Jun 2 2013
Stuff you should think about doing: On Videos, Audio, Retail & More
So, every now and then I dispense some well-meant advice, usually a mix of helpful suggestions and related rant material. The source of these letters accumulates as I go about my daily routine as a music columnist, reviewer, and music site dude. I run into things that either rub me the right or wrong way. I try to offer some advice on how to avoid the bad things, accentuate the good, all in the hope that it helps artists and labels and PR reps and writers go about the Business Of Being An Artist.
These columns are in no means definitive. I learn things the more I run this site and write reviews for other sites. I gain additional insights, and I share them at random times.
My opinions and advice may or may not be applicable to other writers. But I think most of the points I make have a certain universal cache that will translate to situations other than the Bird is the Worm universe.
So, here’s a new edition of Stuff You Should Think About Doing. Let’s begin…
- Check your retail pages. It’s not enough to simply sign up for the various retail sites to sell your music. Be sure to verify the information reflected there is correct. Check back at a later date, be sure nothing has changed. So many times I’ve seen albums for sale that had a sideman listed as album artist or had the primary artist name misspelled or the album title botched. If someone searches for you or your album on the retail site, it might not bring your album up. Make sure people can find your album when they want to purchase it.
- Related: Occasionally check the retail links on your site to be sure they still lead to the correct page. If someone is on your site and says, hey, I want to pick up an album by this artist… you really want to be sure that when they click the link on your site to take them to Amazon or CDBaby or eMusic, that the link does, in fact, take them there. Sometimes retail sites move things around, or a page gets corrupted and they have to build it back up, or perhaps your album is now being offered on a new label… these could cause changes to the links to your album. How often should you check? No more than once a month, no less than four times a year. It’s hard enough for a jazz musician to make a living these days… it’s worth the couple minutes of time it takes to click on your site’s links to be sure they’re leading where they need to go.
- Be sure you have strong metadata entered that goes up on the retail sites. Be sure that artist and album names and song titles populate correctly. Fans can get put off if they purchase your album and have to edit the information. It’s not the end of the world, but, y’know, it’s not a bad idea to be sure you’ve got strong metadata.
- Speaking of links… Link everything. If you have an artist site, be sure that you have active links from it to your twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Youtube/Vimeo, retail, sidemen, and any other site you can think of. Bassist Simon Little nails it on his site. Look on his Main Page; see all the buttons that go to all the different locations he’s nested content? On your Soundcloud page, do the exact same thing. Vimeo/Youtube, same again. Check out Simon Little’s Soundcloud page… see how he links back to his own site and other sites he’s nested content? You should do that, too.
- On Twitter, you only get the one link in your profile. Please please please link to the site that you actively update. If you link to your site, but never use it anymore and make updates to Facebook instead, how am I supposed to know that? If you’ve gotten weary of maintaining your own site, and now just use Facebook to announce new releases and tour dates, then make that your primary link on twitter. People will typically only give you one click… after that, the odds increase dramatically that they give up if they don’t see what they’re looking for. Make it easy for people to find your current information… that increases the odds they pay money for your music, both live and recorded material.
- Be nice to your personnel. Want to see a gold standard for how to show respect to the sidemen who appear on your album (well, aside from paying them)? Check out Darcy James Argue‘s site, and how he features his ensemble members. On his site’s About Page, you get an introduction to Argue, then a listing of all of his ensemble members, all of which are hotlinked to their own sites (if they have one). It’s the right thing to do. It also is helpful to people reviewing your album, not to mention listeners who want to do some exploring. How many of us have used the “sideman method” to discover new Jazz? Hey, I really enjoy the tenor saxophonist on that pianist’s album… I wonder if he has any albums of his own… that kind of thing.
- Related: If you have a seriously kickin’ site, and I can’t find album personnel listed anywhere on it, I grow to hate you very quickly. Hotlinked or not, there is never any excuse not to list any and all personnel who participate on one of your albums.
- You might want to think twice about taking down streaming videos or audio. Because when I embed a video, either as a full screen or in my “slimmed down” audio player form, or when I embed a soundcloud player, if you remove your video or soundcloud song, that takes it not only down from your own page, but from the page of everyone else who has embedded it on their site. So, now, when people read certain reviews on my site and hit the play button on the audio to listen to your music, instead of hearing something they might purchase, instead they get error messages like “Oops, couldn’t find the sound you were looking for” or “video no longer exists.” That’s a missed opportunity for you, the artist, and a disappointment to the review reader. And it’s not just me. Your video/audio may be embedded in hundreds of music sites across the internet. Removing a video or song from your Youtube/Vimeo/Soundcloud page removes it from those hundreds of other sites, too. All of those embedded videos and songs have a promotional value to you, so don’t lose sight of it or ignore it altogether. Unless you have a very good reason to take a video or audio down, then don’t touch it. Leave it alone.
- I would be curious to hear from artists and labels why anybody does it in the first place. Thoughts? Feel free to comment below
- Speaking of tour information, if you’re a label, you couldn’t possibly do better organizing your musicians’ tour information than Cuneiform Records does on their site’s Tour Page. Not only do they have a vertical list of tour dates, organized by artist, but they also present a calendar view of tour dates. This is the kind of page that I return to. If I want to see if any shows are coming to a town near me, I’m going to return to a page like Cuneiform’s, because I know I’ll have everything presented to me in multiple easy-to-read formats. I am not likely to miss a show from one of their artists because I happened to overlook a date or it was poorly laid out to read.
