Music + Tech Special: Marketing/Distribution/Touring

Matt Urmy of Artist Growth. Photo by B.K. Monroe

Whether you’re trying to reach a mass audience, or target a niche demographic, through sales or touring, the following services have you covered.

Artist Growth

(artistgrowth.com)

From a germ of an idea he had to manage his own performing career more efficiently, Artist Growth CEO Matt Urmy (with a crew of programmers and designers) developed an app and cloud-based platform to provide musicians and their business teams with a permission-based platform for end-to-end event management, finance tracking and reporting, merch venue sales, and much more.

“We wanted to meet a wide variety of industry needs,” says Urmy, whose album Out Of The Ashes was the late Cowboy Jack Clement’s final production. “Whether you’re a manager, an agent, or somebody at a label, the vision really became to provide a platform that any of these organizations can use inside their business. Uses are different for each organization type or artist, but we now have labels that use us, as well as management companies, booking agents and individual artists. The guys and girls who are still DIY-ing it can go to our website, start a free trial, and use it for a while to see if they like it. And early this year we will be launching new products and programs to help both established and new artists get where they’re going faster, new products to make it even more palatable for someone just starting out with a low budget or no budget. We’re going to be able to serve everybody. And some of those new products and programs, I believe, have the potential to create complete tectonic shifts in how artists are able to tour.”

With other capabilities including automated ticket request processing, Songkick and Bandsintown sync, and guest list management, Artist Growth counts such artists as Aaron Lewis, Kings of Leon, Jason Aldean and Steve Vai among its clients. The platform is available on iOS, Android and the Web. “It’s a thrill to have this software used by a major artist,” Urmy says, “but it’s equally thrilling when I get an e-mail from a guy who’s still working a day job who says that we’ve helped give him the organization to quit his job in six months. When you go from having a dream to having a plan, everything changes.” — RICK MOORE

CD Baby

(cdbaby.com)

For a casual music fan who has stumbled across CD Baby, the service may come across as a simple online music retailer. However, there’s much more happening on the other side of the storefront. CD Baby has been in the distribution game since 1998, but the company has since evolved from its humble beginnings as a CD-seller.

The company boasts a catalog of 650,000 artists, 100,000 songwriters, 500,000 albums, and more than 7 million tracks. The service not only sets up distribution on its site, but on nearly every other major online streaming service retailer, as well. This includes foreign streaming platforms that most artists wouldn’t even think of tapping into, such as Japan’s AWA and the Middle Eastern streaming giant Anghami.

This was all designed with independent artists in mind, which allowed bands like Tennessee rockers One Less Reason to reach audiences across the world and connect with their fans in easier ways.

“CD Baby was the first to offer digital distribution for an independent band, which was a game-changer,” OLR frontman Cris Brown says. “It made us a lot of money fast which made touring easier. CD Baby made it easy to distribute work directly to the people that buy it. Before that, it was all mail-based which was time-consuming and therefore not as many people were interested.”

Along with its digital distribution channel, CD Baby is basically a one-stop-shop for publishing, licensing and royalty collection.

As a part of their distribution packages, the service guides artists through songwriter affiliation and song registration processes to set up royalty collection on both performance and mechanical fronts. CD Baby will even coordinate the licensing agreements for cover song singles and manage the payment of the mechanical royalties to the original songwriters. These royalty collections and digital sales services have dished out more than $500 million to independent musicians over the years.

The company is also making a push for its marketing services, such as their integration of Show.co, a marketing platform that provides independent artists the same tools as the major labels.

“With Show.co, an artist can set up slick landing pages to increase their Spotify following, build their e-mail list, increase YouTube engagement and much more,” says CD Baby Marketing Manager Danielle King. “These are tools used by artists on Universal, Sony, Nettwerk Music Group, and others, and they are now free for all CD Baby clients.”

With this well-rounded mix of services, CD Baby aims to be the go-to source for independent songwriters and musicians, and it succeeds. “Being a trusted resource to educate and engage with artists is a priority to us,” King says. “We want to be there for an artist throughout the duration of his or her career.” — JOHN CONNOR COULSTON

ReverbNation

(reverbnation.com)

If you’ve encountered ReverbNation during your musical journey, you probably haven’t just seen one aspect of the business. Since being founded in 2006, the company has prided itself on providing musicians a variety of ways to further their careers.

The base level of the site is music-hosting through the service’s artist-centric social media profiles. Artists who use the service can stream and sell their music on the platform, as well as share photos, videos and tour dates.

However, that’s just one of many tools in ReverbNation’s grab-bag of services. They also provide tools for artists to share their music externally. They’ve help expand artists’ impact with the ReverbNation CONNECT program, an invite-only service that connects top artists on the platform with industry professionals.

