MySpace is still seen by many as the reliable place to go to stream a musician’s music and find their tour dates. Facebook’s lack of an in-house app led to the proliferation of iLike, which is still going strong with 10 million monthly active users despite not always streaming full-length songs and limiting artist profiles to a stark white background. Since iLike was acquired by MySpace last year, two apps have emerged as top contenders to lead Facebook towards becoming a music destination — ReverbNation’s full-featured but less aesthetically-customizable MyBand, and the simpler, design-focused BandPage by RootMusic. Here’s our look at the latter.
BandPage is a free Page-focused application that allows musicians to create a tab for their Facebook Page where they can stream full songs for listening, post videos and tour dates, and publish to the feeds of people who like them. BandPage Plus, at an affordable $1.99 a month, gives customers deep appearance customization options. For comparison, a custom music tab can cost $3,000 to $5,000 to commission. In the four months since RootMusic launched the app, the company has signed up 20,000 bands and now has 3.15 million MAU. Notable clients include Tom Petty, Wu-Tang Clan, Jason Mraz, and Of Montreal.
RootMusic was founded by current CEO J Sider after six years of experience working with bands of all sizes while managing concert venues. Bands, fed up with the current solutions that weren’t practical for day to day to use, would constantly ask his advice on social media and distribution methods, he explains. He decided to “make a product that was a professional tool you could use if you were just starting out, or if you were hitting it big, at a price point where everyone could use it.” RootMusic consulted other digital music companies like imeem and SNOCAP to get advice on handling streaming and licensing issues.
The company seeks to provide solutions for bands on the internet as a whole, but has started with Facebook as that’s where the fans and the biggest inefficiency are. Sider says that the top priority of their medium-sized, engineer-heavy, San Francisco-based team is responding to customer feedback and implementing the features their users are asking for.
Editing Content and Appearance
To create a BandPage, go to the RootMusic’s website, log in using Facebook Connect, and give RootMusic access to your public information and email. Select which Page that you control you want edit, and you’ll be brought to the BandPage content editor. Your Page’s name is appended to “http://listn.to/” to give you a direct link to your BandPage. Your profile picture and any photos or videos you’ve uploaded to your Page are automatically imported,
RootMusic partners with SoundCloud to offer music hosting and streaming. You can upload songs you have the rights to in the editor, or upload them on SoundCloud and connect your account to your BandPage, causing the songs to appear in a list of available tracks. You can then drag them to one of your BandPage playlists, add cover art and a link to a digital music store, and select if you want the song to be freely downloadable. Playback is snappy, usually starting within 1.5 seconds, and song play counts combine both plays on your BandPage, and wherever the song is embedded on Facebook.
SonicLiving powers the tour dates section of your BandPage, auto-completing venue names, and allowing you to list a price and purchase link. The contact tab lets you display different contact email addresses, websites, phone numbers, or a link to message you on Facebook. At the bottom of the content editor users can set if fan posts will show up on the Page’s wall, and add Twitter and RSS feeds. Enabling the ArtistData add-on lets musicians sync the content they post to any other profiles they have around the web.
RootMusic noted how the consistent location of the music player and tour dates let MySpace make it easy for users to quickly find that content on pages they’d never visited before. In an effort to become the new go-to resource for this content, the placement of content can’t be changed. “We wanted to create something stable that people trust. It’s great to have a pimp website, but if your fans can’t find the content they’re looking for, then what’s the point?” says Sider.
Those who’ve paid for BandPage Plus have access to the appearance editor. Here you can add a large banner image instead of only having your Page’s profile picture, change fonts, edit the size of your name and fan count, and alter the colors of every element of the BandPage. The appearance editor is really just a editable view of your front-facing page, meaning you see changes in real time and there’s no need to check back and forth to see if something looks good. This customizability allows you to create a profile that vividly conveys the musician’s style — something seriously lacking in other Facebook music applications like MyBand and iLike.
Sharing With Fans
Once you’ve created your BandPage, RootMusic provides a tutorial video and links explaining how to get the tab published and set as the default landing tab for those who don’t like your Page. Currently, admins can’t set a tab other than the Wall as the landing tab for anyone who likes a Page, so RootMusic provides a link to Facebook’s Page bug submission form where users can suggest they add this capability. Users can enable the auto-share function to automatically publish newly added content and tour dates to the feeds of their fans.
Every element of the BandPage is shareable, from the Page itself, to songs, to tour dates. Page owners get three sharing options: “Share to fans” posts to the Page’s wall and the feeds of those who like the Page, “Share with Friend” allows you to post the content directly to the wall of one friend, and “Post to Wall” posts the content to the wall of your personal profile and the feeds of your friends. Everyone else on Facebook gets the second two options. Some content can also be tweeted or posted to Tumblr. Songs and videos are playable right from the feed, making it easy for people to get familiar with your content, then follow the link back to your BandPage.
One of BandPage’s biggest advantages for fans is the ability to seamlessly navigate between different content types. If a user clicks the video tab while streaming a song, the song continues to play while a gallery of video thumbnails pops up. Then, when a user clicks to view a video, the streaming songs fade to a pause, preventing overlapping audio, then automatically resumes when you close the video player. Similarly, photo gallery and sharing pop-ups don’t interrupt the music. Sider explains that “people wouldn’t normally read your bio, but since they can while listening, they’re more likely to.” Fans will be should be happy not to be bombarded by multiple songs and videos auto-playing simultaneously as they were on MySpace.
BandPage has focused on quality and design instead of initially offering a large variety of features. Noticeably absent are a module for merchandise, a key source of revenue for many bands, or native analytics on content such as what content is most frequently shared, leaving Page owners with only Facebook’s Page Insights. However, RootMusic has provided numerous opportunities to give feedback, with prompts like “What Twitter features would you find useful?” or “What would you like to see in this pane?” placed throughout the editor.
These links lead to RootMusic’s Help + Feedback Center, powered by CrowdSound, where users can suggest features, vote up and down suggestions of others, hear back from the development team, and see what features are “In Progress”. The tallies let RootMusic see which features their users want most, and put them into production as they have with with forthcoming features like a discography, favorite pages, and Last.fm and MySpace integrations.
Those who use BandPage have experienced significant growth in Likes, especially if it’s made the default landing tab. Sider states that “fans interact three to five times more with BandPage than with the Wall.” BandPage isn’t only for musicians, but anyone with audio content to share. Sider says the television show Dexter used it to distribute songs from its soundtrack to fans, who often liked and re-shared the songs, netting the Page 500,000 new fans in two weeks.
Musicians seeking a free, easy-to-use and powerful solution for distributing content and racking up likes on Facebook have nothing to lose from adding BandPage, and for only $1.99 a month they can add strong branding to their presence with BandPage Plus. Meanwhile, those looking for an online band management system that includes social media monitoring, email marketing, and press kits might be better served by other products. RootMusic’s BandPage is the best way for musicians to reach potential fans on Facebook without any coding, photoshop, or significant investment.