There are a fair number of guides on the web, listing what the author thinks are the best social media websites for musicians to use. Most of them pick the usual popular big two of Facebook and Twitter, ignoring some of the slightly lesser known sites.
This guide is slightly different in that I list the websites and services I have used as a musician over the past 19 years with the added knowledge that comes from being a web developer. I was inspired to write it after a friend of mine posted a request on Facebook for suggestions on sites to sell their music via iTunes, Spotify etc. None of the suggestions matched what I currently use which made me wonder if some of the other sites I use were that well known by other musicians too.
Most of what follows is in the end down to personal preference. One website that works well for one person might not be so useful to the next, so choose what you think will work best for you. If it doesn’t work then try something else - as musicians we’re a bit spoilt for choice.
The ones to try
Here is my list of the social websites I currently use to promote my music.
- Music Brainz
and that’s it. That’s still a fairly long list, but wait until you see the ones that I’ve tried over the years and no longer use.
- 14 tracks
- Amazing tunes
- Bandwagon gigs
- Exposed vocals
- Gigs and tours
- Music X-ray
- Music clout
- The sixty one
Some of these are now defunct, others I’m still a member of but no longer actively use as I found them not worth my time doing so.
Rather than go into why the above do not work for me I’ll list the reasons why I use the websites I do use.
All of these should hopefully save you time setting up and maintaining your online presence so you can spend more time being a musician.
When I first created a website for Sugardrum the only way to add music to your website was to create and upload the mp3s yourself, then add some code such as a Flash based music player so people could listen to them. Before doing this the mp3s had to have their ID3 tags and file names set correctly. You also had to attempt to hide the actual location of the mp3s in case someone tried to bypass the online player and download the tracks for free.
On top of this if you wanted to sell your music on your site you either added some PayPal buttons or setup your own shopping cart software. I tried both of these and even created my own shopping cart software which was used on a couple of other sites for a while.
Nowadays I don’t bother with any of this as I just use Bandcamp.
This is a great way to sell your music online. They have HTML5 players that you can easily style and embed onto your own website. You also get your own set of pages on their site where you can market and sell your music. These pages can be styled with images and colours to match your own branding. Once you’ve setup a new album or EP and uploaded the tracks in WAV format they take care of all the file conversion into other formats for you and the tracks have the correct ID3 information added based on the album you add them to.
Users are given the option of downloading in MP3, Ogg and WAV formats and they even give you the option to sell CDs or other physical merchandise on their site too. They send you an email when a purchase has been made which, if it’s a physical item, you post yourself.
Here’s an example of one the simplest of their music player layouts:
You’ve setup your tracks in Bandcamp and have them grouped together by the albums they belong to. But what if you want to upload a track to your website that isn’t in an album? Maybe it’s a new demo version or a live recording and you want to send someone a link to this file where they can listen to it online. This is where Soundcloud is really useful.
Many people may only be aware of a Soundcloud as a streaming service similar to Spotify or Apple Music. What sets Soundcloud apart is it’s used extensively by musicians, blogs and radio stations as a way to both promote and share music.
I used to use their widgets on my own site before I decided it made more sense to just use the Bandcamp embedded player. I still upload tracks there though as it’s such a great tool for sharing. I can create private playlists with demos or unreleased tracks and send people the URL to download or listen to them online.
It can also be used to submit tracks to competitions, record labels or radio stations via an inbox facility that you upload one of your tracks on Soundcloud to. I’ve had great results from this, uploading tracks to the Freshonthenet Soundcloud page run by Tom Robinson’s BBC 6music show.
Soundcloud have a free and a pro plan, the latter giving you more recording time and playlists for a small annual fee. Despite the recents cuts they’ve made to their workforce and the rumours of an imminent buyout I still think it’s worth creating an artist account if you haven’t already and taking a look at what they have to offer.
The best kind of websites are those that update themselves using data from other sites. I use the If This Then That (IFTTT) service to link my Instagram and Twitter accounts together. Now, whenever I post a picture to Instagram a tweet of the photo is automatically created in my Twitter account. You can do so much more with IFTTT, linking thousands of different services together and all for free.
This is my only point of contact with Google plus; I just set up the posts via Buffer and check their stats to see how they are performing.
Just as hardly any non musicians use MySpace, the opposite can be said about Facebook. It can be a great promotional tool for gigs, videos and new releases. I usually post a short summary of any blog posts on there to direct people to my website and have also paid to promote a few posts using Facebook ads.
One of my more successful promotions was a live video I made of my acoustic cover of The Smiths song, There is a light and it never goes out. Using targeted ads I was able to get this seen by thousands of Smiths fans and received some lovely feedback as a result. I’ve found that posting videos directly to Facebook creates more user engagement than a link to a video on YouTube or Vimeo.
The one annoying thing about Facebook is that when you set up an event for one of your gigs, you cannot then go and invite all the people who have liked your page unless you are friends with them. I know, it’s odd. It’s as if they went to loads of trouble allowing us to setup artist pages, but then refused to also adapt this feature to work better with them. As I don’t really use Facebook in my personal life I just don’t bother using the event pages for my gigs anymore, unless it’s something the venue has set up already.
This is used by the BBC to supply your profile page with the data it needs. Musicbrainz isn’t the most stylish or easy to use website there is but it does the job it was meant to do and you need to have a profile on there if you have an artist page on the BBC website and wish it to have all the relevant information.
The reason why I haven’t included iTunes, Spotify etc is that this UK website allows you to upload your releases to these and a load of other online shops and streaming services. They have two pricing tiers - I find the no fee option where they instead take a 15% cut off your sales suffices for my needs. If I sold more online then I’d look into changing to the premium package where you get 100% of your sales for a small fixed monthly fee.
More people are listening to music on YouTube than ever before. I usually upload my music videos to both YouTube and Vimeo but have had more success promoting them on YouTube. Recording live videos of unique cover versions and uploading them to YouTube can be a great promotional tool. My Smiths cover mentioned earlier has become one of the top 3 most listened to acoustic covers of the song on there.
You can add keywords and create playlists grouping videos together. They also provide a simple widget to display them on your own site with options to further refine the load times using Lazy Loading .
It used to take me ages having to enter gigs onto MySpace, then copying them over to Facebook, Peoplesound and a number of other sites which all had their own gigs implementation. Now I just post them onto Songkick via their Tour Box subsite and the data is then used by a number of other websites. It’s become the one stop place on the web to enter your gig dates.
You just create an artist account, then go ahead and enter any gigs you are doing. They have a large database of venues which means you don’t have enter that data again yourself.
You can also share the gig details you’ve just entered on your own site, either with a widget or as text using their API.
As musicians we’re often encouraged to join every new music related website. Each one promises to help us get that big break or to reach out to our fans. But the reality is, it’s best to focus your time on just a handful of sites, otherwise you end up doing nothing else but managing your web presence. If your current social media usage has left your efforts to promote your music feel like they’ve been spread too thinly, then hopefully this guide may help you decide which ones to no longer use.