All of the suggestions or what Philip had been thinking of are pretty "generic" solutions to the "problem". I spent 5 mins on the site, clicking around and my first impression of the Fandalism is the community and Fandalism's tag line is "Use Fandalism to show your work and meet other musicians".
The community is most likely a mix of musicians AND music lovers. So even Fandalism's original goal of serving musicians is what it is, I'm sure there are music lovers who are enjoying the community's work as well.
All of the monetization solutions suggested thus far does not cover both ends of the users.
I'm more of a coder / developer guy but occasionally I like to play the product guy. So here is my suggestion so let me know what you think especially you, Philip, if you are reading:
KickStarter for Musicians. Be the online version of American Idol or British's Got Talent. You have musicians and also they have their audiences on Fandalism.
First mission is to scout or fund the first internet musician superstar. Get the winner into a professional studio, get a few singles out. Backers get singles free, the rest gets to buy the singles fr a price. Fandalism gets a cut of the sales. The rest should be history.
Up vote if you think this will work or comment if you have more to add.
@pud What do you think? If you really want to venture out this way, I'm available for a ride. ;) That would be fun.
I love the idea of American Idol for guitarists/drummers/etc. I really could find the best musicians in the world. That would be fun.
From a business perspective, if I wanted to make money doing that, I could imagine sponsors like guitar companies paying. Fender (maker of the famous Stratocaster guitar, for you non musicians) just filed IPO paperwork and had something like $700M in sales last year.
I'm all for finding the "best musicians in the world", but what really shits me about Idol and similar shows is that they find technically brilliant singers, but they can't write a song if their life depended on it. The same with many brilliant musicians I know - they have the technical chops, but have no basic idea how to structure a song other than chorus-verse or maybe AABA.
There's got to be a market for musicians who know how to write.
She wanted to be a pop star and she became one of the greatest of all time—decades after the height of the pop star era when labels actually had the capability to manufacture them.
Frank Zappa made a career of playing rock music instead of jazz or classical which many people consider a greater art form. It never was really "pop" music but still there are many that criticize him for it.
I'd be very careful to avoid derision on the basis of popularity. That fact that you have distaste for Lady Gaga's genre doesn't mean she's not a valid artist. There's a difference between relying on autotune because you're a talentless hack and an artistic decision.
I'm well aware of Lady Gaga's songwriting ability and talent as a piano player. However, the Gaga persona seems to be her of her own creation, and I'm quite sure that at least for her first album, she wrote most of her own material.
I'm not blaming anyone - the music industry is a strange beast. But the true rarities are people like Gaga (as much as her I dislike her music), who can write and perform their own material well.
This idea is awesome and will make Fandalism something different than just another marketplace. It's also a nice time to show that not only do we not need the RIAA for distribution, we don't need them for promotion. Your site's design is also beautiful enough to do it.
For the record, most artists, including winners (I personally know one of them), say it's a double-edged sword: it gives you exposure, money and a foot in the biz, but in the end it's all about marketing and getting viral rather than concentrating on making music.
A few months ago I did a post where I promoted a page I made for my dad Nick Dooley which was basically to test whether a simple "online busking" model has legs.
The results were that about 4000 people downloaded the 1st track, about half that the second and roughly 350 each for the last two (I didn't do enough analysis to know if those last 350 or so people were the same ones or not).
Out of those, about 20 people gaves some "bucks" and 9 people subscribed to the mailing list.
I would say your best bet is to allow people to pay artists on the site via a "virtual guitar case" and take a small percentage of each transaction.
If you have 404,772 users and promote one per day and drive 4000 people to that page per day, and your average musician drives $40 worth of revenue per day, you know. You make some money. Then you just increase the traffic and away you go.
How about you let musicians sell either through you directly (a la itunes or amazon) on their sites or post itunes links? You could take a cut for the former (less than itunes) and get them to release unencumbered music.
A social network dedicated for musicians can't yield any blame on you. Musicians need visibility. You would provide it for free and take a small cut on the one who get traction and earn money from it. It sounds to me like a fair deal.
This is a kickstarter like model specialized for musicians.
This. Also, allow them to sell the rights for commercial reuse. Although I don't think it should sound like charity or donation. Musicians should be able to set a price for a 'virtual ticket' that will allow you to download their music via any means, without the guilt.