Outside of that program, they help guide artists as they create personalized websites and coordinate ad placements with national publications, which have helped get independent artists onto a larger platform. On top of that, once an artist has amassed a following, ReverbNation helps keep fans engaged with the artists’ activities.

“ReverbNation has helped me promote my music through ad placements in national magazines/websites, resulting in a rapid rise in their charts,” Nashville songwriter Jim Aycock says. “Also, if one uses a ReverbNation-hosted website, then an array of tools are available such as e-mail blasts to your fanbase and scheduled newsletters. The result? More exposure, more fans and more download sales.”

Another key point for the service is their Crowd Reviews program. Musicians can submit their tracks to unbiased listeners to get honest feedback on everything from song structure to a track’s title. This can help songwriters decide what songs to pitch next or pick as singles on upcoming releases.

“(Crowd Reviews) is a super valuable research and marketing tool that can have major impact on your songwriting, music promotion and fan identification,” ReverbNation VP of Marketing Dave Marcello says. “Basically, you upload a song, choose your targeting, and a sample of real music fans in your genre provide their thoughts and feelings in a data analysis report. We offer different types of reports based on an artist’s needs, like Songwriting Analysis, Production Quality, Audience Identification, and Commercial Potential.”

This analytics and fan base-building approach to a digital music service is what helps ReverbNation stand out in the increasingly crowded online music space. — JOHN CONNOR COULSTON

SonicBids

(sonicbids.com)

SonicBids has digitized the gigging-booking process into a straightforward networking platform. The service works the same way that a prospective employee searches for jobs on LinkedIn. Artists sign up for the service and are shown information for gigs posted by a pool of 20,000-plus promoters and booking agents. They are then able to craft an EPK to send to bookers in hopes that they will be hired for the performances. These gigs range from coffee shop slots to major festival spots. Songwriting competition applications are also available on the platform.

While some opportunities require application fees, the service emphasizes free opportunities. There’s also a strict ban on “pay-to-play” or “required attendance” gig structures to ensure bands are fairly compensated for their talents.

On the flipside, this means that promoters have the tools they need to find artists. They are given access to the service’s 450,000 bands to fill the performance slots as needed.

Promoters are able to search for talent based on location, genre and label status, along with filters for solo acts, duos, bands with original material, cover bands and DJs. Booking agents are also able to see artist metrics that break down social media followings and streaming totals to get a better read on how audiences have responded to an artist’s work.

Full-time artists aren’t the only ones that can benefit from the platform. Individual musicians and songwriters can be hired by artists for live or recording purposes, and songwriters can also connect with fellow songwriters and musicians for co-writes and collaborations.

The bridge-building theme running throughout SonicBids’ mission and interface is what makes it a truly unique and useful offering for both creators and industry professionals. — JOHN CONNOR COULSTON

Broadjam

(broadjam.com)

Broadjam, Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin provides web-based promotional tools and services for independent musicians, the music industry, and fans around the globe. One of the world’s largest web communities focused on independent music, Broadjam.com hosts a massive online database of searchable songs by artists from all 50 U.S. states and over 150 countries. Users have a platform to interact with other artists, enter contests, and collaborate with peers through e-mail, reviews, blogs and other social networking tools. Broadjam also works with related industries to provide various licensing opportunities, including placement in films, TV, advertising campaigns and video games, as well as radio play and professional reviews. The Broadjam Pro Services group designs and builds custom technology for music industry clients such as Warner/Chappell, the Academy of Country Music, Peavey, Yamaha and others.

“While most musicians may know us for music licensing, less than 5 percent of our members use that service,” says Roy Elkins, Broadjam’s founder and CEO. “The overwhelming strength of Broadjam is the connections that our members make through the community they have created. I say ‘they,’ as the members clearly are the ones who make it thrive. We just provide the tools. Our members connect with other members, fans, and industry pros on a daily basis. While Facebook is a place to connect with people ‘that we know,’ and LinkedIn connects business contacts that ‘we met along the way,’ Broadjam connects us to other musicians and people in the industry who we don’t know. That’s what makes the community flourish. We receive overwhelming positive feedback regarding this part of our site.”

Broadjam helps tens of thousands of musicians and bands promote their music online, and to submit music for consideration in film, television and advertisements, sell mp3 music downloads, submit music for review from music industry professionals, and more. “Producers find clients, engineers find records to mix, and songwriters find others to write and collaborate with,” Elkins says. “Many of the folks that connect and write and trade files on our site have never met, but continue to use it as a vehicle to move their creative journey forward.” — RICK MOORE

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