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Why the Music Industry needs a .MUSIC Official Website Domain Name: All Artists, Bands and Musicians are Music Brands in need of a Home
- Categorized in: Artist / Band, Best Practices & Tips, Business Models, Distribution, Finances & Getting Paid, Goal Setting & Planning, ICANN & Internet, Legal, Management, Marketing & Promotion, Music Industry, Social Media, Technology, Website Strategy
The "Music Industry Standard" Top-Level Domain for Official Music Websites: .MUSIC
The shift of the music industry from a physical to a digital world has brought about a new meaning to the word "branding" for musicians. The biggest priority is branding themselves as a true music entity. The web has helped musicians, artists, bands, industry professionals and companies market themselves to new audiences. However, has the music community maximized their online presence? The underlying strategy is simple: create a brand and associate the brand with a home. In the physical world, we all have a place to call home, where we live, eat and sleep. The virtual world of the Internet is unfortunately a different case for most of the music community. There is no dedicated official website that you can call your own home. More importantly, there is no official website domain name that represents the music community. Time has come for all of us to brand ourselves on the web with a unique identifier and a place we can call home, the music industry standard for official music websites: .MUSIC
The Secret of Branding: Is your Story compelling enough?
The archaic concept of "selling out" no longer hurts artists, unless they align themselves with brands that are not consistent with their image, their purpose and what they believe in. My company .MUSIC attended Bandwidth Conference in San Francisco on 20th of August and I had the pleasure to participate in a session named "Why the Labels still Matter (and how they are reinventing themselves)" that was headed by Rich Bengloff, the President of A2IM. One of Bengloff's slides showed the top-selling artists of 2009. On the top of the charts were Taylor Swift, Susan Boyle, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson.
What is compelling about those artists is that they all represent something and have a unique story that people can associate with. They have a brand image that sticks in the minds of fans and connects with them in an extraordinary manner. Susan Boyle was the underdog that defied all odds. What a great story. Everyone wanted her to succeed. While Taylor Swift appealed to audiences with an innocent, girl-next-door image, Lady Gaga positioned herself on the opposite side of the spectrum: risqué, wild and cutting edge. The Michael Jackson story and tragic death resonates with most of us too. He was the most successful solo music brand of them all. The King of Pop will never be forgotten for his music and his contributions to world hunger and charities.
What is undeniable is that these artists not only had talent, they also had a story, a brand image and they stood for something. They had a purpose, a mission statement and it reaped rewards for them. If you do not have a brand, then you have nothing. Your mere success relies on creating your brand, enhancing it and sustaining it over the long term. The first question that music listeners ask themselves when they first hear an artist for the first time is whether the music strikes a chord and if the artist is worth their time. If the music listener commits to listening to the artist, the next questions become:
- Who is this artist?
- What are the artist's songs about?
- How does this artist and their songs relate to my life?
- What does this artist stand for?
- How can I participate and buy the artist's music, merchandise and tickets to watch them live?
While the songs and music are the primary forces that determine the success of an artist, it is the brand image that dictates whether the artist sets themselves apart from the crowd and becomes a superstar.
Your Brand and the Internet: Why .MUSIC will replace .COM as the Industry Standard for Official Music Websites
Internet users search the web using "keywords." The dominance of Google was a direct result of providing users with the best search result for the keyword phrase they were looking for. Google's bread and butter is connecting "keywords" with relevant websites and monetizing using targeted sponsored ads.
The other way Internet users search the web is typing the website directly into their browser. However, unless you have a distinct name, there is minimal chance you will be able to register your brand name in .COM. Some trivia questions to illustrate my point.
What are the official websites of these artists?:
- Justin Bieber - It is not JustinBieber.com
- Queen - It is not Queen.com
- Prince - It is not Prince.com
- Eagles - It is not Eagles.com
- Bruce Springsteen - It is not BruceSpringsteen.com
- Van Halen - It is not VanHalen.com
- Tool - It is not Tool.com
- Kiss - It is not Kiss.com
- Chicago - It is not Chicago.com
- Boston - It is not Boston.com
- Oasis - It is not Oasis.com
- Usher - It is not Usher.com
- Nirvana - It is not Nirvana.com
- Journey - It is not Journey.com
- Foreigner - It is not Foreigner.com
- Scorpions - It is not Scorpions.com
The list goes on and on. We are talking about superstar artists who do not even own their .COM! The Wall Street Journal wrote an excellent front-page article, in February 2010 called "From ABBA to ZZ Top, All the Good Band Names Are Taken: Internet Age Raises Stakes for Being First" written by John Jurgensen. The article illustrates the difficulty of finding an available band name and the intense competition surrounding the ownership of artist brand names, not only locally but internationally.
The underlying issues are obvious:
- All artists that want to register a .COM domain that is generic will fail. Those names are gone. They were all taken in the 90's by domainers.
- There is no useful method of organizing the web in regards to music
- Our reliance on Google to be discovered is high. Be found on Google or you are considered insignificant.