Pud - when I look at your site, I see a marketplace for video music lessons. A tonne of people would pay $1.99 to learn a Radiohead song on piano, or get that perfect 'wub wub' sound in Reason. There's similar stuff on YouTube, but it's low quality and unreliable, and discovery is hard. Create a marketplace and you'll attract the best of the best.
Prerecorded video would be perfect at first, but you could happily expand to live, streaming lessons. I'm excited already. What do you think?
>A tonne of people would pay $1.99 to learn a Radiohead song on piano //
Sounds like a rights management nightmare as the location of delivery (assuming the location of production is the US) is likely to have particular rights groups that you have to handle. In the UK you'd need to get rights from the PRS, the artist (if you play a clip) the production company for trademarks and what have you and probably a few others.
Just a suggestion to look in to IP rights issues before you get too far along with things.
Not to mention that he would need a deal with the collection societies in each territory he wants to have business in, e.g. to serve UK users he needs a deal with PRS, in the US he needs to deal with ASCAP, BMI and SESAC, in Germany with GEMA and so forth. He would need to block the service in any territory where he doesn't have a deal with whoever is representing the publisher of the work in the given territory.
That would be really interesting. Khan Academy for music lessons, except it would also be a marketplace, and maybe live video could be part of it.
I could imagine that all recorded videos and tutorials and stuff could be free, because of the community nature of your site, but it also provides 'advertising' if people want to also be teachers. Then you just provide an easy way to do video chats for classes, for cash, and that's where you collect a percentage. This is pretty easy with Google Hangouts, and there are other APIs one can use too.
This way you get to monetize the site without putting up paywalls, or changing the community ethos of the site. I think everyone understands that people deserve to be paid for their time.
That might really work. Every musician has a few tricks up their sleeve. And there are other categories like producer, sound guy, etc, where tricks of the trade are learned only if you're part of a scene somewhere. If you're a kid in your bedroom in suburban Idaho maybe you can get your parents to cough up some dough for some online lessons on how to be a DJ.
This could be very cool. I'm quite a good musician myself (varsity educated and all that), but lately I've really been wanting to learn some more solo production techniques (basically I want to make music that sounds like purity ring: http://soundcloud.com/purity-ring) as, despite all my education and experience, I don't really know squat about how to produce a good dance track. I would be really interested in somewhere where I could post a lesson request like "I want to make a beat that sounds like the one from Belispeak" and tag it with say "Ableton, production, purity ring, EDM" and someone answer it. Wouldn't even need to be paid - though perhaps you could do like a reward system: if the person who responds is awesome, you could tip them?
OT but anyway... consider it a validation of the idea.
>"I want to make a beat that sounds like the one from Belispeak"
The type of beat (and the melodic structure) they're using there is lifted wholesale from a subgenre of southern hiphop called "trap music," which takes its name from its preoccupation with methamphetamine retail.
The key is to take the classic 808 and 909 drum machines (ableton has emulations built in or you can get samples from anywhere) and put the right kind of rolls on the percussion sounds, you could try triggering them in some more unusual ways, perhaps with an arpeggiator. The "pop" sound stems from the layers of vocal processing. Tbh there's nothing terribly complicated going on production wise in their tracks, unfortunately that sound comes from having good musical ideas and the ability to execute them without fuss. That's not something you can really get from tutorial videos, but I guess your formal education will help.
I love that idea of a reward/bounty system. For example multiple musicians could try to make short tutorials and the bounty is shared among the top 3 voted submissions. That teach-me-anything and get a bounty system could work for quite a few other areas as well.
Judging by the success of games like Rock Band, everyone wants to play music. Traditional music tuition isn't suited to most people, since you start with pretty dull material, and you don't get results until you've been at it for a while. Most people will give up unless they feel progress straight away (I've spent my life doing this).
When a musician friend helps you learn a song, you get an instant rush of gratification. That's what all learning should be like. It fits the $2 impulsive-app-purchase model pretty well, and it works for any skill level.
Rather than focus on any single narrow field, why not add Q&A sections. Start with one section (like "how do I play song x?") and gradually add others ("equipment tuning", "computer generated music", "business questions", "technical stuff for narrow audience x" etc.)
