Getting your music heard
Here's a brief guide to what music websites are out there - and how you can go about putting your music on them.
Guide to mp3 music websites
There are loads of sites that offer free music downloads on the net. Most are excellent showcases for up-coming artists, and offer a free - and prominent - place to display your work.
Many even allow you to sell your work, through pay-per-listen downloads. A word of advice, though - in the early stages of your career the most important thing is to get out there and get heard. For that reason I'd recommend making some of your best songs available for free. That's the way to create a stir.
Places to get heardThe demise of mp3.com last year shocked many people - but surprisingly there now seem to be more, not fewer, mp3 sites. And many look like they're thriving. Here's a run-down of some of the best.
Vitaminic.comVisit site View example
A strange site this - it's made up of a few older sites - such as Peoplesound and IUMA. An Italian company bought all these up and formed Vitaminic.
First impressions are that this isn't all that well-maintained. Artists administer their songs through a "back-stage area". In theory you should be able to upload up to 25 songs, but I've not discovered how to do more than one yet! All emails to their helpdesk have been ignored....
Having said that, it's a great place to get your work heard - about 200 people listen to my songs every week there. So well worth signing up to. And maybe the backstage people will get their act together soon...
InterconnectedVisit site View example
Another European site, with vibrant forums. It's quick and easy to sign up, and you could have all your songs uploaded and ready for listening to within half an hour, I reckon.
Once you've done that, hop along to the message boards and participate in all kinds of weird and whacky conversations.
You get your own web page, and can upload pictures for each of the songs and for the main page. It's a really attractive place to host your music. Another advantage is that you can link to your mp3s from your own website, if you've got one.
SoundclickVisit site View example
An American site which has been a popular replacement to mp3.com. As with the other sites, you get a page to host your music plus pictures and a biography. There's also an "interview" page - when you sign up you're asked a series of questions which make up an interview with you... luckilly you can change your answers at any point.
The forums are pretty good here, and a good place to publicise your music.
I've also found that Soundclick pages work very well with search engines. When you sign up you can enter a description for your page, plus some keywords (known as meta-tags) which can help some search engines to index your page. What this all means is that when someone types your name or the name of your band into a search engine, chances are your Soundclick page will appear quite high-up in the results.
DmusicVisit site View example
A really nice community website for musicians and music-lovers. Each musician has a page containing their music plus news and pictures. They also have a "shoutbox" where people can communicate / chat with the artist quickly.
One of the best features of Dmusic is its forums - a vast range of topics exists there, most of which are well-frequented.
It's a good place to discover new music.
Besonic.comVisit site View example
Update: This one has unfortunately gone offline after a server failure - it's now just a music forum.
A fantastic community where you can post mp3 songs for free. You get a page where you can write a biography, upload pictures, and publicise gigs. There's also an active message board where you can discuss your music and give other people feedback on theirs.
One of the best features of Besonic is its "scouts". These are active members of the community who track down the best music and review it - those reviews give a chance for the best music to appear on the front page.
All of this is for free - though a (fairly affordable) "premier service" is also offered. My advice would be to go for the free membership first, and if you find it's really working for you, it might be worth upgrading.
Some sites act as communities where musicians can swap feedback on each other's songs. Although many of the sites above enable an interchange of ideas via message boards, the ones we'll look at now formalise the arrangement. They require you to review a certain number of songs before you're allowed to upload your own material. Once you've done that, the reviews start flowing in. It's a great way to get honest, detached feedback. And because it's possible to get a large number of reviews, you can get a good idea of what that strange collective "the general public" really thinks of your songs.
GaragebandVisit site View example
For each song you upload, Garageband requires you to conduct 15 pairs of reviews. The process is completely anonymous - you're played a song and you have to rate it and provide brief text comments. The first thing that struck me was the shear quality of the music. Doing the reviews can actually be great fun because you hear so much brilliant - and unusual - music. Once you've rated a song, you're then given all the info. Each member has a comprehensive playlist function where they can keep the best songs they've heard. And you can also sign up to mailing lists, and get in contact with the musicians.
Fifteen pairs of reviews might seem like a lot, but it goes surprisingly quickly, and is worth it for the quality of feedback you get. It can be pretty exciting waiting for the reviews to flow in. It's worth doing a few extra "instant karma" reviews if you're impatient. These work on the principle that you do an extra review and in exchange get instant reviews of your own songs.
Once you've got a review, it's worth contacting the author... especially if the review is favourable. That way you're staying in touch with someone who might be interested in music you do in the future.
I also recommend accumulating enough reviews to put more than one song up to start with. That way, if someone reviews and loves one of your songs, they'll have something else they can listen to immediately.
BroadjamVisit site View example
This is more of a quick-fix for those who don't want to do 30 reviews in order to upload their songs. Here, you review just five songs, then watch the reviews pour in for your own material. The more reviews you do, the more reviews you get.
I've found the feedback can be pretty vague, though - it doesn't touch Garageband for quality of reviews... this may be because some of the questions that Broadjam asks on the review form seem a bit pointless most of the time, like "what should this song be called". Could be useful, I suppose....
They'll also try and sell you their promotional software, Metajam, which is meant to be a one-stop solution for music promotion. But this isn't too much of a hardship given the chance to get valuable feedback on your music.