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Promoting Art & Music on the Internet
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. A Little Bit of Work
  3. Understanding Your Audience
  4. Protecting the Value of Your Work
  5. Understanding & Using Keywords
  6. Submitting Your URL to the Search Engines & Directories
  7. Pay Per Click Advertising
  8. Link Popularity
  9. Using the Peer to Peer Networks to Your Advantage
  10. Friends & Family
  11. Offline Advertising
  12. Summary




Introduction


Welcome to the Artopium Library article on promoting your Creative Works online. This article is intended for use by artists who have signed up to become members of Artopium.com. If you are interested in selling and promoting your art, music, fashion, independent film or book, sign up now, it's free. Artopium.com will host your audio, video and image files, and allow you to accept credit cards online for instant purchases of your tangile artwork, CD, DVD, original painting or prints, original fashion.


A Little Bit of Work

It?s not enough to simply upload your media and image files to the internet and wait for the sales to start rolling in. Competition on the Internet is fierce and merciless and if you want to be noticed above the rest you will have a lot of work ahead of you. Don?t be discouraged though; by following the steps outlined in this tutorial you will quickly realize that a little effort will begin to bring enthusiasts to your work, and sales will begin once a wide enough audience has been reached. The amount of effort you decide to put into it will decide how big your audience is and thus how many sales you?ll make.

In the beginning, a majority of the work you?ll be performing in promoting your Creative Works online will involve surfing the internet a great deal. This can mean spending hours in front of your computer, posting URLs, signing up to various websites, and maintaining various online posts and accounts. If this does not sound appealing to you, you may want to consider hiring someone who can do this for you, or you can relax in the knowledge that once you have created a big enough link popularity most of your work will be done for you by the search engines.


Understanding Your Audience


A common mistake most artists make is to claim they are not business people. Although I can contend that art and money are not always the greatest mix, by definition an artist or band that is starting out is a sole-proprietor business owner, sales and marketing agent all rolled into one. Getting over this hurdle is the first step in understanding your audience. All consumers, whether shopping for a new pair of shoes, a box of cereal or you CD all have one thing in common: they are looking for the best product. Although most artists would cringe at the idea of thinking of their art or music as a product, it is crucial you understand this is how your audience will think about it, whether consciously or subconsciously.

The second part in understanding your audience is to understand why people shop online at all. What is it that makes people willing to spend money online, where they cannot hold or touch the product before they buy it? We live in an information society. It has even been said that we live in the Information Age, probably for a good reason. What this means to you is that there is a good chance nobody will be interested in your work unless they can read about it, see it, and even listen to or watch a low quality version of it first. For example, potential music buyers will want to read the lyrics, see band photos, and listen to mp3 samples. I highly recommend that you make your Artopium profile page contain as much of this type of information as possible. Your profile page allows you to enter text, upload multimedia files and post a picture of you and your work.

Be as objective as possible when describing yourself and your work. People looking for art or music online will be looking for "facts", and can feel put-off by too many biased descriptions (e.g. using words such as "best of", "cool", etc.). Instead, state when and where it was made, what creative processes were used and who was involved. The more information you provide along these lines, the more professional your audience will consider you. Please don't confuse this with emotinally descriptive phrases you may inherently use when describing your work. Just try to be objective and state as many facts as possible, rather than try to explain why you think your art or music is good.

For more information on marketing and understanding your audience, please visit the following links to helpful sites I have found on the web. These links open in a new window.




Protecting the Value of Your Work

Of the many concerns an artist may have, one of the biggest is for the saftey of their Work from piracy. Many of the artists I have met have all asked the same question, "How do I make sure nobody steals my work?". This is an important question that cannot be answered without adressing the very structure of the Internet itself, and is actually a topic of much debate throughout the Internet community.

The problem is this: the Internet was built and designed to operate as an open network. Originally, the idea was that all information should be shared openly and freely. That includes sound and image information as well as text. The very fact that the Internet is open is what allows a website to link to another website across one or more countries, regions or domains.

Obviously people quickly realized that sharing all information, including credit card and social security numbers, was not a good idea. SSL encryption was implemented to make financial and personal document transfers safe from prying eyes. However, this is only good for a transfer of information from one person to another. Suppose I want to share my information with everyone, but I don't want anyone to share my information with anyone else. SSL encryption, nor any other type of encryption can solve this problem. Other solutions have been put forward, such as the digital watermarking of media files, but this still does not prevent people from sharing your information with each other.

