of years before Edison.
Something surprising is happening in the 21st century. Recorded music is becoming less of a product every day.
In 2000, when digital downloading was gaining steam through Napster and other file-sharing platforms, sales of CDs started a precipitous decline. And they declined throughout the decade, losing more ground each year to iTunes and Amazon and other digital retailers. As the digital snowball grew, consumers learned to think of their music as a non-physical commodity — as digital files on iPods and computers rather than as pieces of molded plastic stacked on shelves. With the advent of music streaming via Rhapsody, Pandora, and Spotify, the transition of recorded music from product back to service was underway.
Suddenly you didn’t need to “own” a collection of non-biodegradable products that inefficiently held your favorite music recordings. You could simply pay for a service that granted you access to virtually all of the commercially available recordings in the world.
You could just summon the music whenever you wanted to hear it — in much the same way you might have asked a performer to play your favorite song in a public square in 1840. Or in 1540.
And the physical recordings you owned? Well, they sure did take up a lot of space.
So what does all this mean for you as an independent recording artist?
An interesting thing happens when people switch from buying CDs to paying for music-streaming services: the secondary market disappears. There is no equivalent to horse-trading in the streaming world. Your recordings on streaming services are always yours, no matter how many times people enjoy them, no matter how old they get. When someone listens to one of them, you’re paid. Every time.
No question, CDs still make great takeaways along with the merch at your live shows. But if you follow music commerce in 2013, you’re probably not spending too much time selling shiny, little plastic widgets with copies of your recordings on them. Instead, you are allowing your recordings to perform for your audience. When someone spins one of your songs on Rhapsody, you receive a payment of a little under a penny. On Spotify, you get about half a cent. And sure, that will probably never pay the light bill. But the transparent tracking of plays isn’t just about revenue. It’s about knowing how frequently your recording is being played, and understanding the nature and quality of the interactions between you and your audience.
It’s about building that essential relationship.
Streaming is changing the way we experience music. The recordings you’ve released into the world are now standing up and being counted every time they’re played. And their intrinsic value as a creative service performed — original to you — is here to stay.
Source: Music Think Tank (by Mark Doyon)
According to a recent announcement from Nielsen SoundScan and Nielsen BDS, digital tracks were up five percent in 2012. All in all, 1,336 million digital songs have been sold for download in the United States. The favourite genres amongst Americans are Rock, Pop and R&B / Hip Hop counting for 877 million sold tracks altogether.
Are the Music Buyers Coming Back?
According to a study by NPD, music buyers are on the rise for a second consecutive year with a two percent rise to 78 million in 2011. On top of that, the average annual expenditure on music six percent to $49 (although that’s still a pretty sad number). So is the culture learning to mend itself? Here are some thoughts:
-It’s still tough to take 2011 seriously with all the optimistic sales reports given how many top 40 artists released huge albums: Lady Gaga, Drake, Kanye West/Jay-Z, Adele, Lil Wayne and many more. It was just a huge blockbuster year for huge acts, and juggernauts can inflate the year-end numbers.
-Streaming services like Spotify are dominating the consumption market and might be affecting the dynamic, but the end results are still not that impressive.
-It’s only 2 percent. It seems any good news sales-wise is great news these days. It’s too early to tell if this is a year to year trend. Let’s see how DIY and indie sales can pick up the slack or if it’s just Top 40 carrying the weight the whole way.
This is exactly the opposite result that Spotify was hoping for. Because after skipping Spotify entirely on their latest release, Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay has now scored a one-week, digital album sales record in the UK. That is, digital sales north of 83,000, part of an impressive, chart-topping tally of 208,343 units in the UK alone.
Digital accounted for nearly 40 percent of that total, a trend first picked up after three days of sales. And, that offers a strong lead-in to the US-based tally, expected from Soundscan in the next day or so.
The Coldplay total beats a relatively fresh digital album record from Take That, and the rapid succession isn’t an accident. Indeed, digital albums are still showing strong growth on a percentage basis, and Coldplay seems motivated to maximize returns from the gain.
All of which begs the more important question: what does this all mean for Spotify, Rhapsody, Rdio, and ilk? The question is whether Coldplay-level bands start rethinking their sales approaches entirely, spurred by this success. As one publisher remarked to us this morning, “getting played is nice, getting paid is better.”
Article originally appeared on Digital Music News (http://www.digitalmusicnews.com) and was written by Paul Resnikoff.
Article originally appeared on Digital Music News (http://www.digitalmusicnews.com) and was written by Paul Resnikoff.
FACT: people download music for free.
Sean Parker of Napster fame recently stated in an interview, “you look at the data, somewhere between 4 trillion and 10 trillion songs are illegally downloaded every year. And we’re looking at maybe 4 billion or so legal downloadeds per year.”
