Conversion in a Box: Why ‘Website Visits’ Are a Worthless Metric for Musicians

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A few weeks ago, our good friend Wes Davenport put us on to a new service called ‘Conversion In a Box‘, which is a simple email-for-media form creator aimed at helping musicians to easily create a newsletter sign up form for their website that offers a download in exchange for an email address.

While most email services offer some sort of opt-in form, and many do also include an e-for-m option, it’s not always the easiest thing to set up / customize. For instance, Mail Chimp offers a great newsletter service but won’t allow you to upload a song directly to their server so if you are going to offer a song download in exchange for an email address, you’ll have to find somewhere else to actually host that song.

Conversion In a Box on the other hand will host your files, allow you to set up a highly customizable sign-up form in mere minutes that can be embedded to any website with ease. And for those of you who already have a newsletter set up through another service, the email addresses you collect here can be easily exported in .csv format and imported back into your newsletter service.

There is no doubt that Conversion In a Box serves a great purpose for all of you musicians going down the D.I.Y road so we asked founder Mark LaFay discuss the inspiration and genesis of his new platform below…


About 12 years ago, I was working furiously to break a young band from Carmel, Indiana called Haste the Day. We put songs up on MP3.com for people to stream and we were doing our own outreach to outlets like ThePRP.com and such.

It was 2002 and believe it or not, the Internet was still very much like the wild west. There weren’t a lot of rules, the spam act was coming down the congressional pipeline but wasn’t yet approved and for the most part, people were writing their own rules. The post-Napster concept of internet privacy wasn’t even a consideration yet. This was somewhat freeing for us because Schools posted student directories online and emails were easily scraped for use.

So scrape and spam we did!

We emailed 10’s of thousands of college students and asked them to listen to the band’s songs on MP3.com. Slowly the play count ticked up and we were filled with a feeling of accomplishment. The problem, though, is that we didn’t know who was listening and whether or not the spam email approach was effective.

Fast-forward to today, bands have several tools at their disposal that are useful tools for identifying, building, growing and harvesting their fan communities. With all of the intelligence available to musicians today, it’s still somewhat mind-blowing that the tactics of 2002 are still alive and well in 2014.

I don’t know if it’s ego, pride or naïvety but we, humans, tend to get distracted by vanity metrics. You know… numbers that don’t really matter but they tend to be the biggest— things like:

  • likes
  • follows
  • visits

Take the last one, visits to you website for an example. We all get enamored by the number of people that visit our website. But Why? What does that number really mean?

Visits to our website is like people walking past our merch-table at a show. We kind of know that they are interested in our music, but unless they buy something, or unless they sign-up for our fan mailing we really don’t know anything about them. And once they walk by without a connection or transaction of some sort they are gone forever. Just someone who happened to walk by.

When it comes to the web, this connection or transaction is called conversion and it is the single most important step in internet marketing and promotions today. And if you get nothing else out of this article, I hope you get that.

There is no arguing that the power of the internet, the pervasiveness of digital connectivity, and the promise of social media has totally transformed the music industry. The way we promote ourselves, sell our music, and connect with our fans is completely different than what it was just a few short years ago.

There is a revolution going on in the music industry, but unless we start the process by making a digital connection with our fans in identifying who they are then we also miss out on all of the spoils of this revolution.

Despite this, band after after band continues to begin the promotion of their new release by giving away songs online without asking for anything in return, happy with only a vanity metric of “downloads’” they miss out on the opportunity for “conversion.” Instead of simply putting their music online for people to stream anonymously, they should of qualified their audience by requiring them to give them their email in exchange for downloading the music.

It was this dilemma that was the genesis for a free and easy-to-use web tool called Conversion In a Box (CIAB). CIAB is focused on doing one thing and one thing only: make it easy for musicians to use their music to gather fan email addresses.

The approach is simple. Upload your song to CIAB, select what info you want to gather, customize an email message that gets sent to each subscriber, copy your form code and paste it on your website, blog or Facebook. Then you can promote your new music by driving people to your form.

Its time to for today’s band or musician to join in the revelation. And the first step is not just getting your song out there. Its conversion.

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A Social Voting App Like You’ve Never Seen: Bedloo

***DISCLAIMER – Bedloo is a current client of Cyber PR***

Bedloo
The foundation for any successful business is knowing the needs of their market. A thriving business has identified a target market, knows its needs, and has the bandwidth to accommodate their demands. Sometimes this isn’t so easy to pinpoint, or find the answers to. For instance, maybe a musician has a couple of ideas for his next T-shirt design, but can’t come to a decision. Maybe he’s been working on some new tracks for his upcoming album, but is having trouble on committing to a guitar tone that works for him. This is a perfect opportunity to let the fans into the creative process.

Bedloo is a new web and iOS app that allows musicians, or anyone for that matter, to ask a question within their network, and learn from their responses.

Now I know what you’re thinking… we’ve seen this concept before, and nobody paid any attention. Even Facebook tried it, and their plug-in was scrapped after just two years! Bedloo is different for three key reasons:

  • You are limited to two options to vote from, with no option to add your own answer. This gives the host more control over their poll and allows for much more focused data.
  • Bedloo allows you to add multimedia into the app in order to view your choice before you vote. A platform like Facebook is much more conducive to visual content, which means that these polls are more interactive and inviting.
  • These polls can be embedded, meaning that one Bedloo poll can be posted on multiple sites or blogs, and the data will be consolidated into one place.

HOW IT WORKS

Bedloo is a very intuitive app with a great user interface. When you create your poll, you pose the question that you want to ask your community, and you provide your two choices. Here’s the fun part: you get to contextualize your poll by adding in relative multimedia to each answer.

  • Thinking about a new exclusive T-shirt design for your 2014 tour? Whip up two separate designs, and add these mock-up images to your Bedloo.
  • Working on your next track? Post SoundCloud clips from your studio session and ask them which MIDI instrument you like better for that lead synth sound.
  • Playing pranks on your bandmates on the tour bus? Post YouTube or Vimeo links to your top two pranks, and let your fans duke it out in the polls!

DISCOVERY FEATURES

The app interface accommodates active and passive discovery methods. The current social networks incorporated into the app for sign-in and sharing are Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and they also provide you an embed code to post your poll on your blog or website. For SEO purposes, they also allow you to meta tag your poll to accommodate passive discovery among people who may find your Justin Bieber-related poll when they search his name in Google.


SERVE YOUR OWN PURPOSE

You can customize the time limit on your Bedloo, or you can keep your poll open indefinitely. This is great if you want to run a contest with your fans and offer up a grand prize to a lucky voter once the entry period expires. What’s the incentive for the host? The platform collects user analytics to break down your fan base’s age brackets, gender, and geographic location. Want to figure out where to tour next, and which demographics to market to? This could prove valuable!


AS A SOCIAL NETWORK

While it’s a great tool for brands to study up on their target market, it also acts as a social network, where you can follow your friends, brands, and other influencers on the platform. Just like any social platform, Bedloo displays a feed on your homepage that displays the polls that your network have posted recently. You can also sort your feed by category, and what’s trending worldwide. This feed can be accessed from both the web app and on iOS.


THE ROAD AHEAD

Like most online platforms, the wheels start to gain real traction once the user base has reached a point where businesses can attain significant data from their audience. If you are a musician (and yes, you are a business), here’s my advice to you: if you want significant data which you can extrapolate, do an AWESOME contest as a way to give your fans an incentive to vote. Picking a T-shirt design for a chance to win that T-shirt is a nice thought, but creativity is the musician’s forte! There are tons of things you can do to incentivize your fans.

The other factor that will help determine the app’s future is their ability to increase sign-ups. As it currently stands, users are allowed to vote as a visitor without having to create an account. Part of the reason why so many apps require you to sign in via a social network is to gain the ability to access your basic information (ie. age, gender, location). Once the app has figured out how to encourage social media or email sign-ups, I have a feeling that you will be seeing a lot more artists and companies using Bedloo.

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Cyber PR® Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites – Tweepi

Twitter offers one of the most widely used APIs (application platform interface)) in the world, allowing other businesses to create apps that will heighten the experience of using the Twitter platform. Among these apps are games, tracking apps, picture apps, and also apps that will better your chances at engaging a larger pool of people.

There is an app out in the ether right now called Tweepi. It has been around for a little less than a year and is still evolving, but it has found a place as the Twitter janitor and also the Twitter stat machine.

What Tweepi does is it allows you to clean up your Twitter feed, follow the people you will make the biggest impact with online and unfollow the people that don’t follow you. There is also a non-free Premium option that will give you more options for tidying.

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Cyber PR® Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites – Soundcloud

SoundCloud is an industry standard for audio sharing with a built in social networking platform.
There are many options and features within SoundCloud that allow musicians to collaborate, promote, and distribute their music. SoundCloud is being described for audio as what Instagram is for photos or what Youtube is for videos.

It enables everything from mobile voice recording, online mastering, digital distribution to Facebook artist profiles, and iPad music making. It is a medium that allows for custom branding, controlled distribution, and statistics.

Free entry to the platform is an obvious reason for DIY musician to use SoundCloud, however below are 4 great reasons why you should give SoundCloud a try:

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Cyber PR® Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites – Bandcamp


Distribution of music has opened up from being controlled by record labels’ to now being practically free for all musicians.

Being your own record company is a reality for the DIY musician. You have to be able to market, record and distribute your music.

Luckily there are many sites and apps that allow you to propagate your finely tuned songs around the world in seconds. Soundcloud, Reverbnation, are all sites that work; however, BandCamp is the site that will present your music in a way that is visually appealing and also provide tools to build and analyze your fan base.

Bandcamp is different in the way that it acts as a store front for distributing your music that you don’t have to pay to be on, unlike CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon. On the contrary, Bandcamp is 100% free for you to place your music on, but they take 15% of any sales you do make (10% on digital).