- Official music websites have no consistent domain structure that correlates to music. They are either .COM, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .BIZ, .MOBI or country domains such as .US, .TV, .FM, .UK, .DE, .FR, .AU, .CA and so forth.
Why all Artists, Bands and Musicians Need a .MUSIC for their Official Website
I attended a discussion group named "The Incredibly Useful / Worthless Artist Website" that featured Lee Hammond, the Director of New Media at Interscope. He was kind enough to share information about Lady Gaga's official website and the importance of owning your own domain name and website. He stated that an enormous amount of traffic originates from users typing the "LadyGaga.com" URL directly into their browser or through search engine traffic for terms relating to Lady Gaga.
I logged in to my Google Adwords account and verified the numbers. The term "Lady Gaga" alone on Google has tens of millions of monthly searches. If you consider the long-tail of "Lady Gaga" keyword search phrases, then you uncover literally over 100 million Lady-Gaga-related searches. The challenge is how do you optimize your website to be the top search result for all of the competitive keyword surrounding your brand name. Can you accomplish this with a free Myspace, Twitter or Facebook profile?
There is minimal chance to accomplish this using these free services. Lady Gaga serves as a clear example how you can build your search engine credibility (page rank) and help your website be discovered using thousands of keyword combinations. You might not have the clout of Lady Gaga but you have to start somewhere and do it right from the beginning. Remember, Lady Gaga was dropped by her label initially, but her hard work, music and branding strategy paid off. When there is a will, a strategy and tactics that accommodate the strategy's goal, then there is hope.
Just like any traditional business, an ecommerce, user-friendly and user-focused website is paramount to your success. Big brands have huge followings across social media websites but they all have a home where they funnel all that traffic to.
The challenge though is finding the right name that will represent your brand. If you are a solo artist, then the chances are that your full name will be your brand name. The problem is no-one will know what you represent since you are starting out. The first step is to choose your name and then get a web address that best represents who you are and that would help Internet users and others identify what your brand is associated with. The advantage of owning a .MUSIC address is that it gives you a branding and marketing advantage over traditional domains as well as eliminates any confusion about what activity you are involved in: music.
In short, a .MUSIC web address is:
If I chose Constantine Roussos as my artist name would ConstantineRoussos.com or ConstantineRoussos.music make more sense? Remember, if you are starting out, you are trying to convey to the world that you exist, that your music matters and that you are worth the time to be listened to. If you tell a random person your website address ending in .COM and ask them what the website's content is about, they will have no clue. However, if the web address ended in .MUSIC, then the message will be clearly communicated that it is a music-related site. People love convenience and speed. If you make them think too much, then you might lose the opportunity to shine. Why not maximize your chances for success and branding?
Having the prime keyword ".music" in your website address is important to your search engine strategy, since it helps other webmasters and Internet users link to your site naturally, using the keyword "music" in their link tag since it is part of the website address. They will link to you naturally using 2 keywords: your brand name and the word .MUSIC. This will help propel you in the search results for music-related terms that are associated with your brand and let everyone know what you are offering on your site.
Why is a .MUSIC Official Website Needed? Isn't "Free" a Better Choice?
There are many reasons why the music community needs a .MUSIC official website. Here are 23 reasons:
- You own your website as opposed to "renting" through a 3rd party website. By owning your domain name website, you have no fear of being deleted because you are being too "commercial" or violating other 3rd party websites' Terms of Service. The .MUSIC open, transparent, web-based web infrastructure and platform decreases the music community's heavy reliance on Google and Apple and their closed infrastructure and controlled distribution system for search and digital downloads respectively. Google and Apple’s main income is derived from search marketing and hardware devices respectively, where music is considered a loss leader. Google and Apple are also heavily invested in mobile (Android and iPhone) as well as in apps, where they also control distribution through their “four-walled world” and proprietary software. Through browser direct navigation search, .MUSIC open ecosystem can help shift the power from these technology companies back to the music community and increase music consumer willingness to pay
- You can claim your brand on the web and prevent others from taking your name
- You are branding yourself and building your brand equity, not a 3rd party website
- You increase your web exposure
- You have a stable presence on the web. You never know whether 3rd party website will exist in the future or be as relevant. What happens to all that work that you put into the 3rd party website if that happens? You helped them create THEIR brand not yours. The old MP3.com is a classic example. Artists used MP3.com as their main website but then the company was shutdown. The rest is history. How much time was devoted by artists on Myspace the past 5 years to increasing their fan/friend following? If most of those "fans" migrated to Facebook and no longer use Myspace where does it leave you? Unless you captured their email through your official site, then you are in trouble. What is popular today might not be popular in the future. You can differentiate and use social pages as tools to build relationships and customers, but do not put all your eggs in baskets that you have no control of. Drive them back to your home: your website.
- You control your search engine results. Be ranked #1 for your artist/band name and brand. If you have your own dedicated domain name it is easier to accomplish that. Additionally, your official website can gain search engine credibility (or pagerank) from links that point to your official site.
