Thursday, December 11, 2008

MySpace Music page design and friends displays

These are musings, as I refine my strategies for modern music marketing. I add and stress the word "modern," as many bands are stuck in ancient attitudes, wimpy websites, and outmoded methodologies.

I have been extremely active recently on MySpace Music, so let me just slam on the brakes and summarize some of my findings. BTW, the image above is one that I've been posting as a comment on pages of bands that Friend me, and especially if they post an image in my comments.

I prefer (most of the time) non-promotional, abstract, and meaningless or bizarre, but interesting images, that don't even have my band name in them. If I have a new song on my player, I often create an image with the song title on it, and post that as an announcement, rather than text saying "New tunes up, go check them out!" which seems tiresome and pathetic.

Page Design
Friends Display


MySpace Music Artists

(1) Pimp My Profile:

I'm not sure I like the flashy designs you can get from various providers. They advertise within your page, and the glitzy decor gets a bit tiresome after you've seen several hundred of them.

Musicians are guilty of falling for wacky web designs that impede credibility, readability, info findability, usability, and functionality. Not too mention usually looking ugly-garish/gaudy-silly, comically mis-executed, or oddly inappropriate to the quality or genre of the music.

These "hip" designs? Most of them (but not all) flash and blink and sparkle and disorient and exaggerate everything so damn much, you can't find what you're looking for (e.g., Add As Friend link) or you can't read their bio text.

Another annoyance is design that stretches so W-I-D-E, your browser throws up a horizontal scroll, and you have to work harder to find the band's mp3 player (which in Firefox usually won't start playing until it's in the browser window), and other items of interest to fans.

I don't think it's a good idea to force the fan's browser to scroll horizontally. Many fans will simply skip such a page, and move on to more user-friendly, more quickly viewable MySpace Music artist pages.

Gigantic splashy glittery photos and ads just look amateurish, desperate, and overwrought. And self-impressed to an embarrassing degree.

Must I also add that slow loading web pages don't get as many views as fast-loading pages? Most users bail out of a page load within 5 seconds. Web users are impatient, in a hurry, and multi-tasking, thus not even all that focused on your "terrific content" anyway.

(2) Enhanced Generic Design:

Then again, a raw, generic page looks a bit deficient, like no one associated with the band or their label has any webmaster skills. I compromise by using the generic design, but enhancing it with videos and artistic images, including graphic image links to my other music sites.

(3) Top Friends to Display:

I automatically assume you're displaying the maximum (40).

Why wouldn't you want potential fans to see as many of your favorite bands, and your own other music projects, as possible? That's what the Top [40] Friends Display is all about. But I've seen MySpace Music artist pages where no friends are displayed! Often, these non-displaying band pages also display no comments, but you can click on a link to post a comment and a link to view comments.

This is unfortunate for the bands involved. It signals a certain arrogance and a lack of comraderie with fellow musicians.

The marketing strategy here seems to be: "Let's not show anything but our artist. If fans want to see comments, or friends of the band, they'll have to take an extra step by clicking on links. This way, all the attention is focused on our artist."

Why this is wrong: fans evaluate a band not only by their music, bio text, sales hype, photos, and videos, but also by their musical associates, mentors, and favorite bands.

When deciding which Friend Requests to approve, fans are in a hurry. They visit your band page, listen to a few seconds of the first song that plays on your mp3 player, and scan your page. If you're lucky, they'll listen to more than a few seconds.

But by glancing at your Top Friends Display, they'll judge your authenticity, evaluate your knowledge of your genre, and decide if your tastes are similar to theirs.

(4) Selecting Top Friends to Display:

You rascal, you've been clicking away like crazy, and typing in captcha characters until your wrist and fingers hurt. Wow! You've accumulated over 2,000 Friends, and they're almost all other bands that you liked a few seconds of.

Well now, how do you decide which Friends to display as your Top 40?

Each musical artist must devise their own method, for this is a very personal decision. All I can do is tell you what I do for my own music, then you can adapt or rebel against my methodology.

I give priority to:

* A band that's been a huge influence on my music (The Residents, Jimi Hendrix, Plastikman, Cindytalk, Flying Saucer Attack, Zavaloka)

* Famous composers (John Cage, John Adams, Penderecki, Steve Reich, Bernard Parmegiani, Luc Ferrari)

* Actual personal friends (Tortoise, The Skabs, Juan Goblin, Art)

* Their music is so good, I love it a lot, I want to help them become more popular, and I'm proud to associate myself with the band. (Indian Jewelry, The Earlies, The Swirlies)

* Their music is so bizarre, innovative, or extreme, that my displaying them will show how smart I am about underground avant garde music. (Ritualistic School of Error, Caroliner Rainbow, Metalux)

* They are pioneers in my own music genres (Henry Cow, Pierre Schaeffer, Delia Derbyshire, Brian Eno, The Fugs, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Soft Machine, This Heat, Joy Electric)

* My recording label (Sludge Farm Records)

* My other musical projects (Metaphysical Platypus, White Metal Headspike)

To a lesser degree, these factors influence my decision:

* Interaction with me via inbox messages and page comments.

* Avatar of band (that image that displays under their name in Top Friends Display) is cool, and preferably, not an animated GIF that becomes distracting and annoying.

* Name of band is weird, funny, bizarre, or smart and memorable.

* Band, which is not a paying client of mine, has released a new CD and I want to help them promote it. Maybe they'll notice and return the favor sometime.

* Inclusion of the band helps define and orient fans to what it is I'm doing musically.

You may view my Top 40 Friends Displays here:

The Str8 Sounds Therabusive Noise Carnival

Str8 Sounds Mystery Prism

The Str8 Sounds Spleezy Sessions

Metaphysical Platypus

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