Such sites as MySpace, ReverbNation, Last.fm, Bandcamp, and Facebook offer more ways than ever to make your music available on the Web. Though they make it easy to share your music, you should be aware of hidden gotchas as you use them. Here we''ll discuss three areas that you should look into: their user agreements, their functionalities, and their known problems.
Out of the three, user agreements are probably the least noticed but perhaps the most important. Don''t skip reading them. If you have long-term plans for your music, such as licensing it commercially later, you''ll want to know exactly what rights you''re giving up in exchange for the site''s (usually free) hosting and sharing services. While many agreements are seemingly innocuous, the truth is, some licenses are written overly broadly so that the sites'' owners can protect themselves. Be wary of terms and conditions stating that te site gets exclusive rights or asking you to grant the site irrevocable or perpetual licenses to your music that you upload. Granting these rights can cripple your ability to license your music to others. Some licenses require you to waive any performance right fees you may be entitled to from performance rights organizations. Because these sites allow you to upload art and text describing the music, their licenses also require rights to your “trademarks, trade names, image, or likeness.”
Even if you are comfortable with the rights you''re granting, keep in mind that these agreements usually have clauses that allow their terms to change at any time. If you''re ever in doubt, hold off using their service or consult an attorney.
Assuming you''re comfortable with the terms, the next step is to understand what you want out of these sites. Don''t just use these sites to host and share your music. Use them to grow your fanbase. Make sure you provide your website in your profile. Another idea, as we covered in the July 2010 issue, is to syndicate your website''s blog feed to these sites. That way you keep these web presences up-to-date and bring readers back to your site. Some hosting sites allow you to include tools like Eventful''s Demand Widget to help you learn who and where your audience is and the mailing list widgets from ReverbNation to grow your mailing list.
Once you decide to use a music hosting site, explore all of its features because functionalities can vary. Some, like ReverbNation, have widgets that allow you to embed music they host to go outside of the site—even back to your website. And sites like ReverbNation and Last.fm will pay you through an ad-share arrangement when your music is played or you generate a page view.
And finally, many sites have flaws that you should be aware of. For example, MySpace automatically converts your music to the bit rate of its music player. In many cases, this can negatively affect sound quality. And other sites have been known to take MP3 uploads and overwrite the ID3 tags—the identifying information that MP3 players use—and replace it with their own info. Some even replace the copyright fields, confusing fans when they listen to these songs.
Although there''s a lot to consider before uploading your music to a site, each one is a new place for fans to discover your music. If you go into it with your eyes open and a clear idea of what you want, it can be an effective way to grow your fanbase.
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are the authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide.