Functionality of Web 2.0

I’m finding the reason I use many web2.0 sites isn’t so much for their promotional value but rather their functional value. That’s not exactly true, I’ll use Myspace to be available and make friends, but I’m not expecting it to land me a record deal or set me up to live on my music. It just showcases some of the demos I’ve done recently. It’s become a great way for musicians to connect while simultaneously hearing each other’s music.

It’s the same way with all the sites I use. Youtube allows me to put up videos of my acoustic songs, which is useful as a form of practice and showing the bare-bones of my songwriting. I can also connect with other people around the world doing similar things.

Recently I was looking for a site to allow people to download my demos if they wish, allowing them to put it on their mp3 player etc. I know there are plenty of sites which can do this, and I recall Myspace supposedly having this functionality but I’ve never seen it in action, and it didn’t seem to work when I tried it. (I also say, I find Myspace the least user-friendly and most confusing out of all the social-networking sites I’ve used). I’ve had an account with Soundclick, but found out users need to sign-up and login to be able to download my mp3, which I wasn’t satisfied with. So I’ve found ReverbNation, which seems to do the job without putting users through too many hoops.

The interesting thing about ReverbNation, like other sites, is that it has charts, stats, promotional widgets and potential for making money from your music among other things. The charts with such sites and all the stats seem to provide a motivation for struggling musos around the world to put up their best demos and promote, promote, promote. I had a similar experience with Garageband.

But there’s a drawback, I feel, with such a ‘pyramid’ culture for musicians. It brings a whole host of amateur musicians together and holds promises for success if you can climb those charts, build your stats and reach the top position for a chance of the big time. But apart from all those struggling musos, who wants to sift through millions of songs and hours of music of amateur production? Certainly not the average net-user or music listener.

And because of that, your ‘shelving’ yourself with other all those hordes of musos and artists. You’re making yourself more obscure -even if you climb up those charts, you’ve probably only done it with a following outside the promotional site or the internet. With the lowering of the barrier of entry for music, obscurity is your greatest enemy.

That’s where Youtube has an advantage. It’s not just a magnet for amateur musicians, it’s useful for all people who want to use video for any interest, and is therefore more open, allowing the potential for anybody to stumble across your music. And you can cross-promote with different interests and categories of video. Myspace also has an advantage in that it also attracts established and major label artists who feel they need to have a presence.

I’m not criticizing ReverbNation -I’m using it because it has a use, not because I care how many visitors, fans or listeners I have, or what ranking my songs have on the charts. It’s interesting, it helps gauge if there’s a sudden interest in my music, but it’s not my focus. It has a lot of bells and whistles and widgets to aid your promotion, which I may get round to but I don’t think I’m going to worry about the press release function yet, or the royalties. That will only come into play when I have mastered, professional sounding music (rather than demos), a minimal following and an avenue to perform.

But some of these kinds of sites for amateur musicians amuse me a little, like they try to promise the world if you can only just climb up the charts. As mentioned I joined garageband a few years ago and tried it out for a few weeks, reviewing songs every couple of days in the hope that my music would also get reviewed (it has a kind of reward scheme). But it only helped me come to the conclusion that my demo was just that, a demo, and it wasn’t going to climb far up the charts no matter how many hours I invested in reviews.

It’s better to invest most of you time to music, and then use the sites that are useful to you, rather than get sucked in to a social networking site that wants you to spend hours tallying up ‘friends’, ‘hits’ and downloads etc…

I remember seeing some promotion for one of these sites promising to absorb the whole hordes of amateur artists and sift them through a kind of social networking/computer programming system that would produce the cream of the crop, ‘super’ artists who would be the next generation of rock stars. The first thought I had was, there’s no way I would want to subject my music to a system like that -you’re just bound to get shelved and left feeling obscure. I didn’t like their attitude.

In my mind it just doesn’t work that way. There’s so much more to music than a formula, and listeners vary so much in tastes that deciding who’s ‘best’ is really just meaningless. A lot of the time we forget that top selling artists aren’t necessarily the top because their ‘the best’, but because they appeal to a wider marketing base and even the lower common denominator. Of course good performing, musicianship and songwriting all matter, but you can really only compare it within the genre. Why compare Abba with Nirvana?

Anyway, back to the point. Functionality. It’s the same with Twitter. It gets in the mainstream media who seem to think it’s just a fad, and it is for many, but then we find the usefulness of it (and we see it’s usefulness the Iranian political situation, for example). After the fad dies down, the people who find it useful remain, while others move on to the next fad.

So presently as a songwriter I’m using ReverbNation to allow people to download my songs, and to allow other musicians who may wish to collaborate to sample them. If general listeners happen to download, I’m not going to object.


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