Music will always surface on file sharing platforms and consumers will continue to download music for free, but recordings are even more important for artists than ever before. There is a new purpose for recorded content; artists will no longer generate revenue directly from recordings, instead this will be the entrance point for consumers into the brand. Great music will generate revenue through merch or ticket purchases, or lead to sponsorships as major brands seek out artists to enhance the value of their own product. The solution to file sharing is for artists to better manage their recorded music by creating a dedicated landing page on their own website, housing a free album download.
Search Rankings for Landing Pages Defined
There are many different factors that go into how sites rank on search engines like Google or Bing. Let’s look at the key ranking factors that build online authority, (online ranking based on amount of links to your site and the quality of those links), to outline the importance of a landing page with free album download:
File Sharing Networks are Commanding Links for Free Downloads
People are searching for free music online, and right now only the file sharing networks are benefiting. Piratebay.org has 6.2M inbound links, Isohunt.com has 6.4M, Utorrent.com has 2M, Mininova.org has 3.8M (tally another link after these). Files from these networks are laced with artist and album names; these are keywords that consumers are using to find music online. Because of this, file sharing sites often rank in the search results for music downloads before an artist’s page. It just takes one taste to convert music fans to file sharing.
How to Capitalize with Artist Managed File Sharing
When an artist creates a dedicated landing page with a free album download, great albums will earn artists inbound links. With more links artists will outrank file sharing sites in the search engines, and ultimately, deter traffic from those networks. This is artist managed file sharing; it will directly benefit individual artists. Let’s look at an example:
Girl Talk, aka Gregg Gillis, released a new record called “All Day,” out 11.15 on Illegal Art. GT embrased these concepts. The record was free and hosted on a landing page, resulting in 4 key developments:
1. Girl Talk earned 14,903 inbound links. These links would have otherwise gone to file sharing platforms. The GT landing page received links from high authority sources like Mashable.com and MTV.com, therefore achieving higher rankings in the search results.
2. Huge increases in traffic during the month of release. Analyzing traffic figures with Compete.com, the 6 month traffic average between May and October was 3,025 unique visitors. Traffic jumped to over 211,111 unique visitors for the month of November.
3. When typing the keywords “Girl Talk download” into Google search, the GT landing page appears in the search results ahead of file sharing networks. Thus, using a file sharing network becomes pointless. This is exactly how artists should manage file sharing.
4. Girl Talk social media conversations skyrocketed the week of release. There was an estimated 18.5M in consumer reach the week of. 11.15.2010 - 11.22.2010 between Facebook and Twitter, up from 15 tweets the previous week. These mentions developed the brand and encouraged inbound links.
Optimize the Free Download Landing Page
It’s clear that a free album download will be linked to and will attract new visitors. An optimized landing page will convert these visitors to customers. Make the page a better experience than file sharing sites. Keep in mind that not everyone on a site wants the same thing; visitors are in different stages of the buying cylce. Some are familiar with the music and brand, others are not. Think of the buying cycle as a funnel. Recorded content is at the top of the funnel, and is the entrance into the buying cycle and an artist’s brand. Once in the funnel, consumers should be guided through to the bottom of the funnel, or a sale.
First time visitors will want to check out the record. Offer email newsletter sign-up on site, and social media links (ShareThis has great plugins and customizable buttons). This will allow consumers to stay in contact with the brand and return to the landing when they are ready to buy. For those returning visitors who have fallen in love with the music, there is unlimited opportunity to sell merch, tickets, and exclusive packages for super fans. All of this should be featured on the landing page. Great music will sell other products.
Lastly, optimize the landing page by targeting specific keywords for search rankings. Do keyword research with the Google Keyword Tool (make sure it’s on “exact” match). Think like a potential consumer who is looking for new music when adding keywords to a site. Try ranking for the keyterm “your artist name Torrent.” The keyword “Torrent” recieves an average 151M global searches per month; this is how folks are thinking and searching for music online.
Does selling a record for $9.99 that will show up on file sharing networks anyways outweigh offering it for free on an artist’s site, generating inbound links and higher search results, selling merch and tickets, and developing a strong, lasting online presence? File sharing has already changed the music landscape - now it’s the artists chance to change the landscape of file sharing.
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Jim Grobecker.
Great social networks will come and go, and they are all important. You should be active on as many as possible. They are all great places to extend your website, extend your brand and presence. But everything should come back to your website.
It’s 2011 and you would think it is obvious why you need your own website. I can’t tell you how many conversations I have had where the other party says “I have a MySpace page, or I have a Facebook page or I have a Reverbnation page… I don’t need a website.” Or how many people have their own website, but spend all their efforts driving everyone to Facebook. All they seem to care about is how many Likes they can get. You should care about how many visits you get to your website. Some people don’t look at a website as a significant part of their business or brand. They may see it as a afterthought, something they guess they should do. If you were to open your own restrauant is the building and location that last thing you would think about? It is your future, everything you hope to achieve depends on it. Your website is your bit of real estate on the internet and it will be yours potentially forever. Make sure you treat your online presence with all the seriousness you can.
