Streaming royalties suck, but a new Bandpage-StubHub deal finds even more ways to get artists paid
It's easy to forget the enormous importance of Myspace for musicians in the mid-2000s. I played in a forgettable yet fun -- or us at least -- college band, and before the music-centric social network rose to prominence, having a web presence meant operating your own site out in the seemingly desolate wilds of the web. Without any way to connect directly to fans or other artists beyond email, these sites felt like pretty far-flung destinations, virtually invisible to Google without typing the URL directly into a browser. And then there was the difficulty of hosting streamable music, which required not only finding or writing code for a player, but using one that didn't stall out regularly.
But Myspace changed all that. "Find us on Myspace" was all you needed to let fans and colleagues find not only your bio and tour dates but also your music. At the time, uploading your music virtually instantly so anybody in the world could hear it felt like a minor miracle.
But in today's digital landscape, where consumers discover content on countless platforms -- from social networks like Facebook and Twitter to streaming services like Spotify and YouTube -- it's both hugely advantageous and hugely daunting to make sure your music, bio, photos, tour dates, and merchandise are available and up-to-date on all these sites and apps.
Enter Bandpage, a service founded in 2009 by band manager turned Silicon Valley CEO J. Sider. Bandpage lets artists set up profiles and ecommerce offerings, and then through partnerships Bandpage ports this information to other platforms. For example, when you Google a band and see tour dates on the side of the search results, those are powered by Bandpage. So are the bios that appear when you listen to a band on Spotify or YouTube. A few months back, Bandpage even began integrating its ecommerce elements into streaming music services so a band's T-shirts, posters, concert tickets, and various other experiences could be promoted when listening to that artist on Spotify, YouTube, Rdio, and many other platforms. And last December, Sider told me that in just four months, artists' impressions on their merchandise, tickets, and other monetizable fan experiences increased tenfold over the impressions they garnered from simply hosting these sales on their personal sites. Meanwhile, clickthrough rates were five-times higher and conversion rates were up to three-times higher, with some artists making as much as $1,000 a day. Essentially, Sider has found a hack to allow his service's 500,000 artists to make more money off Spotify without getting into the legal and commercial mire of royalty payments. Furthermore, Bandpage only gets paid when artists get paid, taking a 15 percent cut from items sold through its service.
Now Bandpage has added yet another name to its ever-growing list of platform partners: StubHub, the web's largest online ticketing marketplace.
Starting this month, fans who buy tickets to see artists who list their merchandise on Bandpage will be begin to be prompted to buy T-shirts, posters, or even special "experiences" like backstage meet-and-greets directly during the searching and booking process on StubHub.
"We looked at where fans are spending time," Sider told me. "If I’m in any business, it doesn’t matter what I’m selling: If I have a product, I want to get it in front of the 15 million people that are already buying similar products of mine."
Since integrating merchandise sales with Spotify and other music consumption platforms, Sider says some Bandpage artists are now making $1,000 a day from these sales. That's crucial for many artists, particularly when you've got songwriters complaining about receiving only $40 for a million Pandora plays. The streaming royalty situation in this country is a chaotic and complicated mess that needs to be fixed, but in the meantime any little -- or not so little -- bit helps. Bandpage also encourages artists to offer behind-the-scenes fan experiences, like VIP backstage passes or a chance to watch a band in the studio. These offerings in particular make perfect sense to sell on StubHub and will even appear directly in the results when a fan searches for a favorite artist.
The partnership is still in the pilot stages, testing out the best times and places on site to offer these products for a small number of bands to start, including George Clinton and OK Go. And as passionate as Sider is about music and getting musicians paid, he gets just as excited -- if not more so -- by this methodical testing of how to present these purchasing opportunities on the web.
"All we do at Bandpage is study clickthrough rates and conversion," Sider said. "It actually makes a very big difference, after you’ve bought a ticket in that scenario you’ll see an image that says Want to skip the merch line at the show? Buy a T-shirt now."
Best of all, not buying this swag at the show means you can avoid the embarrassment of either wearing the T-shirt of the band you're seeing or wrapping it around your waist like a goon.
[illustration by Brad Jonas]