- Building your brand is a long term strategy
- Visitors to your website have a much higher sales conversion ratio than 3rd party sites. This point alone should remove all doubt. You get what you pay for. Do you want higher profit margins or lower?
- You control all the content and how your brand image is visualized
- You portray professionalism and legitimacy. Would anyone in the press or in the music industry take you more seriously if you had a website or if you did not have a website? First impressions count.
- You can funnel and aggregate all your social media and widgets in one location, where it is convenient for your fans to find information about you and interact with you
- You can be flexible. You can create polls and add custom sections, widgets or any modules of your choice without being limited to 3rd party restrictions
- You can own your shopping cart and enjoy higher profit margins
- You can add your own advertising and sponsors on your page
- You can offer unique products, bundles and competitions for your fans
- You build credibility and brand loyalty with your fans, by building relationships with them You can add a fan club section for your superfans as well as post on dedicated message boards to communicate and interact with your fans as well as receive constructive, useful feedback
- You can effectively build your online presence by link to and from all your official social media pages
- You can add tracking code, such as the free Google Analytics. This way you can measure your performance and see what parts of your site get the most traffic. Using such metrics can help you measure your site performance and conversions and assist you in making changes to improve your bottom line profitability
- You can collect emails and create a newsletter designed to keep you in touch with your fans, give them up-to-date news and increase sales. It is more expensive to acquire new fans than to maintain your current following. Recurring sales are integral to your success
- Have a branded email address with your brand name in the domain name e.g firstname.lastname@example.org
- Invest in yourself and not others. Websites are like cheap virtual real estate property. Why wouldn't you invest in your domain name for only the costs of a few Starbucks a year? The Return on Investment will amaze you
- Customization of content depending on how fans are interacting with your content: adapting to environment and consumer needs
- Monitor data for site engagement and analysing data on external and internal user interactivity. By using key performance indicators, website owners can make strategic decisions based on the data analysis depending on goals, such as maximizing conversion rates, leveraging brand marketing or focusing on generating revenues (acquisition marketing / selling)
The main challenge that artists face in creating their official websites is dealing with all the associated technical issues and answering these questions:
- What domain name do I get?
- Where do I get the domain name?
- How much the domain name costs?
- What hosting company do I use?
- How much do I pay for hosting?
- Who can create my official website?
- How much will it cost to design my own custom website?
- How do I get my website ranked in the search results?
- How much does it cost to search engine optimize (SEO) my site?
- How do I add a shopping cart for my products?
- How much does it cost to integrate a shopping cart and what are the fees?
- How do I make changes on the website?
These are the most frequently-asked questions musicians ask in regards to building their official website. They are considered to be the prime barriers to entry for bands and musicians who are interested in having their own home on the web.
The goal of .MUSIC is to once and for all remove all these barriers to entry and offer an all-in-one solution that would save artists a significant amount of money as well as provide them with the tools to create the website that they envision. No programming knowledge will be required.
When will .MUSIC launch?
We are expecting to launch at the end of 2011, pending ICANN delegation.
Can I pre-register a .MUSIC?
We have not set-up a pre-registration for .MUSIC yet. Allocating international trademarks and national trademarks is of the greatest importance and our biggest priority at the moment.
How can I support .MUSIC and be notified of any updated news?
You can visit the .MUSIC website and support our initiative supporting music education, cultural diversity, digital innovation, artist welfare/ fair compensation as well as fighting piracy.
Constantine has been actively involved in the music industry for about a decade. He has been a super-affiliate of brands that include Sony Music, BMG Music, Apple, Amazon, Ticketmaster, Live Nation, Napster, Rhapsody and Guitar Center. He is considered one of the leading experts in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing and has marketed and managed affiliate partnerships on the web with hundreds of brands from all types of industry backgrounds.
He also founded FightPiracy.org, an organization that supports fair compensation for rights holders as well as innovative business models and solutions that embrace new technologies to combat piracy. Other music-related ventures he founded include Music.mobi and Entertainment.mobi, in partnership with Apple iTunes as well as MP3.fm, a cloud-based music hosting site, and Lyrics.fm, a licensed lyrics site.
Constantine earned a bachelor degree in Business and a minor in music industry at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He continued his education at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, becoming a certified music sound engineer. He continued his education at Pepperdine University in Malibu where he earned his MBA. His last educational journey was Harvard Business School at the distinguished Executive Owner President Management (OPM) program.
He has given presentations and spoken at industry panels around the world, including Harvard Business School, ICANN, Social Media Week, Popkomm and San Francisco Music Tech. He has also received numerous awards, including “Music Innovator” presented by SoundCtrl at SXSW.
Constantine also is the founder and editor of SEO.tv, an online marketing and web development company. Clients include UFC champion Chuck Liddell and Music.us. He is considered as one of the top search engine and social media optimization experts on the planet. His achievements include creating the most popular Myspace profile with 4.3 million friends, amassing over 500,000 followers across Twitter accounts as well as obtaining top-search engine results for highly-competitive terms such as “music.”
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