Thursday, December 22, 2011

Crowdsourcing for Aspiring Musicians

By Musicteachers911 contributing writer, Marina Salsbury
A relatively new phenomenon among musicians that was born on the capabilities of high speed Internet connections is crowdsourcing. A PhD program level definition by Merriam-Webster describes the concept as, “the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.” In other words, crowdsourcing uses the internet to scale projects at a level and efficiency never known before. The respected dictionary site also states that the first known use of the word was in 2006.

With traditional avenues of distribution steadily losing market share, an individual or band needs to expand their outreach to fans through innovative ways. In today’s tech-savvy landscape, fans have come to expect a more personal way of connecting to their favorite artists. Crowdsourcing offers a way to not only do so but also a way in which to tap into the creativity of their listeners.

The popularity of mash-ups is an example of how the idea can be effectively implemented. Bands such as Nine Inch Nails have reached out to their fans seeking these clever re-mixes. Posting stems of a song on the Internet, the band allowed listeners to download and mix to their hearts content. Some of the results were compelling, but by doing this they achieved an even more important goal. They have increased fan loyalty which translates into more sales.

A related track is posting free music. British progressive rock band Marillion garnered increased sales after posting a recent album in its entirety. Those downloading were required to watch a short video from the band plainly explaining what they were trying to accomplish. Other artists have reported exponential increases in sales after posting free music.

YouTube is another essential channel for today’s musician. Even simple videos engender a greater connection with fans when posted. There is also the distant promise of one’s video going viral. Don’t scoff; stranger things have happened.

A different type of outlet being utilized today is Kickstarter. Their website offers applicants a way to finance projects by seeking donations from interested parties. An artist submits a project through
their website. They offer certain incentives such as their new album for a twenty-five dollar donation. Kickstarter then either approves the project or asks you to tweak it some more. Once online, you have a deadline (set by you) to raise the amount of funds you are seeking. By harnessing the collective ability of the internet to finance large-scale projects, Kickstarter has helped many aspiring musicians self-produce and distribute their music.

Crowdsourcing is just the tip of the iceberg in outreach to fans. Other Internet avenues such as Facebook and ReverbNation are also excellent avenues to pursue. If an artist or band uses all of these to make the fans their most important resource, they will find their popularity on the increase.

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