- Youtube videos sometimes suck because of ads. I’m not sure exactly what criteria triggers it, but sometimes Youtube throws up a bar of advertisements on certain videos on its site. This looks bad. I mean, who the hell wants to watch friggin’ ads flash across a video screen. I won’t put them on my site, and I’m sure I’m not alone in despising them. That’s a blown opportunity for some artists getting their music promoted on other music sites. The good thing is, there’s an easy solution… also upload your videos to Vimeo. It’s just like Youtube, but they don’t do the ads. This way, your videos are now on two different sites, and if Youtube sticks ads on your video on their site, someone like myself can simply embed the video you’ve uploaded on Vimeo. Jazz ensemble Klabbes Bank has got the same video up on Youtube and on Vimeo. In addition to uploading videos to youtube, also do the same on Vimeo… no ads.
- If you discover Youtube has put ads on your video, you should get them to take them off. I don’t know what the process is like for that kind of thing, and it may be more trouble than it’s worth. And if you’re also uploading to Vimeo, then that also negates some of the Youtube bite. Also, worth noting that sometimes the ads only show up when the video is embedded. For instance, when you watch the video on Youtube, no ads shows up, but if I try to embed the video on my site, the ads show. As I mentioned, I’ve had to exclude promoting certain videos for that problem. If you are unable to ascertain whether your video gets ads on an embed, you can shoot me a message and I’ll test it for you.
- Stream full album tracks on Soundcloud (ignore if you’re doing same already on Bandcamp). I suggest doing the entire album because it gives the listener/buyer the best opportunity to fall for your music. However, at least do it for a couple album tracks. It’ll give people a chance to hear your music. And someone like myself who writes reviews, I love including an embedded Soundcloud (or Bandcamp) player in my review so people can listen to the music while reading the review. I have to be honest, I’ve shelved a few album reviews because there was no music to stream, and I often write more about the album if they’re music I can embed in the body of the review. Several times an album has gotten 500 words because I could embed an album tracks, sometimes only 100 when I couldn’t. Let me put it this way, if you think letting customers only listen to 60 second song samples should be sufficient for them, then I’m only going to write the word equivalent of 60 second samples for them to read about your album. This isn’t always going to be the case, but I almost always prioritize albums that have embedable audio. Just do it. It’s a good strategy for so many reasons.
- And if you’re an unknown artist outside of your own zip code, and you’re putting out a debut album, for the love of god, stream a friggin’ album track. You have nothing to lose. It can only do you good. Do you know how many times I’ve linked to or embedded an album track and had readers email me or message board me and say, wow, that song is great, I immediately went and bought the album after hearing it. Here’s a great example of this happening on the AllAboutJazz forums, for people commenting on the new Tunnel Six album after I posted a notice on the New Releases Only discussion thread (my nick on the forum is dsschicago).
Okay, I think that’s it for today. I’ll probably have more to talk about in a couple weeks. I’ve got a few more subjects I’ve been wanting to broach.
Have a great weekend!
P.S. If anyone has trouble commenting, please email me and let me know. I think I’ve got my site’s security set up where it needs to be, but I’m always concerned I’m locking out the good with the bad. Thanks.
June 5, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
Great advice. I had never thought about the negative impact of taking tracks/videos down from sites.
Sometimes a musician may want to remove earlier work so that their new stuff is more prominent, or they have developed a new sound – or they’re just better and think their earlier stuff sucks! This goes to show that you really can’t ever truly erase what you put up online – once your stuff is up there, you never know where it’s going to appear.
Maybe musicians need to be a bit more judicious in what we put online…
June 5, 2013 @ 2:25 pm
I totally get what you’re saying about new work trumping old work in the mind of its creator. I was damn proud of my first novel, and I should’ve been, but that was a long time ago and I’m a much better writer now, and so no one gets to read that thing anymore.
But once a musician puts something out there, especially if it’s being retailed, it’s better just to leave it, no matter how much the particular artist has improved in the interval.
Also, keep in mind, listeners are attracted to different qualities of music and for different reasons. An older track that a musician might feel is dated or “bad” might not be viewed in the same way by the listener. Another thing to keep in mind… all of those older “bad” tracks, they were part of the musician’s development, and though the musician has moved on to brighter and better things, a listener new to that artist’s music might really enjoy and benefit from hearing the artist in their beginning stages (so to speak). Many times I like to listen to a new-to-me artist’s first albums/performances, and then move up to more recent works, just so I can get a more organic sense of the artist’s growth.
So many artists that I enjoy their fourth or tenth album as my favorite, yet I’m so glad I got to experience the earlier albums first… because they gave me a greater appreciation of what later would become my favorite album, because I could hear the path the musician took to get there, and witness the growth of the sound that was to become my absolute favorite. Deleting earlier tracks might take away the opportunity for the new listener to experience that growth, and perhaps, become a huge fan instead of just an appreciative one.
Thanks for stopping by the site, Barry. Hope to see you around.