Marketing facts

Published on April 22nd, 2011 | by Hugh Hession


Using metrics to track your effectiveness as a music artist

With all the buzz about the long-tail in the last few years and how giving away your music will drive more fans to your show, I say to all those advocates to give me proof – that is, any hard data that this model consistently works in generating profit. I mean, even Marty Winsch hasn’t been as lucky at duplicating the success of his largest client, Corey Smith, the poster boy of the long-tail theory in music. I’m by no means knocking this strategy. There is validity to its effectiveness – the strategy has been used by companies for years as a dangling carrot to entice new customers and induce sales. But proof, people – proof.

The concept of measuring your results and effectiveness through specific metrics is not a new one, but it is a part of the equation that bands usually leave out. What I find common is that assumptions are made on different outcomes (results) which in turn is the driving force behind a bands marketing effort. As a result, it’s easy to get it wrong. You know what they say about people who assume.

There are many elaborate and mathematical processes to metrics when used in the corporate world, however for our purposes, metrics are any type of measurement put into place to gauge the effectiveness and success of your objectives as an artist.

Before the Internet, it was fairly simple to gauge the success of a band through album sales, radio air play and concert ticket sales. Now, it’s a different time and a different game. No longer is the success of an artist tied to the number of albums they sell. What’s more, is that Soundscan doesn’t serve much of a function when it comes to the majority of indie albums in the marketplace. These days, there are many more variables involved, including YouTube plays, Tweets on Twitter, Facebook fan page activity in addition to many more up and coming sites on the web that could prove to have a substantial impact on an artists career.

Have you ever considered where your fans have originated from (ie: your website, shows, Itunes, etc). and what motivated them to go find you? This is important data, because you may very well be able to see trends that can help you market to your fans more effectively. For instance, say you noticed a fan that originally requested to get your music for free, in exchange for their email address. A few days later, they go to Itunes and buy your complete album. This is powerful information to have.  Imagine if you had that intelligence at your fingertips. You not only could see where and how your fans got hooked, but additionally other information such as how many fans you had in a certain region or city, what venues they come to see you at and their purchase history.

The beautiful thing about technology, is that there are some great services out there to help you with this type of thing. Nimbit and FanBridge are two popular services that can handle your entire direct to fan relationships and specifically track the activity of your fanbase.

Remember, metrics are completely useless if you don’t define what your objectives are. After all, metrics are just of way of measuring the effectiveness of the objectives and goals you deem important.

As a band or music artist working tenaciously to get the edge and get noticed, knowing who your fans are and what they want, makes your success less of a guessing game.  It helps you to build that direct to fan relationship that is essential for survival.

Below are some relevant links to help you establish your metrics and manage your fanbase effectively.

Articles, Information & Reference Guides

Online Music Marketing: 38 Metrics and 7 Tools to Measure ROI (Music Think Tank)

The Post Soundscan Era: Metrics That Matter (Wesley Verhoeve)

How Well Do You Know Your Fans? (Music Think Tank)

Music Industry Charts: 4 Artist Trend Tools (First Press Marketing)

Music Analytics (Indie Music Tech)

Chris Anderson on the Long Tail at Midem 2007 (YouTube)

Corey Smith Details His Experience in Becoming Successful (Techdirt 2007)

PODCAST: Corey Smith on The Grass Roots Approach to Success (CD Baby)

The Recession in The Music Business: A Cause Analysis (Music Business Research 2010)

Making it in Music’s List of Fan Management Websites

Topspin – Topspin is the most popular and comprehensive fan/retail management site out there, used by both unsigned and major recording artists alike (Luke Bryan, Lady Gaga etc.). You can seamlessly integrate their platform into your website, set up customized solutions and get detailed metrics on your sales and promotions.

Nimbit – Complete direct to fan management system. Integrates Twitter, Facebook and email marketing. Sell your wares, bundle your packages, create new promotional campaigns and track your marketing efforts with detailed report functionality.

FanBridge – Fan creation online system. Add fans from social networks, live shows and websites. Add your fans to your tour calendar and fully track the moves of each fan. Special forum you can setup for your fans to ask questions to create a more personal experience. Maintain every social network from one place.

Soundout – Market research and audience insight tool that guarantees accurate and objective insight powered by music consumers. Great tool to measure the likeability of your songs!

MusicMetric – Tracks 600,000 artists and over 10 million releases in real time, tracking activity pertaining to those artists all over the web. An exceptional tool to track online activity.

Nextbigsound – They personally track rising artists on their chart listings (NBS25) and provides a centralized location to monitor behavior and activity of artists both online and off.

Bandcamp – Sell music directly to fans and track results.

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About the Author

owns and operates Emerging Artists Entertainment Marketing & Consulting, LLC - a company devoted to cultivating aspiring music artists, He is also the head of Hession Entertainment Group, LLC (artist management) and the Music Industry Liaison for the artist discovery site, TalentWatch ( He has over 25 years experience in the music business as a performer, composer, producer and artist manager. Hugh holds a BA in Marketing and is a professional member of NARIP and a voting member of The Recording Academy. He often speaks at seminars and workshops on artist development.

2 Responses to Using metrics to track your effectiveness as a music artist

  1. Great article showing that artists need metrics to measure results Hugh. This often seems overlooked. I wasn’t aware of all of those direct to fan or music analytic companies so that is really good to see people committed to figuring out what all of the data means.

    When artists have offered fans free music downloads via their website, normally, the only metrics used to gauge success are the amount of downloads. I think it is important for an artist to look beyond the number of downloads and at the number of links generated to their website, how they’re ranking in the search engines, etc. It can be difficult to measure but Girl Talk released an album “All Day” for free and attracted over 15K links to his page and came up first in Google for search terms like “girl talk download.” He outranked bit torrent & p2p sites for this search so GT was able to at least control his ranking and deter some consumers from torrents.

    • Hugh Hession says:

      Hi Jim. Thanks so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. You are right in regard to artists gauging their demand on mere downloads alone, but there is so much more information that can be relevant, especially in today’s music business. Link generation is what puts an artist at the top of Google, as that is what Google places the most precedence on. Free can be beneficial, there is no doubt – if it helps to establish larger objectives.

      BTW everyone – go check out Jim’s site: First Act Marketing. If you want help with your metrics, he can help.

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