iTunes has fundamentally changed how music is acquired and consumed, starting a digital music revolution. With a big chunk of the music loving public moving online to satisfy their music needs, the Web is proving fertile ground for finding and learning about great new artists.
ReverbNation.com was cited most frequently by artists responding to a recent survey conducted by FreePlayVL, as the website most useful to musicians. Claiming “The best tools for musicians, and the best music for everyone else,” ReverbNation is fast becoming a go-to junction point for musicians and fans, with audio widgets and a customizable email engine for artists to connect with their fans. From the listener’s perspective, ReverbNation is not really a place to go and just listen to music, though increasingly, it’s proving to be a popular resource for venues, managers and labels providing affordable distribution support as well.
Survey respondents–all musicians–shared the most appealing features of a music website from their perspective. In addition to basic shopping features, musicians are also looking for a site that is easy to navigate, upload audio files and, most importantly, have a crisp interface to social networking sites. None of the top sites, including ReverbNation, however, received high marks from musicians for the ease of use for this much sought after functionality. Reverbnation’s interface, is notably better than most for plugging into Facebook.
While musicians voted Facebook among the top websites for their needs, they did so with a caveat. With a whopping 30% of the Internet population logging into Facebook each day, Artists appreciate the ubiquity of Facebook. It’s well understood ignoring Facebook wouldn’t be savvy marketing, but they recognize music is not the primary reason for visiting Facebook. It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, but Facebook is still a must-have for music websites.
Rounding out the list of the top music sites from the musician’s perspective is TheSixtyOne and Uvumi. Both of these sites exist to support the artistic community. TheSixtyOne recently went through a major redesign that was strongly lamented by the artists responding to the FreePlayVL survey. The common theme of stated concerns is that navigating the website has become more difficult–though the visitor will appreciate the new graphic component which helps set TheSixtyOne apart from other music websites. While the new format is oriented more to the listener than the musician, finding a particular band has become more difficult. The site is great for randomly finding new artists, and listeners can easily set up play lists to return for updates from their favorites. Becoming a fan and heart voting functionality, however, are tied to time on the site.
In contrast Uvumi has superior charting capability, and a best in class listener feature of sorting by genre. This is offset somewhat though with limited ability to fast forward to the next song while listening to a particular chart. Fan base connection is easy, though neither TheSixtyOne or Uvumi showcase any connection to Facebook or other social media sites.
Most of the artists who responded to our survey have their own websites, but rely on aggregator sites for their audio functionality, such as MySpace. Though not listed amongst the top music websites, MySpace was mentioned frequently as having the best audio interface for musicians and fans. Absent other features, and as other websites come to speed with audio and increasingly video functionality, MySpace is expected to continue to decline as a prime music website. Artists are also keenly aware of the challenges associated with Flash and mobile web devices. Reliance on Flash cuts out all iOS devices–iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch–which has a disproportionate impact on music related websites going mobile.
So what makes for the perfect listener and artist website? In our next post, we’ll highlight a few of the newest trends in music websites and discuss specific features that still need to be created.
Thank you to the musicians affiliated with SL Live Radio–nearing 250 artists this is a great place to connect with a wide cross section of virtually live performers. I also want to thank the Colorado independent music community, who also graciously supported this study.
Legrand in SL Update!
In April, FreePlayVL featured a video project underway between the Phillie hip-hop artist, Legrand, and students at Temple University, Japan (FreePlayVL: Learning by Doing). The video has just been released and they nailed it! I’ve watched and listened to it several times now. The video is fun and a terrific conclusion for the project, but the best part of this update is the music! Check out the video and take a listen: Virtual Love.