Through a very random string of website links, I somehow ended up on the website of non-profit organization, CASH Music. This group of incredible musicians and individuals believe that technology should never get in the way of promoting, distributing, or enjoying great music. To help bridge the gap for musicians that may not be as tech savvy as Zoe Keating, CASH Music recently released three INCREDIBLE downloads of free php code that musicians can use to make their websites a better experience for their fans.
If you don’t have an official website to represent yourself/your band, these free code downloads are an EXCELLENT place to start, in my opinion. Even if you’re official website is just one page, utilizing these codes will make that one page extremely engaging and interesting.
The code that they provide takes care of the most difficult and boring work involved with creating social applications for Twitter and Facebook. After about 6 hours of solid work, I was able to create mini-apps for my band as examples (screenshots included below). We are not using them yet, but plan to in the coming months. Below I’ll give you a brief overview of each download, and how they can improve your online strategy for engaging fans.
“Tweet for a Track” App Code
View a demo and download the “Tweet for a Track” code here.
Twitter prides itself on being simple and easily customizable, and this application sings the same tune. With this application, fans that visit a website with this code implemented will be able to send a tweet, in exchange for a free download that you specify. You can customize what the tweet says, and what part of the tweet you want to be required (e.g. your username and a link back to your “Tweet for a track” page). A fan can also click a checkbox to automatically follow you on Twitter! Genius.
Upon clicking the “tweet” button, the fan is directed to Twitter, prompted to login, and asked to allow your application to access to his or her information (this is typical of all Twitter apps). Once they click allow, their tweet is automatically posted and they are redirected back to your site, where the free download link becomes visible and active.
This type of engagement is cool for both musicians and their fans. For musicians, they are engaging their fan base by encouraging them to get involved via Twitter, where musicians and the individual fan can then develop a closer relationship. Since they are also giving their fans something of value (free music), it will make these fans feel more valued, and may lead to an increase in loyalty, and maybe even a purchase of the entire album/EP/other tracks/concert tickets/merch/whatever else the musician offers.
It can also hook in new fans who may not have wanted to take the plunge and buy your music just yet. For fans, they are getting something valuable for free, and with little effort. At the same time, they are given opportunity to share it with their friends. When people truly enjoy something, they usually want to be able to enjoy it with other people. That is the entire basis for group-buying websites like Groupon (recently valued at 1 BILLION SMACKERS!), and true music fans behave the same way whenever they come across something new and cool.
“Facebook Like for a Track” Application Code
View a demo and download the “Facebook Connect for a Track” code here.
This application’s demo was slightly more confusing the first time I saw it, but still very simple to understand after playing around with it for a bit. There are two actions that your fans must perform in order to unlock the download link that you specify. First, your fans must decide to “like” you on Facebook. To make it easier for them, the app code includes a small Facebook widget where the fan can click the “Like” button and instantly become your fan on Facebook. Once this occurs, a message appears that verifies this, and the user is instructed to click the “Connect to Facebook” link in order to finally unlock the free download link. I know I made it sound somewhat complicated, but it really is only one extra action that your fans must perform.
This application is great for musicians because it lets your fans know that you are on Facebook, gets them to “Like” that awesome fact, and then rewards them with a free song for “liking” you and your music. After connecting with Facebook, there is also a link that fans can click to share your “Facebook Connect for a Track” page with their friends on Facebook. You can customize all the content in that Facebook share window (your logo, description, etc) as well, to make sure your the updates don’t cause confusion because of missing information.
Like the Twitter app, your fans get the same intrinsic rewards of displaying their musical tastes and sharing something cool with their friends, and the same extrinsic rewards of free music and the opportunity to connect with you on a more personal level.
“Flower” UI (User Interface) Tools
View a demo and download the “UI Tools” code here.
The Internet and the programming languages that govern it are evolving rapidly, and really cool ways to display your media to your fans have been (literally) popping up all over the place. This package of scripts includes some simple, cool code snippets that display your music, photos, videos, and other media related to your musical career:
- Moviebox – Automatically scans your page for all kinds of video links, and modifies them so that when you click on the video links, they display in those totally slick “lightbox” popup windows.
- Imagebox – After installing this script, simply add the “cui_imagebox” class to an image link to have it display in a lightbox pop-ups. You can even have entire photo slideshows open in the pop-up window, with navigation links at the bottom right. It looks totally professional!
- Anchor Enhancements – there are several little functions that add minor enhancements to links on your page. You can have a link open in a pop-up with a specific size, have text slide out from under a link, and other interesting effects.
- Soundplayer – The most useful tool in this package (in my opinion), this streaming music player is insanely simple and can be integrated into any design, anywhere. You add as many tracks to it as you like, order them how you like, display lyrics, and some other cool things.
For musicians that have a basic understanding of websites (HTML & CSS), this should not be that daunting of a task. The code provided has excellent comments that clearly explain what information is necessary, and where it should go to make the app work correctly.
If you don’t have a basic understanding of how websites work, then this is not an easy thing to implement. I would ask a tech-savvy friend for a favor in this situation. Even pay somebody if you can afford it.
But it’s really not that hard to figure out. If you don’t have that friend, or love expressing your DIY spirit, then breaking the knowledge barrier for basic web development is relatively easy in this digital information age. There are millions of tutorials and articles about basic website development can be found with a simple Google Search. Utilize your time (the one resource you DO HAVE), get your hands dirty, and learn how to do it on your own. Honestly, if you think about it, learning how to create a web page is no different than sitting down and learning a musical instrument. Think of the HTML, CSS, and PHP code as the notation that you had to learn to start creating music. Instead your end product will be a cool website to display the music you worked so hard to create.
If you are so brave, on the CASH Music blog, they provide a tutorial on how to register your new applications on both Twitter and Facebook.
Also, check out this helpful video tutorial I found via @Musformation that shows you how to install the “Tweet for a track” app (it’ll get you started):
To wrap up, I am wondering if it would be most beneficial to use BOTH the Twitter and Facebook applications at the same time. I think it could be a cool idea to turn it into a sort of game, where a fan could unlock three different free song downloads by posting a tweet about you, connecting with you on Facebook, and signing up for your mailing list (with a service like FanBridge that allows you to automatically e-mail your fans a free song upon signup). However, that could just confuse fans and turn them off.
What do you think? Would be wise to use BOTH Twitter and Facebook applications at the same time? At different times? Or how about just picking one, and sticking with it? Any music fans out there have an opinion?