Headliner.FM is a freemium web service that connects musicians, allowing them to publish promotional updates from each other’s Facebook Pages to gain news fans. When admins publish these cross-promotional posts, they earn a virtual currency that they can then spend to buy exposure to the fans of other artists.
Since money isn’t transferred between admins, incentivizing news feed mentions in this way is Facebook policy compliant. Headliner.FM’s model represents a new fan acquisition opportunity for all types of Pages, and the company is now planning to expand to serve more Page types, including those of social games and bloggers.
How Headliner.FM Works
- Page admins start with 10,000 of the exchange’s currency – “Band Bucks”
- Page admins write a post recommending themselves
- They’re matched with or can discover similar artists who they can request to publish their post
- If these artists accept, Headliner.FM publishes the post to their Pages or Twitter accounts
- These artists receive one BandBuck from the author of the post for each of their fans or followers a post is published to
- Artists can then buy exposure on the Pages and Twitter accounts of other artists with these BandBucks
Headliner.FM doesn’t collect any money or Band Bucks from the exchanges. However, admins can buy a $30 or $50 per month premium accounts to get enhanced tools for discovering artists to cross-promote them, deeper analytics of post performance, and 300,000 or 500,000 extra Band Bucks. The company tells us it is converting 3.4% of its users into paying customers.
The service supports posting to Twitter and MySpace in addition to Facebook, though users can select which services to promote. Admins can track the new fans reached, clicks, Page Likes and other connections made, news feed story feedback and more in a dashboard. Since only 15% of posting requests are accepted, and the recommendations come from artists whose music expertise their fans trust, the posts are relevant and compelling, driving Likes.
Facebook’s policies prohibit Pages from taking money to post the updates of others, leading them to shut down Ad.ly, a service that allowed advertisers to buy posts on the Pages of celebrities. Headliner.FM’s unpaid news feed publishing incentivization is compliant however. CEO and founder Mike More tells us “We talked to the people who run the Platform team when we built our API app to authenticate accounts. They said ‘as long as you don’t have an ad platform, you’re fine.'”
The 8-person Headliner.FM took $700,000 in funding from some music industry angel investors, and released its first beta in February 2010. It’s now signed up 70,000 musicians including Maroon 5, Matt & Kim, and T-Pain, and each day serves about 4,000 recommendations a day that reach seven million fans. The company has partnered with SoundCloud to power streaming music in the news feed posts. To help grow its own service, Headliner.FM lets bands earn Band Bucks for posting its own marketing messages.
The service could use a better rich content publisher, and frustration can arise from inability to rescind a request for another Page to post your invite, but overall the servie is relatively easy to use.
Fan Acquisition Opportunity for All Pages
Pages are eager to grow their fan bases, but most currently have to resort to buying ads, or Like-gated contest apps that don’t get much exposure compared to a Page’s news feed updates. Freemium cross-promotion, fan acquisition systems such as Headliner.FM work especially well for content creators because they’re “attention rich but cash poor” says More.
However, even cash rich companies like major brands and app developers could benefit a great deal from Headliner.FM’s model. Brands could augment their ad buys with cross-promotion of others under the same corporate umbrella or from a different vertical. News feed post exchanges could provide a free user acquisition alternative for game developers that currently use app bar display ads in their games to buy and sell promotion of non-competing games.
Media outlets, web services, celebrities, and TV shows are a few other types of Pages who could reduce their Page marketing spend through news feed post exchanges. With the model proving useful, Headliner.FM should move quickly to expand to these other verticals before someone else does. Still, with the company estimating that there are between two and three million bands out there, and RootMusic’s Facebook musician profile app having signed 150,000 bands’ Pages, there’s still plenty of runway in its existing space.