Truly, the only known solution to Internet piracy is deterrence. To stop people from re-distributing your work you must take away their motivation to do so. To help you understand how to do this, it is also important to understand the concept of resolution/fidelity. By saturating the Internet with free, low resolution/fidelity samples, you can effectively make it harder for for people to find illegal versions of your high quality works-for-sale. For instance, if you're trying to promote your new album to generate online sales, pick two or three songs to make into free give-away samples. Save the sound data at a low bit rate and sampling frequency so that there is a noticeably "low-quality" sound, and perhaps cut off the last 30 seconds of the song. Put these on the peer-to-peer networks and upload them to your mp3 host sites. Use your high qulaity sound files to sell downloads of your entire album. By distributing your music this way you are making it easier for people to find and buy all your music in one easy download (your whole album) as opposed to having to scower through many, individual, low-quality samples. If the price is right, your audience will be much more motivated to "just make the purchase" and not "waste their time". The same principle works when using digital images of your original artwork and prints. Just be sure to use the .jpg or .gif image format when posting images of your work to the Internet as these file types are completely unsuitable for life size re-printing.

If you are interested in deterring the piracy of your work further (although this may not be a good idea if you are completely unknown), you might be interested in these links to companies that provide digital watermarking software for sound and image files.

  • www.alphatecltd.com - Offers many software packages for both audio and image watermarking
  • www.pcworld.com - An article about a new mp3 watermarking tool designed by the creator of the mp3 file.



Understanding & Using Keywords

All search engines use keywords (the words you type in to do a search) to find and display search results. The number of times these keywords appear in the text of your profile page is one of the determining factors in how high your page will appear in those search results. How close certain keywords appear together in a sentence or paragraph is called "keyword density". For instance, suppose you find that you want to use the keywords ?improv?, ?jazz-fusion?, ?upbeat?, and ?trumpet?. The sentence ?An improv, jazz-fusion band with an upbeat trumpet lead? would have a much higher keyword density than ?As a jazz-fusion band we have developed an upbeat sound that is highlighted by a lead trumpet and a pure improv style.? Notice that in the second sentence the keywords are farther apart (have more "other" words between them) than the first and thus has a lower keyword density. You should strive for as high a keyword density as possible.

Be aware though that search engines also look for fraudulent or spam type pages and excludes those pages from ever appearing on their engine again. Things that search engines look for include keywords that are repeated more than 6 or 7 times, keywords that are repeated with no other words between them (e.g. music, music, music), invisible text (i.e. text that is the same color as the background of the page), an excessive number of links and/or pictures.

When choosing the keywords you will be using, try to stay away from keywords that are general, broad or ambiguous such as ?music?, ?art?, ?band?, ?album?, etc. as these words are so popular that to try to compete with the millions of other websites that use them would either take lot?s of money or be completely fruitless. Don't get me wrong, using them will not hurt your ranking either. Just be sure that the words you really want to use appear more often and higher up on (closer to the top of) your web page.

Some good keywords to use are words that closely describe your work, that are unique yet not too unused or unpopular. For example, if you are a rock band from Seattle that is just starting to play out, try to stay away from the words ?rock and roll?, ?music?, or ?brand new?. Do use the words ?Seattle?, ?loud and heavy?, ?unsigned?, ?underground?, names of other bands that are similar in style to your music, etc. A good rule of thumb is: if you think that a word or combination of words describes a thousand different bands, try to find words that describe only a hundred. Specifying your region or locale is very good as it helps narrow down search results. Stay away from word combinations you think no one will use for a search.

The best method for finding good keywords is to do a search yourself using the keywords that you think others will use to find your site, and see what type of sites come up. If the keywords that you have used bring up sites that are similar to your page then they are good keywords. Take the time to look at the pages that come up in those results and see how they used their keywords to help give you an idea of how they appeared at the top of the results.

For more information about keywords and how they are used, please visit the following links to other useful sites that I have found on the Web. Each link opens in a new window.




Submitting Your URL to the Search Engines and Directories

Please be sure to also visit Artopium's List of Search Engines & Directories for a list of places to submit your URL.