With 400k users, you have the community to turn this into a Stack Overflow for musicians.
For now I'd focus 100% on improving the product. You're building a social network of sorts, which means the network effect is your big hurdle. You're in a land rush. Forget about anything other than winning that land rush right now. Build a network so populous and engaged that even if someone builds a better site (and if your growth keeps going, they will) it won't matter.
If the server bill gets too high, toss in the least amount of Adwords you can to pay for it. Or just ask your users to donate. Or come up with some premium features that are just compelling enough to keep the lights on. Or raise money from angels. Again, keep the lights on while you improve the product and grow your userbase.
Focus on engagement. Sign ups are almost meaningless if the users bounce and never return. The reason Facebook is so amazing is not just that they have a billion users, it's that they have 80% of them checking the site 5x per week (or whatever).
See how many users you can get into the habit of coming back to your site on a regular basis. That's the number that ultimately will drive everything: revenue, long term network effects, etc.
BTW, there's no reason in hell it should cost you $2500/mo already. Obviously you can afford it to some extent but that's just a waste of money. You should be able to run it for < $500/mo easily.
'Engagement' is overrated. Some sites , e.g Google and Wikipedia probably have super high bounce rates, because they solve your problem on the first page you see. What if people start entering his site mainly from band pages, get all the necessary info and leave? That wouldn't be a bad thing for users.
Actually, that would be a bad thing for his site. If he gets one-time visitors, he will need to keep growing to offset the churn rate. That means he'll probably need to rely a lot on search engine traffic, and for the viral growth to continue. If both go away, his site is dead.
I think it is sad that this is probably the correct answer.
I would love to refute it and say "no, you need to monetize it, don't just get users and hope". However, recent history has shown that gaining traction and losing money every month is enough to earn yourself a heavy payout later.
Do your project ideas (big and small) just come to you or do you have a process?
And any thoughts on doing a small post on a day/week in the life of Pud? Like how much time you spend on projects (planning, coding, designing), and whatever else you do like jamming. You clearly know at least a little about time management and/or avoiding procrastination.
Think stock market for music meets Kickstarter. As you mentioned, most musicians are strapped for cash. Most also have plans for bigger and better things, need new equipment, and want to get the word out about their music.
Let each musician set a value on their musical worth (market cap). Let friends, family, and fans contribute to the musician for a percentage stake in that musician's future/company. You take a cut of the money contributed sort of like a brokerage/transaction fee. They own a share of that musician. If I own 10 percent of John Doe and John gets a record deal for 1M, then I earn $100,000. Sure most people never make it, but it could be a fun way to spice up interest in a musician and help out at the same time. Plus the added bonus if that person really does make it big.
I have thought about this one for awhile but don't have the technical expertise to put it together yet. I might end up kicking myself for putting it out there, but if it worked, it could be really cool. Good luck.
I don't think this is at all out there. As a matter of fact, I'm working on something similar, but for a different vertical (which is why I don't think it's out there). Are you familiar with any other equity or revenue-futures markets of this nature? CrowdCube in the UK is the only thing that I've been able to come up with. Slated out of LA is similar, but it's not a real market, just an introduction and tracking service, like AngelList.
I had not previously checked out CrowdCube or Slated but these do seem to be promising models that could certainly be replicated in other realms. If you feel like chatting more, I'd love to hear more about what you have in the works and would be glad to share some more ideas in private. Feel free to shoot me an email.
I think that Mr. Pud is in a great position to do something like this. It requires intricate, thorough exploration and thought and likely a lot of legal help, but it's interesting how often I hear an indie musician and think, "God if I could buy stock in that musician, because he/she's going to the top..." and sometimes they do.
That would've been totally illegal except that the JOBS Act just passed into law. Now...maybe.
There's a pretty good recent scifi book about this sort of thing, called The Unincorporated Man. Basic premise was that everybody is partly owned by other people. Own 10% of someone's shares and you get 10% of their income. Everybody's ambition is to get hold of 51% of their own shares.
Great blog post. It was refreshingly honest in its approach to the HN community. HN gets a lot of the "How do I get started fishing?" type posts. I very much enjoyed reading this "Okay, I have my hook set on something big. How do I pull it into the boat?"
