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MySpace for Musicians

July 1, 2006
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MySpace.com, a rising star in the Internet world, is a valuable marketing tool for musicians. The networking site has more than 65 million users and receives more daily hits than Google. MySpace allows you to post a free Web page called a “Profile,” which can include photos, music files, and videos. After you set it up, you can invite anyone who has access to the Web to visit your page.

With so many potential pairs of eyes and ears at your fingertips, it is becoming a necessity for any musical artist — whether signed and selling or unsigned and hopeful — to have a profile on MySpace. The site can help you gain a following, promote your recordings and gigs, and expose hungry Web surfers to your music. It can also serve as a functional, albeit limited, music Web site if you don't already have your own.

The Basics

You may think that MySpace is just for kids, but young teenagers make up only a small percentage of its users. Most MySpacers are in their late teens to early 40s — the most coveted demographic of music marketers.

Whatever your musical niche, there are MySpacers who will be into it. The genres represented on the site include acoustic-guitar music, glam rock, hip-hop, world music, jazz, blues, and much more. Having a dedicated band Web site is still the most essential marketing tool in most major-label online marketing plans, but having a MySpace Profile is now almost as important. You'll find profiles for the Black Eyed Peas, Michael Buble, Brian Culbertson, Don Henley, Nine Inch Nails, U2, and other big names. As a serious musician, you should add your name to that list.

Set Yourself Up

First, visit MySpace.com and click on the Music link located in the light-blue horizontal navigation bar at the top of the page. Jump right in by clicking on Artist Signup in the top right and opening your own free account. Make sure you open your account through the Artist Signup link, and not through the regular MySpace account registration. Regular accounts don't have the music features, such as song uploads and tour dates, that the artist accounts have.

You customize your profile from your home page, which you access through the Home link. From it you can upload photos of yourself and your band, MP3 files (see the sidebar “Upload Your Music”), tour dates, and videos. Uploading your songs not only allows music lovers to listen to your creations, but also lets them add your song so it will play on their profiles.

Customizing Your Profile

Your profile is customizable, much like any HTML page (see Fig. 1). If you are HTML savvy, you can compile your own style sheets to customize it. If not, do some research on the Web. Go to your favorite search engine and type in MySpace layouts or MySpace backgrounds, and you will find plenty of information and many free template layouts. Using these premade layouts is often the best way to compose your page. You simply copy and paste the code into your profile and tweak it a little if necessary. Generally, you will be using Cascading Style Sheets and pasting the code into a field (for example, the Bio field) within your profile.

FIG. 1: Your MySpace Profile can be customized (as this one was) using HTML. If you don''t know HTML, you can download free MySpace templates from many sites on the Web

Keep background colors and foreground font colors compatible. The fastest way to make visitors leave your page is to force them to read dark blue type on a black background. Tie in the look of your profile with your image as an artist and with your Web site. Make it reflect the type of music you play.

MySpace allows you to have one main photo on your profile's main page, and up to four CD cover images or other photos in the music player. You can upload additional photos, but they can only be viewed by other MySpace members after they click on the View My Pics link, at the left-hand top of the page. If you want to embed additional photos onto your main page, you can use a free hosting service like Imageshack.us or Photobucket.com, which provides you with HTML tags to paste into your profile's code. Keep image file sizes small — no more than about 350 to 600 pixels wide for photos appearing on your profile, and less than 50K for background file sizes. Oversize images can cause visitors' browsers to crash.

Those Extra Touches

Showcasing your videos on your profile is a great way to build an audiovisual connection with your audience. Click on the Videos link in the light-blue navigation bar, and it will show you how to load your videos and insert them into your profile. If you don't have a professionally shot video, consider uploading clips from your live shows or your studio sessions.

Discover further ways to customize your profile by searching for phrases like MySpace comment box, MySpace contact tables, MySpace online now icons, and customize MySpace profile.

Why Can't We Be Friends?

You will notice a section for Friends, and when you sign up, you will have an automatic Friend named Tom, who is one of the MySpace founders. Some of your real-life friends, family members, and people on your band's email list may already be MySpace members. Search for them on the site by their email address, and when you find them, you can send them a Friend Request. If they approve your request, their picture will appear at the bottom right of your profile.

The way you build an audience on MySpace is to add Friends. As you surf around and see user profiles of people you like or of people that look as though they might like your music, you can send them a Friend Request.

Promoting Yourself

Now that you have your profile up and running, it's time to maximize your presence.

Comments

When someone adds you to their Friend list, place a comment on their page thanking them and inviting them to check back often for new songs, gigs, and pictures. By placing a comment on other profiles, you are subtly inviting anyone that sees it to visit your profile as well. Doing so is a great way to expand your visibility.

Bulletins

You can let everyone on your Friend list know about gigs, new releases, radio airplay, and so on, by posting a bulletin. Your message will go into the bulletin section on your Friends' Home control panels. It's a lot like an email blast. Be respectful, though; posting obsessively every day for two weeks about an upcoming gig is a turnoff. Not sure what to post? Ask people to listen to your new songs, invite them to post a comment picking their favorite song of yours, and ask them to add that song to their profile.

Other Friend lists

Look at profiles of other artists in your genre. See who is on their Friend lists. Then send those people Friend Requests or emails to introduce yourself and invite them to hear your music. A sincere, pleasant email goes a long way toward building bridges and an audience. Write something like, “Hi, I saw your profile and you seem cool. I'd like to invite you to take a look at my profile. I'm a guitarist, and maybe you'll like my music. If you'd like, please send me a Friend Request.”

Blogs

The blog feature in MySpace doesn't have to be used as a journal for your deepest secrets. It is very much a promotional tool to announce news to profile visitors. The headlines alone will entice readers who visit your page. Use the blog feature as an announcement board.

Outside advertising

Remember to advertise your profile outside of MySpace as well. Put your profile address in your email communications and email signatures, and on your main Web site, gig flyers, business cards, CDs, T-shirts, and anyplace else you would advertise your traditional Web-site address. Also place links on your profile for selling your CDs and your merchandise.

No form of self-promotion is without its drawbacks. MySpace can be a bit buggy at times and is sometimes so swamped with users that getting onto the site can be difficult. As with all Internet communities, you risk attracting weirdos to your virtual doorstep. Having security and giving out minimal personal information is key; do not post your home address, pictures of your family, or indications of where you live. Never give out your personal email address or phone number through the site.

Building a fan base on MySpace requires consistent effort. However, your work can create an online buzz among users from around the world — an audience that you may not have had access to before.


Fran Vincent is the president of Retro Island Productions, Inc., a music-marketing and PR consulting firm, and teaches music and entertainment-industry courses at the University of Miami. Visit her at www.myspace.com/franv.

SIDEBAR
UPLOAD YOUR MUSIC
If you join MySpace through the Artist Signup, you're allowed to upload up to four MP3 song files. The maximum file size is 6 MB per song, and uploading can be a slow process. You can upload the text of your lyrics and select whether you want users to be able to download your MP3s or just stream them from the MySpace music player. Other options include designating a song to play automatically when your profile is accessed, letting users add your songs to their profiles, and letting them rate your songs on a scale from 1 to 10.

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