Spotify, SpiralFrog & New Bands

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A quick comparison between 2 similar music services: Spotify & SpiralFrog.

Ostensibly, they both had the same model – offer music for free, pay with ads. But SpiralFrog didn’t even get out of the gate and is now closing, whereas Spotify is burning up the ‘net and has found some well earned breathing space to experiment with its business model.

The difference? SpiralFrog focused on satisfying content owners (labels) first by ignoring customer needs and creating a clumsy, DRM-laden interface. Spotify, quite clearly, focused on creating the most attractive and useful user experience. And by doing so, people are on their side.

Spotify won people over with it’s simplicity – and with that comes a certain amount of patience with experimentation in their advertising. I heard a Spotify Windows-esque 3tone jingle before an ad recently – a subtle way to inform me that an advertiser was trying to get my attention. And it worked. And it wasn’t particularly intrusive. No, it’s not perfect and Spotify are a long way from being safe. But SpiralFrog weren’t even able to get this far.

And how is this is relevant to bands?

Focus on what your fans want, first and foremost, not what you want. Yeah, you want their email address – but they want to stream that single (or album) before they commit to downloading it, so let ’em. Don’t make them jump though hoops before letting them hear the tunes.

Try this ridiculously simple exercise before you put anything by your band online – If I was a fan, or potential fan, of my band, and not a member, how exactly would I want to hear this music, or watch this video.

Win them over with simplicity – let them hear the whole album on a dedicated page (like Bandcamp allows you to do). Direct them to free video content of the band from the same page – give away stickers.

Once they know you’re aiming to please, then you can start to experiment. But if you’re focused on making sure you, the content owner, get your way (money for that CD, emails, downloads) from day one – well, you’ll go the way of the SpiralFrog.

What I’m Listening To…

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2 Responses to Spotify, SpiralFrog & New Bands

  1. Good post on the whole and pretty sound marketing advice for just about any activity. That’s what marketing is supposed to do, isn’t it? Give the people what they want.

    I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t point out the big caveat for bands, however. If you don’t think about money from day one, you’re pretty much out of the game before it’s begun.

    People seldom underline the fact that all Internet start-ups depend on funding for their continued existence at some point, mostly from venture capital. As far as I am aware, Spotify is at present no exception. The main reason SpiralFrog went out of business is that the funding eventually dried up and the business model was in itself unsustainable. Spotify is new and pretty successful at what it does, so there are people willing to invest. The real acid test is when and if the site will be able to turn a profit. If not, expect it to follow in SpiralFrog’s footsteps.

    Now, if you’re an artist, traditionally you’d depend on record label advances to get you in the running, much like the start-up depends on venture capital to get off the ground. If you’re not on a label, you’re left to your own devices as far as funding goes and the majority of funding sources at your disposal are nowhere near as understanding as labels – banks want loans repaid, period (and with interest). They don’t care if your recordings/shows are selling or not.

    In other words, if you’re self-funding, you will face pressure to start making a profit off your music very quickly. That means you will need to keep the question of sales foremost in your mind. Otherwise, your best-case scenario is working your day-job and releasing new recordings or playing shows when you have the time and money to do so.

  2. pennydist says:

    that’s my point though. both services started out trying to “give people what they want” i.e. feels-like-free music.

    But Spotify’s focus on a seamless, simple interface (fan-centric) rather than SprialFrog’s DRM-laden hoop jumping (rights-holder centric) is the only approach that can be successful.

    It’s the *method* of giving people what they want that differs, and that was what I was trying to highlight.

    Spotify’s approach gives it one major advantage – the goodwill of the community. That goodwill goes a long way in allowing Spotify to experiment with ad variation, jingles and other ways of increasing value for advertisers. SprialFrog didn’t even get out of the gate here.

    But yeah, I think Spotify is a long way from being out of the woods here – and I think it’s very clear that most online music services are propped up by VC, with many on their last legs or looking for a way out as monetization remains elusive.

    Time will tell if Spotify can weather that storm – But to paraphrase a recent tweet “why complain that Spotify doesn’t have a business model. Neither does Detroit. Or Newspapers. Or YouTube”

    I do agree that you have to be making money right away as a band – but “making money” and “making sales” is a crucial distinction here. Hard graft and 150 shows a year will go a long way to turning a profit and if done correctly will gain you that elusive community good-will. Best of luck doing that selling CDs and MP3s.

    My point is no matter what you’re doing, you need to be fan-centric – show them that you’ve thought long and hard about how best to serve them and that you can’t do a single thing without them. Because they, not you, decide if they want to listen and ultimately, to pay.

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