There are a gazillion websites on the internet that will help you submit your URL to the search engines and directories. Some of these will submit to the top 10 or 15 search engines for free, others will submit to thousands of FFA (Free For All) sites. Some companies offer the service of manually submitting your URL and maintaining and ensuring the quality (keywords, URL description, etc.) of your submission to all the major search engines and directories for a monthly or yearly fee. There are also software packages that you can purchase and download that will help you submit your URL, although I advise against using software. A manual submission is, by far, a better method as it will guarantee a more optimal placement within the results.

Search engines and directories can receive thousands of submissions in a day so they apply automated filtering techniques to narrow down the list of accepted URLs. A lot of the big, and therefore important search engines and directories will not accept URLs submitted by an automated service. If you have the money, I highly recommend finding a company to do the submission for you. Be sure they do it manually. Using a company that will write the descriptions for your URL might be a good idea as well as they will have a better understanding of current keyword trends and of which keywords to use in your descriptions.

Some search engines can take up to 6 months before your page is listed. If this is too long to wait for you, then you might want to consider paying for the submission directly to the search engine or directory. Once again, you could pay a company to do all this for you, but you will have more control over how your URL is presented on each search engine by paying the search engine directly. I highly recommend that if you have the money to go ahead and pay Yahoo the $299 they require for being listed in their directory. Lot?s of other search engines use the Yahoo directory for their content and this one submission could mean having your URL appear on many other sites, not to mention the amount of traffic you will generate from Yahoo alone.

However, not all of us can afford $299, let alone all the other search engine's fees, so a free submission will have to do. If your page is formatted neatly (such as your Artopium profile) and contains a sufficient amount of useful and factual information such as text and images, your URL submission will most likely be accepted by the search engines and directories. You must simply be patient! Re-submitting your URL over and over again is the quickest way to get banned, and you NEVER WANT TO GET BANNED FROM THE SEARCH ENGINES OR DIRECTORIES! Sometimes you must WAIT ALL SIX MONTHS! I'm serious about this. This is the number one mistake everyone makes when submitting their URL. When you are ready, you can visit Artopium's List of Search Engines and Directories to personally and manually submit your URL. If you decide to go this route, then I suggest submitting to every single search engine and directory in the list in order to maximize your exposure on the first go-around. Some of these sites will accept you right away, and others you may have to wait up to 6 months. Since there is no way for you to know which search engines or directories will accept your URL immediately and which ones will have to wait 6 months for, it is better to submit to all of them on the first go-around.


Pay Per Click Advertising

Of all the websites that offer pay per click advertising, I only recommend using either Google AdSense or Overture Yahoo Search Marketing. Although the plethora of other sites offering pay per click advertising will indeed bring you traffic, the kind of traffic that will come to your page will not be as targeted as Google and Overture can provide. Targeted traffic is important if you are to take into consideration your ROI (Return On Investment). If you are spending $100 a week on PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising, then you want to know that all or most of your visitors are potential customers as well, and that the purchases they make earn more profit (return) than you spend on advertising (investment). Most of the lesser known companies that offer PPC advertising do not have as broad a range or wide-spread reach as Google or Overture and will thus drive traffic that can be substantially less targeted. All in all, I recommend staying away from PPC advertising until you?ve mastered all the other forms of marketing covered in this tutorial. But used wisely and in conjuction with other forms of marketing, PPC advertising can bring a substantial boost to your profits.


Link Popularity

Link popularity is becoming one of the most important factors in determining the ranking of your web page on the search engines. In short, link popularity is determined by how many other websites are linking back to your website or Artopium profile page. On some search engines it is possible to be ranked high and thus show up on the first or second page of search results even without good link popularity, but you can forget it when it comes to Google, who in some respects has started using link popularity as its only determining factor. So, if link popularity is so important, how do you get other sites to link to your site? That?s a good question and I?m glad you asked it as the answer is the crux of this entire online tutorial.

A good place to start would be online forums and classifieds. Sign up to as many as possible and create a post with a link back to your profile page. Be crafty in what you say in these posts, though, as just simply putting a link in your post may get you banned from some forums. A good idea would be to ask others to check out your newest works and then come back to that forum to post a review of those works. Forums like that as you are encouraging others to use their forum as well.

