Music startup BandPage has inked a pair of deals to provide artist profiles to music video service Vevo and Microsoft’s streaming audio service Xbox Music.
It’s big news. Why? Because it means artists will be in control of their profiles on those two digital music services, keeping their bios and concert listings updated, with future potential to promote merchandise and Kickstarter-style fan ‘experiences’ to the people streaming their music from those services.
Currently, most streaming music firms manage artist profiles within their services, often pulling in biographies from the databases of partners like Rovi, and tour dates from services like Songkick or Bandsintown. Artists’ can manage their tour dates by registering with the latter two services, but they don’t control their overall profiles on the streaming services.
This week’s deals are part of BandPage’s transformation from a company initially focused on helping musicians do more with their Facebook Pages into more of a hub, through which they can manage their profiles across a range of social networks and music services, while also selling direct to fans.
The fact that Xbox Music and Vevo are willing to open up artist profiles is an encouraging step forward. “LeveragingBandPage, an artist can now connect with their fans on Xbox Music using their own words and imagery. It’s a simple but powerful thing,” says Xbox Music GM Jerry Johnson in a statement.
“This is a win for the artists as well allowing them to share their story with their fans while more effectively promoting and selling tickets to their live shows and merchandise,” adds Vevo boss Rio Caraeff.
Those are canned statements, but Music Ally talked to BandPage CEO J Sider to find out more about the new partnerships, what they mean for BandPage, and how he sees the digital music space overall.
“My goal with BandPage has always been to help musicians reach their fans, which leads to higher engagement and higher sales,” he says. “It’s always been about where the biggest pools of fans are online, and helping musicians to reach them.”
BandPage has 500,000 musicians using its service, with “a couple of hundred thousand of them” using its widget to power their own websites, according to Sider. Once they have a profile on BandPage, they can connect it to services including Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Pandora and now Xbox Music and Vevo.
“If you look at how these media platforms have grown in the last couple of years, they have tens of millions of fans interacting with them,” says Sider. “We figured we should work hard to help musicians reach their fans on those platforms, as well as through social networks and their own websites or blogs.”
Initially, the benefits of the new deals will be artists’ ability to keep their bios and photos up to date, while ensuring concert dates are accurate. In time, such partnerships may be able to go further, tying in another feature of Bandpage called Experiences, which launched in March this year in beta.
It’s a platform for artists to provide the kind of things you’d normally see as Kickstarter rewards – backstage meet’n'greets, signed stuff, private gigs etc – without an actual crowdfunding campaign. George Clinton, Black Veil Brides and Zakk Wylde were among its early adopters.
“We launched with a beta group of 50, and they’ve already made tens of thousands of dollars,” says Sider. “We’re getting ready to open it up to the other 500,000 musicians. It’s part of our ambitions to create new ways for musicians to generate revenue by reaching their fans and increasing engagement.”
Sider cites a study published by Nielsen earlier this year claiming that there may be anywhere between $450m and $2.6bn of additional income available to artists who offer these kinds of experiences, whether through crowdfunding campaigns on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, or as standalone offerings on BandPage.
“We’ve set up a platform for musicians to come and use it: we don’t tell them what they should sell to their fans, or what experience they should create. They know their fans best, and know the ways they’ve interacted with them in the past, and what they’ve responded to well,” he says.
“What we do say, though, is for musicians to bear in mind that your fans out there are so excited to interact with you in really custom, specialised ways – whatever you come up with. And that’s the thing with Experiences: you can put something up in 5-10 minutes and see how it goes. If it works, great, do more things. If not, take it down and try something else.”
Which brings us back to the Xbox Music and Vevo partnerships (and possibly others in the future): putting this kind of stuff in front of people streaming an artist’s music, as well as the more down-to-earth merchandise and ticketing.
Think about the ongoing arguments about how much musicians earn from plays of their songs on Spotify and other streaming services. One of the problems – which we’ve written about recently – is that artists’ only metric for judging the value of these services to their careers is per-stream payments.
If Spotify and co did more to point fans towards places they can support artists directly (by buying tickets, merchandise, experiences etc), they may be seen as having a more positive impact on emerging artists trying to build their fanbases.
It’s already happening to some extent. Spotify has quietly been testing a new On Tour bar within its artist profiles, using data from Songkick to show upcoming gigs from artists. Meanwhile, Beats is working with Topspin to make artists’ D2C businesses a prominent feature in its upcoming Beats Music service, while Deezer’s Deezer for Artists initiative may have similar ambitions.
“It’s only in the past couple of years that these platforms have become so prominent, with tens of millions of people using them. And as they develop, we’re going to see a new era of targeted marketing for musicians on these platforms,” says Sider.
“Xbox Music and Vevo are the first steps of what this can look like, but by no means do I think this is all it’s going to be. I want to give real props to them for being really the first movers from these major entertainment platforms to see the potential.”