D.I.Y. Musician: Finding Out What People Think About Your Music

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Randy Chertkow

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Jason Feehan

Less than a decade ago, when musicians would create music and release it into the world, the only feedback they''d get was from album reviews in the press, concert numbers, and sales figures. They were always one step removed from the actual fan. Now that the internet has connected us, those days are over. Use the methods below to find out what people are already saying about your music. One way to find out who''s listening to you is to visit Last.FM and search on your name. You may already have an artist page with a list of people from all over the world who have listened to your music. This information can give you new ideas of where to tour or where to concentrate your next PR campaign. Be sure to sign up as a “label” to claim your artist page. This allows you to tie it to your blog, get more stats on your “plays”, and lets you friend listeners to ask them what they think. Plus, you can upload more music and receive royalties (more here). Since Last.FM uses the ID3 tags to record the song plays of each of its users, make sure you tag your MP3s properly. Last.fm is not the only way to find out when you''re being played, though. Sign up for Next Big Sound, and get a regular notifications via email whenever someone is listening, friending, or talking about you in sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Last.FM, MySpace, iLike, and YouTube.

Want to know what music listeners really think of your music? Try SoundOut.com. This service creates an instant focus group by presenting your music to fans of your music genre. They are asked to listen to the song, rate it on a 10-point scale, and write a review explaining their opinion. The next day the reviews are consolidated into a detailed report with information about what they thought of your music, age and gender information, and quality ratings for the reviewers themselves so you know who''s opinion to give more weight to. The report also tells you where your song rates as compared to other songs reviewed in your genre. If you upload multiple songs to the service, stagger them over a few days to get different reviewers, and use the report as an objective way to decide which song should be the first track on your album or used in a radio campaign.

To find out who''s talking about you on the web when it happens, set up a free Google Alerts account, enter search terms such as your name and your album titles, and get selecto to receive an email whenever you''re mentioned anywhere on the web. You may be surprised at how many sites might already be talking about or reviewing your music. Do you use Twitter? Sign up for a free account at SocialOomph.com and it will notify you via email every time your Twitter account is mentioned. Like Google Alerts, you can add search terms for your band name, albums, or other keywords you want to track. Even if you don''t have a Twitter account, use Twitter''s advanced search page to find who''s mentioning your music in their Twitter feeds. Since these mentions quickly disappear, don''t forget to save them so you can use it later in your press kit, press releases, or PR campaigns. One helpful tool that can save these locally on your computer is the Scrapbook add-on for Firefox''s browser.

If you''re not using these sites, services, and tools, you may be missing out on what they''re saying about you. It''s worth your time to find out, and to reach out to the fans that you might not even know you have.

Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan are the authors of The Indie Band Survival Guide.