Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Quest for Celtronica, Part II :: Creating a Web Presence

or Trying Not to Let the Internet Eat My Brain

The internet is a big, scary place, and not just for online daters. 

Even when 13B was just a glimmer in my eye, an idea in the back of my mind, I knew having a strong web presence would be key. We would need to be posted, listed, played, streamed, pictured and referenced everywhere we possibly could. What I didn’t realize is the sheer enormity of the task. It’s overwhelming.



To say it’s overwhelming is like calling the Grand Canyon a butt-crack. It’s a crude understatement. Much like the universe, the internet is constantly expanding in every direction. There are so many different websites that want you to post your music, or want you to join, or create an account, sync all your social websites,  create your mailing lists, get all your fans to visit and/or join, create your own band perfume, merchandise, hairstyle or your own special kind of wool sock. There are an infinite number of places you can put your face and your music; they go on and on forever. 

This infinity can be both a blessing and a curse. Options are probably the number one Good Thing™ about the unending possibilities. If you don’t like something about a certain website, don’t worry, there are 49 more just like it with similar features. There is something unique and interesting about every website I have played around with or posted Bedlam on. Whether it’s the layout, the colors, how customizable the pages are, the overall shininess, or how easy it is to find any given record on that website, I have found something I liked. In general, I like the websites that are easy to use and easy to point fans to. For instance, if I have to copy and paste a five-thousand character web address from the browser into my post or email, I won’t use it. Note: just about the only exception I make is for iTunes, but iTunes compensates for this with a link for me to create a button that my peeps can click on and be whisked right through the time-space-internet continuum to my record. Handy! In any event, unless it’s something like, I tend to stay away from it.

The biggest drawback to having 13B splattered across the interwebs? Trying to get a feel for exactly how many fans we really have. Take MySpace, for instance. We have over two thousand "fans" on MySpace, but I never interact on MySpace. Ever. MySpace has evolved into a big, dirty infomercial. There are ads everywhere and it’s overrun by porn-star wannabes and lecherous dudes who sit around in their underwear huffing on keyboard duster cans. On the other hand, we only have about 200 fans on FaceBook. Even though that number is smaller, FaceBook is really rich with content and interaction, so I talk to fans there all the time. So do we have 2,200, or just 200? 2,200 looks better on our stats page, but I really only consider fans to be people who respond to my posts, tweets, texts or emails. Or even people who invite me to parties, pretend to knit with me, do yoga with me, put me through college, or even promise to go to the farmer's market with me on Saturday mornings. I think that puts us right around three or four hundred "real" fans, but who knows. Maybe all two thousand people on MySpace are voracious but silent 13B worshipers.

Some websites and companies are trying to help with cross-pollination by offering the ability to sync several of your sites or accounts to one place. My favorite by far is ReverbNation. This site has oodles of tools that show you how many fans you have, where they are, what network or website they're on, how many unique listeners you have, who your biggest promoters are (don’t think I don’t see you buzzing around under the radar, Jacki W.), and I can post once on the Verb and it will cross-post to Twitter, my personal FaceBook, my 13B FaceBook page, and MySpace. Again, handy! Shiny, even! Also, the Verb has these nifty widgets, banners, buttons and apps that I can get the HTML code for and post on any of the other 67 websites 13B graces.

Another significant downside to multitudinous websites and accounts (besides keeping up with a thousand passwords) is for people who don’t know me or 13B, it can be quite a challenge to pick the best place to send people to download, buy, or just listen to the record. Which place is cheaper? Can they listen to the whole song before they shell out the cash? Can they get a free download anywhere? Do they get a discount because they're already a member of Do they get a discount for being enrolled in a post-doctorate program? Do they get a discount for having 13 cats? Can they buy one song or do they hafta buy the whole stinkin’ record? Good questions, all.

Maintenance of the web presence is probably the most time-consuming chore. Yeah, it’s a process to get your stuff on to each of these websites (I submitted Bedlam to Pandora back in March and I still haven’t received a yes or no from them), but once you get up and running, you get messages and posts and comments and ratings from every single one of them. If I get more than one or two emails per week about a website's services or activites, I tune it out or delete myself off it. I can't stand getting every email a website sends out, whether it's relevant to me or not. I strive to keep each site we are listed on rich with posts, content and witty yet hilarious interaction. It simply takes a lot of time. Also, you get spam. Spam, spam, spam, spam. You know the ones; “hello. my dear. how are you. I am female looking for true love…” Blah, blah, blah. You can tell whoever it is has a thick Russian accent and is living somewhere in Jersey in the basement of a dry-cleaner's.  Those can be a little aggravating when you're expecting the comment or post to be from a rabid new fan telling you how awesome they think you are, and what you get is a poorly composed, error-ridden message from someone with limited English skills who thinks they might be able to con you out of your life savings, which isn’t very much anyway because you are, after all, an independent musician.

I digress.

With everything in front of me, I feel I’ve been modestly successful with creating a branded, consistent internet presence for 13B. Here, let me show you it: 

Go. Click. Listen. Love. Share. Become a fan. Like us. Follow us. All that jazz.