This free entry is an obvious benefit for DIY musicians to use Bandcamp, but below are 5 more great reasons to give the service a try:


1. Easy To Set Up, Upload, And Customize



Setting up a BandCamp account is simple and only takes around 15 minutes. After the preliminary set up you can brand your page by customizing the color scheme, lay out, header and put up your album artwork. The way that Bandcamp presents all of the artwork and songs creates a visually attractive digital album that is not possible with other platforms.



2. Compile A Mailing List


One of the best features on Bandcamp and most important for your marketing plan, is that you can set up a mailing list. You can set Bandcamp up in a way that when someone wants to download your music it will ask for an email address, and then send them your music. You can then export the mailing list and save it for monthly newsletters.


Statistics


Most music platform sites allow you to track your plays. Bandcamp does this as well, but it also allows you to track partial plays, skips, and complete plays. This is a great way to discover what song on the EP will be the single on the album. Bandcamp also allows you to track your “Buzz” which consists of all plays from different sites that the Bandcamp player widget has been embedded on. This is an amazing tool to help track your most popular sites to play music, but also see where your band is being talked about and join the conversation.


Sell Your Music With Options


It’s hard to find a place where you can easily distribute your music and your band merchandise, Bandcamp does this with ease and plenty of customizable presentations. One of the coolest features is the multiple format download option. Just upload an Apple Lossless file and Bandcamp will do all the conversions for this file. You can than offer a free download of the lower quality and name your own price option for the higher quality. You can also set one or multiple tracks free to download and others not, or the whole album for any price you wish.


Discover New Music


If you think you can get through this business without supporting other artists and production teams, then your selfish. Bandcamp allows you to find artists who are near you and interact with them so you can maybe swap gigs, collaborate, or set up a tour together. It’s also a great place to find new music, and see what trends are standing out, so you can mold you marketing plan to fit into the popular niche.

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Cyber PR® Arsenal: Killer Apps, Tools & Sites – Hootsuite

 

Ever since the inception of Twitter in 2008, the most frequent complaint has been the lack of organizational options, leading to major content overload.

Thankfully, several 3rd-party services have been introduced over the last few years that help Tweeters (Twitter users) to get organized by offering an experience that focused on the idea of breaking down each component of Twitter (i.e. main feed of tweets, @ replies, direct messages, lists, etc.) into their own feed.

This gives one ‘30,000 foot view’ version of Twitter so all aspects are viewable at once, in an orderly fashion.

While many of these services originally offered very similar experiences to users, such as Hootsuite, Tweetdeck and Seesmic, Hootsuite has carved itself out as the clear leader of the pack by offering users a highly customizable and integrated experience to manage not only Twitter, but their entire social presence.


Social Analytics


Unlike other services such as Tweetdeck and Seesmic, Hootsuite has always put their focus on your ability to not only get organized but to then have the opportunity to analyze the effectiveness of your content so that you can truly maximize your efforts.

Hootsuite offers fully customizable social analytics reports that will track not only the effectiveness of your tweets, but your Facebook fan page, website and blog (using Google Analytics) as well as give you a full breakdown of what is currently your most engaged demographic.

NOTE: In order for Hootsuite’s social analytics to work properly, all links must use an ow.ly link (Hootsuite’s own short link) so they track fully track the click-throughs.


Content Scheduling


While Twitter is an amazing tool for engaging in two-way, real-time conversations with your fans, it can also be difficult to keep up with posting high-quality content on a consistent basis with so many other things going on in your life. An obvious benefit of Hootsuite is it’s ability to schedule your content ahead of time using the Hootsuite ‘Publisher’ feature. Using the Hootsuite ‘Publisher’, you can schedule as many tweets as you would like in as far in advance as you’d like it to be!


Klout Built-In to Hootsuite Profiles


Last week, we introduced the Cyber PR® Arsenal series with focusing on Klout, a social monitoring service that can help you to understand the influence of yourself, your fans and followers as well as help you to identify niche influencers in separate markets (read the full Cyber PR® Arsenal article here).

Hootsuite makes Klout even more effective by baking it in to their user profiles so that you can see the Klout of every person you engage with, helping you to quickly and effectively identify influential people to follow and/ or interact with on a more regular basis.


Hootsuite Empowers Your Entire Team


If there is one thing that any successful ‘DIY Musician’ will tell you, is that do-it-yourself doesn’t mean do-it-alone. Having an effective and reliable team is critical to your success as a musician. Hootsuite makes it easy for your whole team gain access to all of your social presence to work on your behalf.


Apps Directory


While Hootsuite was created as a way to effectively organize your Twitter account(s), it has since become a platform to manage all of your social content in one dashboard. Hootsuite’s App Directory allows you to expand your social presence into additional niche platforms (i.e. Instagram, Tumblr, Flickr, etc.) without ever having to leave your hootsuite dashboard.

Note: While this is an amazing tool for you to stay organized, some social networking platforms, particularly Facebook, don’t work well with 3rd-party platforms and may hurt the overall effectiveness with your content, so be careful and test the waters with each new account you add to your Hootsuite dashboard.

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