A few days ago I had my first taste of Bandcamp's new fan accounts. After spending a few hours playing around with it, and while still in the grips of what all the implications this new service would have on independent music (i.e. the buying of it) and my personal paypal account (i.e. the depletion of it), I wrote a blog post about how I was feeling. I didn't really expect much to come of it, but was pleasantly surprised when I saw more than a few people feeling the same way.
It started off innocently. People other than myself started tweeting about my post (which rarely happens, and when it does it is rare that I don't know the person). And then Bandcamp themselves retweeted it. At that moment in time, I thought that would be it and I was quite chuffed. But then Bandcamp included a link to my blog post in an email that they send out to everyone who uses Bandcamp. Which is a lot of people. And HI54LOFI.COM experienced what the experts probably call 'a big fucking spike'.
The 'big fucking spike' is so big in its fuckness, that it actually makes it look like the website is used to having 0 people visit it daily (which is not too far from the truth, but when you consider that the 13th had over 500 unique visitors, you can see how things are a little bit skewed). What the graph does show clearly —unfortunately, but not surprisingly— is that the crazy times are coming to an end (although we're still at over 700 unique visitors today, so the 'Bandcamp bump' hasn't completely levelled out).
Here are some things I learnt from the experience:
There Is No Shortage Of Musicians Seekings Ears
When a link to your website is sent to almost every independent musician / band in the world (or at the very least, a very large proportion of them)… expect a lot of 'check out my music' emails. Like, a lot a lot. These past few days have really made me sympathize with all those music blogs of the world that probably experience the same thing, but on a daily basis, 365 days a year. I now better understand why so many emails I've sent out about HI54LOFI RECORDS releases never see the light of day. All the emails start looking the same, just with a different band name and a different link to click. And the task of actually giving them all a fair shake slowly becomes an unclimbable mountain.
I'm going to try my best to listen and respond to all the emails I've been sent, but I will admit that all I've been able to do so far is keep adding email after email to a special folder in my inbox. And I appreciate people wanting to send me their music, but…
People Forget That The Internet Is Still Mainly Used By Humans
Quite a few bands are really bad at asking someone to listen to their music. If you can't take the time to put together an email that contains more than a link to your music, you really shouldn't expect anyone to take the time to go listen. That's just lazy and selfish. I don't think there is a golden rule to follow here (I know I haven't perfected the art of the 'press email'), but at the very least, try to remember that you are sending an email to a human. And try to remember that Reverbnation kind of sucks. It may be a bit unknown as to what will get your email into the 'check out later' pile, but it is a little less of a mystery as to what will get it put in the 'only if I have absolutely nothing else I would rather be doing with my time' pile.
Out of all the bands that have gotten in touch, I've actually only listened (so far) to those who didn't even ask me to listen to their music (or who made that part of their email secondary to just trying to genuinely connect on a personal level). They interacted more like how a human person interacts with another human person in the real world. Crazy how that same behaviour translates well in the online world.
So if I were to give any bands advice on passing on your music to someone else —besides the obvious advice of making excellent and inspired music— it would be to approach things the same way you approach making a friend. Find some common ground before you ask them to help move your furniture.
A fine example of 'human to human' being done right —and the success of that kind of approach— can be found in the great collection of 'Letters To Yvynyl'.
Lots Of Traffic Doesn't Convert Like You Might Expect
Since posting the 'damn you Bandcamp' post on the 12th (and right up to the writing of this very sentence), HI54LOFI.COM has been visited by 15, 255 unique people. That is a lot of people. Surprisingly, of the over 15,000 unique visitors to the site, this has only resulted in about 60 new likes on the Facebook page and about 60 new followers on the Twitter. Don't get me wrong, it is great to have that many new people interested in what HI54LOFI does, but if there ever was a better indicator on how tricky it can be to convert visitors into 'fans', the difference in those numbers are quite telling. Another good number to crunch is that almost 500 people have clicked the 'like' button on the article itself, but only 60 have 'liked' the Facebook page responsible for the post.
I mean, it isn't too surprising. I definitely don't 'like' the creator of every post I 'like' on the internet. And this lack of conversion is something that I've experienced before whenever we were lucky enough to get a 'big name' blog to write about one of our releases. It never converts like you'd hope. Up until it happens, you think “if only something like that would happen, then we'd be set”. And then it happens and you are reminded of the way the internet works: Seen That, Now Off To See Something Else.
In retrospect, I probably should have added links to our Facebook / Twitter at the end of that blog post (in a more 'call to action' type of way) once I realized how many people were about to come knocking at the door. Perhaps it was a bit of a missed opportunity. Or maybe the numbers would have been about the same. I guess we'll never know. If I get the first pictures of the Kimye baby, I will try it out on that post and let you know.
Expect A Few Nonsensical Interactions
Whenever a large horde of internet users comes your way, you'll end up with a few puzzling interactions. The oddest, and therefore my favourite, came from someone called ‘BLKBOI BLACKMAGIC’ (not sure why he gets all precise with spelling and vowel use in the second part of his name). Here is his email, in full:
“NEED TO FIND OUT HOW MANY PEOPLE BOUGHT MY TRACK AN HOW CAN I GET MY MONEY THANK YOU”
Hopefully he believes my reply of “I don't work for Bandcamp” and I don't end up with someone banging on my door shouting “WHERE'S MY MONEY!”.
The Bandcamp Fan Accounts Work
And I don't mean they 'work' as in I haven't experienced any problems in using or setting mine up (which I haven't, so I guess they do 'work' in that way too). I mean that I have already been notified of 17 purchases that people have made after discovering something on my fan collection. Granted, there was a link to my fan collection on that 'damn you Bandcamp' post (so it has received an unusually large amount of traffic), but that doesn't mean you still can't find some proof in that pudding.
So there you have it. Everything I've learnt from my brief moment of internet relevance. Maybe you can take away a few learnings as well.
And a big and genuine thank you to everyone who enjoyed / shared that blog post and to everyone who took a further look around the site. And an extra ‘cheers’ to anyone who enjoyed their further look around the site enough to want to internet hang with HI54LOFI ‘post-Bandcamp bump’. Maybe we can still be internet relevant for a few.