independent web publishing for musicians

Music Publishing and the Web: Back to Basics | MiDNiGHT PARKiNG

Going back to the most basic questions:

a) How do musicians publish their work and support themselves?
b) How do listeners find new music?

To answer the first, I would argue that any semi-professional musician that wishes to build a career off their work should establish their own unique website. It is more work but the benefits are tremendous – the artist maintains complete control over their work and can determine exactly how their work is published, distributed, licensed, and sold (even setting up their own storefront). The idea should be that this site is the *exclusive* method for updates, downloads, and sales of music.

Rather than use a social network or third party publisher, I own the domain where I do my music and writing. This creates a big problem in attracting people to listen or read, but it means that I own the upside when it happens.

It also means that I can do a decent job of keeping up with updates, since I don’t have to keep up with multiple social networks.

The Beastie Boys’ Myspace is just a pointer to beastieboys.com, and beastieboys.com is an unusually lively and well-maintained artist site. Which goes to show that:

  • There’s a good reason why the Beasties have done so well over the years — they get the point.
  • Artist sites have to be living things with a regular flow of updates. You are better off with one well-maintained site than many badly maintained social network profiles.

On the other hand, having many badly maintained social network profiles is a better approach than a mersh band site with a pretty but sterile environment. A band’s site which is just a department store window display is the only thing worse than an abandoned Myspace.

I don’t mean to imply that going it alone is always the right thing. There are no aggregators for musician blogs. A musician blog is an inward thing — it’s about your own music, not anybody else’s — so the few musician blogs that do exist have no reason to link to one another, and the network as a whole is going to have a hard time getting cohesion. Music listeners are technically unsophisticated, so relying on RSS subscriptions for stickiness is a bad idea.

There are problems, in other words. But good things are usually harder than normal. It’s worthwhile.

3 thoughts on “independent web publishing for musicians

  1. I agree with your points. Myspace is a wonderful bulletin board, but it’s not the solution. Artists pages, to my mind, entire netlabels featuring many artists, are the way to go.

    The notion that many and perhaps most musicians will not be even semi-professionals but niche hobbyists also seems to me to be the future, and that this “sharing culture” will work more like a cadillac aficionado’s group for music makers and listeners than like little mini-a&r departments for the next big rock band in the sky.

  2. Musicans go where there are listeners and other musicians. And, listeners go where there are musicians and other listeners.

    Those connections between musicians and listeners are, on one level, what we now call “web-like” connections. Fortuituously, the WWW offers all kinds of ways for people to create web-like connections!

    Practically, right now, MySpace offers some efficient ways to connect, having your own blog offers other ways, being listed on Wikipedia other ways, etc.

    But, if you, as a musician, want to keep exicitng the web around your music, you ultimately have to recognize that the “generate a web for you” services like MySpace aren’t tunable to your unique web. You need, at least, one of your own domains / websites that you can fully tune to the web around your music (e.g., that encompasses your web on MySpace and all the other sites like it).

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