Here are some important items to keep in mind.
1. Own your domain and site
Easier said than done, but you should make every effort to retain ownership of your domain name and website. Don’t change the Administrative Contact for your domain over to someone else unless you absolutely must. Try to avoid signing contracts that when they are terminated leave your domain and website under the ownership and control of another party. If that occurs you will have no control over what happens and you won’t see any revenue from a website with your name on it. During a contract you can let someone else manage and operate your website, but do not let them own it.
2. Do not redirect your domain to MySpace or Facebook
You should be using Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation or any of a dozen other social network sites to generate traffic to your website. To redirect your domain to a social page is to give your traffic to somebody else, for them to monetize and you to not share in the revenue. Traffic on the internet is money. When you are finally ready to launch your own website how do you plan to get everyone who is going to Facebook or MySpace back to your site? You have already conditioned them to just visit Facebook or MySpace.
3. It is your brand which you own and control.
Your domain and website is your brand and you have full control over it. You decide how you are going to be presented. Use MySpace or Facebook and you are not the brand, they are. You will never be more important than their own brand. They will always come first over your brand and your desire to promote your brand. Don’t let someone else control what you can do with your brand.
4. What is the future of MySpace, Facebook?
Ok this will date myself, but I remember when AOL was “it”. When everyone was trying to establish their business on AOL. Everyone was advertising their AOL Keyword. Where is AOL now? Ok, how about Geocities? Everyone was building their website on Geocities for free. Nobody wants to invest any money in their website and Geocities let them get online for free. Where is Geocities now? And just how good were all those free websites? Or what about MySpace? Everyone knows about MySpace. Just five years ago they were “it”. Everyone had to be one MySpace. Everyone was growing their friends list on MySpace. We were all spending time customizing our MySpace page, blogging on MySpace. Where is MySpace now? MySpace recently announced a partnership with Facebook in hopes of breathing some life into the ghost town. What is the point of all this you ask? Do you know where Facebook is going to be in five years? I don’t think they will disappear, but they sure could change. Don’t put your future, your brand, your money into the hands of another website. Tomorrow they could be the latest fade or worse sold to someone who has different plans. In the case of Facebook, why would you send your traffic to a website that requires registration for any sort of interaction. You don’t get to gather that registration information, Facebook owns it. You are sending your fans to Facebook, for Facebook to market and make money from.
5. TOS, Terms of Service – you want to define them, not the lawyer from another website.
This is directly related to #4. Don’t set yourself up on a site that the Terms of Service, TOS, clearly state they do not support content you might wish to post. Anything of a adult or sexual nature is going to get deleted by Facebook. Nikki Sixx recently tried to post a image from the new Sixx AM album and Facebook kept deleting it. Even in rock n roll you might have something that Facebook feels is too sexual. MySpace and Facebook are clear examples. You spend your time and money establishing yourself and sending your traffic to Facebook or MySpace and then one day you log in and your account is deleted. What happened? Your content was most likely reported by someone and without any notice your account and work is gone. Build a website where you decide what is appropriate and what is not. Don’t let the lawyer at some other company decide if they like what you are doing. I am not saying to not use Facebook or MySpace, I am saying DO NOT make them your primary website. Use them as traffic sources to your website.
6. Sales – you can keep a bigger piece of the pie.
You want your own website so you can sell whatever you want, and keep a bigger piece of the pie. Although selling on other sites is possible there are usually hoops you need to jump through, and back to #5, what you are selling might be against the TOS and be cause for your account to be deleted.
Good luck trying to manage the SEO on a Facebook or MySpace page. If you have your own website you have full control over your SEO, over how the search engines will see you and what your target keywords are for your brand. If you have a strong presence on the various social network sites with links back to your website, Google will see those links and give you some SEO juice.
8. Stay on the cutting edge
With your own website you can experiment with all of the new internet technologies and tools when they are released. You are not at the mercy of a corporate giant who will decided when and if they want to adopt a new technology. If you build a WordPress based website you can play around with 1000s of plugins that add new functionality to your website. One click and you are streaming audio, one click you have a podcast being served through Apple iTunes. One click you have a events calendar.
Your website should be the center of your online universe, with all the various social networks revolving around it. Use the social networks to send traffic to your official website. Use them to be social, to interact with your fans and customers. Don’t spend your time and money to build up another website, spend it on your brand… spend it on yourself!
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Michael Brandvold.
Warning: The following rant will ruffle some feathers and just might upset your comfort zone. Read with caution!
John McCrea, lead singer of the band Cake, stirred up a reaction when he told NPR’s Melissa Block that he is skeptical about the future of music as a vocation.