Another method is to find other bands of similar taste and music style whom you think would mutually benefit from a link exchange. Just write them a simple email asking them if they would like to participate in a link exchange. It is very important that you link to them first and a provide a link in the email that directs the person you are asking to the page from which you linked to them. This way they can see you are good on your half of the deal and will be encouraged to reciprocate by linking back to you. If you do this though be sure not to spam anyone and make the email very personal by putting their name and a few other identifying elements in the email. Artopium only allows you to make one link from your profile page which is intended to link to your website, so this method is best if you already have a website that you can put these links on.

The key here is to find as many places as possible that you can put your link. Not only will this increase your link popularity, but it will also bring in new traffic from the sites from which you've placed your links. When marketing and promoting your Creative Works, creating links to increase your link popularity is the part you should spend the most time on. Make sure to go back to the forums that you have posted to and maintain those posts. Each time you add more to your post it returns to the top of the discussion list. Sometimes it?s necessary to start a new post as sometimes it will slip to the bottom where it will not be seen or read again.

For more information on link popularity and for free software to help you gauge your current popularity, you might wish to check out these sites:



Using the Peer to Peer Networks to Your Advantage

Peer to peer networks work very similar to search engines in that they rely on keywords to display search results, but those keywords are solely found in the name of the file itself. So, it should be obvious, the name you give your file will determine how effective it is as a promotional tool. If nobody has ever heard of you before, have your file names contain the names of other bands or artists that are very well known and that are similar to your music. Be sure to include your band name as well as your URL. For instance, if you're in a band named "The Scooby Doos" and you sound a lot like Sound Garden, Tool and Metallica then your mp3 file name might look like this:

The_Scooby_Doos?track01?sound_garden_tool_metallica_www.artopium.comSLASHscoobydoos.mp3

It is important to not actually put any slashes in the name and instead put the word "SLASH" in it's place as the slash has significant meaning to a computer and will be interpreted incorrectly.

Some mp3 editors allow you to change file attributes such as the title and comment (you know, the info that always pops up in your media player) and it's always a good idea to get your URL in there too.

Putting your files onto the peer to peer networks is easy. Simply download and install the software for that particular peer to peer network. During the installation you will be asked which folder on your computer you would like to share from; anything that you put in this folder will be available to all the other members of the network. Simply put your files into this folder and leave your computer on and connected to the network for as long as possible (weeks if you can).

The peer to peer networks also use a form of ranking to determine your placement in the list of search results. This rank is determined by how many other computers have your exact file (not renamed or altered in any way) and are currently sharing it. So the next obvious step is to get all of your friends and family to share your files too.


Friends and Family

So, the true test of making sales will be your friends and family. If you cannot convince these people to buy your art or music then you might find it difficult to convince total strangers. Ask them how they felt about making the purchase. Was it hard to figure out? Did it seem expensive? Getting these answers soon from people you trust can help you avoid missing sales from people who will never tell you why they didn?t purchase your Creative Works.

Getting friends and family to make the first purchases can also help start word of mouth promotion for your work as they will now have a copy of your music and when asked where they got it they can direct more buyer?s to your online ?store?. Don't get


Offline Advertising

Now that you have a well established presence on the internet you will need to compliment it with offline advertising. Online market research has shown that internet surfers are a lot more likely to make a purchase from you if they have heard of you somewhere besides the internet. Offline advertising makes your online advertising seem ?more real?. The important thing is to keep it simple and to keep it consistent. This is where having your own personal website really helps as you will be able to choose the domain name (e.g. www.yourband.com) that everyone sees and remembers. Most people do not go to URLs listed on flyers or album inlays alone, but are a whole lot more likely to click on a link presented by a search engine if they?ve seen the link somewhere else.


Summary

Promoting your Creative Works online can seem like an arduous task at first, but once you have everything in place you will find that making the occasional post to a forum or re-submitting your links to the search engines every few months isn't too much to do for the benefits of free targeted traffic. Coupled with pay per click advertising and use of the peer to peer networks, so long as you watch your ROI, making a decent profit is not only possible, it?s probable. By getting your first couple of sales through friends and family, and by distributing CDs, flyers for gigs and band stickers that all contain the URL to where potential buyers can purchase your CD or downloadable mp3 album, you can start the offline and word of mouth advertising that?s necessary to compliment your online advertising. In short, with a little work you should start to see moderate profits within a couple of months, and with a little capital (and talent) those moderate profits can turn into big profits.