“I see music as a really great hobby for most people in five or 10 years,” he remarked.
Keep in mind this was part of a segment about Cake’s historic new album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January. It was historic because the album earned the coveted ranking by selling just 44,000 copies — the lowest amount for a No. 1 in the 20-year history of calculating record sales.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the doom and gloom of the music biz — including depressing news about the state of independent music. There have been references to the failure of direct-to-fan as a business model, and the harsh realities that aspiring musicians, managers, and promoters face.
Really? Give me a break!
Sure, I agree that things have drastically changed. The “traditional music industry” has crumbled. All the new, accessible promotion tools have created a crowded and noisy world where millions of DIY artists are clamoring for attention. Things are in flux. Nothing is predictable. There’s no sure path to success.
So tell me …
How is this so radically different from the good old days?
When exactly was there a sure path to making a good living as an artist? What year or decade did a healthy percentage of musicians prosper in the Golden Age of Music? And in what era was the pursuit of the almighty record deal an accessible and fair arrangement for all concerned?
Wake up and smell the gigabytes! Please!
The truth is … This Golden Age never existed. There’s never been a time when musical self-sufficiency was guaranteed. It’s always been the case — and always will be — that a majority of people pursue music as a part-time hobby.
Only a small percentage of artists make a living. That isn’t a consequence of the Internet or piracy or consumer apathy or limitless entertainment choices. It’s just the nature of humanity, regardless what business model is in place.
If you find yourself complaining about the current state of music, it’s probably because you feel lost not knowing what direction to go or what “rules” to follow. I get that. At least — prior to the Napster and iTunes era — many people agreed on the steps you needed to take: get a record deal and/or get radio airplay, retail placement, media exposure, tour, build a business team, etc.
Now it seems nobody knows what the sure path is. As flawed as the old system was, at least you had some kind of map, right?
Here’s another cold dose of reality … That system sucked just as much as, if not more than, the current one!
Many musicians struggled then … and they struggle now. Artists fought for attention then … and they fight for it now. Self-promoters were confused about marketing and sales then … and they are just as confused now.
And, back in “the day,” there was never a set path to a record deal either. Nearly 20 years ago I organized a lot of music education events in St. Louis with local artists who had been signed to label deals. Each had to forge their own path to get noticed and get signed. No two stories were alike.
However, the one theme that many of them shared years later was the bitterness they felt after having gone through the corporate record company process. Hmm … I guess that wasn’t the Golden Age after all.
Honestly … Do you really prefer the old system of having to impress a gatekeeper before you are deemed worthy of a music career? Do you prefer the stability of needing commercial radio airplay, retail space, and MTV video exposure to “make it”?
I think not! So …
Please stop lamenting the good ole bygone days (that never existed to begin with). Please stop complaining about the hardships of social networking and all the work required to get noticed and engage with fans. Cry me a river!
Success in music has always required talent, desire, a quest for mastery, and consistent action. That was true years ago, and it’s just as true today.
The modern-day whiners all focus on what’s missing and what’s difficult. Meanwhile, empowered indie artists such as Jason Parker, David Nevue, Rob Michael, John Taglieri, and many more see opportunities, embrace this new era and … heaven forbid … are actually making a decent living doing it.
So … are you a victimized complainer … or an empowered doer?
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Bob Baker.
If you keep an eye out for the latest research on music consumption habits, you can use these statistics to help guide you in creating an effective sales and marketing plan for your music releases.
After all, that’s how the marketing department of a major record company would operate - basing their plans on the latest market research.
If you’re despairing at the idea of having to add market research to your “to do” list, don’t worry - there’s an easy way. Just google for Google Alerts, and set up a few alerts such as “music consumption research”, “music consumer survey”, or “music market research”. The latest research will just appear in your email inbox.
Then, all you have to do is choose the studies and surveys relevant to your own music market, and ask yourself how these statistics could shape your music sales and marketing plan.
You don’t have to go into too much detail here - taking note of the general trends will guide your strategy quite effectively.
Take the following example of worldwide music consumption statistics in 2010, courtesy of Midem.com:
A global survey of music consumers by Nielsen (Sept. 2010)
Nielsen (one of the most highly regarded market research firms) conducted a global survey of 26,644 people in September 2010 on their music purchasing and listening habits. It surveyed people’s music consumption for the previous 3 months.
What can we musicians learn from this research?
Creating a realistic music sales and marketing plan
You can see that, just through interpreting the statistics of this one study, we can lay out the basis of a sales and marketing plan that is rooted in the realities of the here and now.
It would be best to take note of a number of different studies, of course, for the greatest accuracy. And it is important to update your information regularly. But thanks to Google Alerts, this is not the time-consuming chore it used to be.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who are confused about which of the countless marketing strategies to adopt, and who have precious little time available for trying to figure it all out.
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and written by Catherine Hol.