I would recommend doing a lot of little things in different directions that can be measured then focusing on the ideas that show the most promise.
Pick the low-hanging fruit first, like ad sense. Keep the ad box small and unobtrusive. You could set it up in a day and see how it performs. You can always remove it later.
A simple mobile app that you could give away for free shouldn't take long to write. That will get you something installed on lots of devices that you could then use as a foothold for upgrades and premium features down the road.
Finally, find ways to reach out to your users and really tap into what they want from the site. Build ways into your site to get that reach and to take metrics of everything they're doing. In real terms, I'm talking integrated surveys, A/B testing of interfaces and features, and ways for you to increase the channels of communication between you and your users. Your users will help you figure out which way you could go with this thing.
Going through all the comments, there are some great ideas. We are bulding a community website for entrepreneurs/startups and could probably use some of these ideas ourselves.
Here are a few more:
- Allow musicians to offer "live" concerts to their fans or to a worldwide audience, using the free Google+ hangouts or air feature. I think they just released an API. The most popular ones can be sponsored or you could just run ads on the Youtube videos and share revenues with the musicians.
- Setup a buy/sell section on the site (or on a separate subdomain or website) for used music instruments, accessories, books, sheet music etc. and either charge a small fee for listing or a transaction fee. If you don't want to run an ecommerce site, just let them list their stuff on Ebay or Amazon, but allow links to it from their profiles. These could be affiliate links and you could split the revenues with them (with full disclosure on the site).
- Have targeted email newsletters, for different interest areas. Sell advertising within the newsletters (it won't clutter your site).
I totally agree with this last point. I help run a small sailing website. We have no ads on our site, but we send out regular email newsletters that contain ads. These ads more than pay for the site itself, and we can easily switch advertisers between the newsletters. It's been a lot easier than I thought to target advertisers, because we have a load of data on how many people have subscribed and click-through rates etc. We typically sell the adverts in blocks of 3 or 6 months, where we send out 2 newsletters per month.
The most clicked-on links in that email newsletter is a list of the recent posts made to the classified section on our website. It's free to post an advert up on the classified section of something you're trying to sell, but you need to be a member of the site to do that. The newsletter acts as a reminder - so people can regularly see what's been recently posted, as they probably haven't visited that part of the website recently.
Build another site aimed at musicians with an clear revenue stream from the start (i.e. the Zappos of Music or the Groupon of Music) and use Fandalism site as a free traffic source/advertising platform.
Continue to grow Fandalism as a social network which in effect will grow your revenue site.
- Use your platform among musicians to build a music festival and again use Fandalism as a free traffic source (and it's users as free promoters) to build a large reputable production (a la Coachella, Bonnaroo, SXSW). Live like a rock star.
This is an interesting idea. On one hand, I think my users like the Fandalism brand so I'd want to launch new stuff on Fandalism.com. On the other hand, you have a good point. Maybe I should keep Fandalism.com (the site) pure and launch experimental businesses on different domains.
Pud, don't forget there are 2 sides to profit. Income and costs. Monetisation is important and there have been loads of ideas here. However, can you drive down costs? Have you investigated a dedicated server instead of EC2?
At $2,500/month in costs, even if he drives it down to $1/month, the site still isnt generating any money. Generating money is the problem, not cutting costs. At least that's the problem at hand, at the moment.
As a touring (folk!) musician, here's what I'd love to add to the platforms that BandCamp and CD baby already provide;
1. A salesforce for managing fan and venue relationships; I'd love it to be easier to build simple lists of invitations for events by location. Facebook events on their own don't cut it.
It would also be great to have some simple reminders and calendaring with mapping integration to manage booking. When did I last nag that venue? Who from our band is available on that day? What other venues are within 300 km?
2. Digital autographs! Autographs are kinda lame - but people still like them, and it makes a connection. I'd love to be able to write something on a piece of paper, snap a photo of it with my iphone, and have an app extract the message and signature - then put it on top of a promo photo before sending it to someone in a form they can use on their facebook page (ideally with links back to our band page).
3. An online platform for music lessons. Many musicians now make an income from remote instrument lessons via skype - especially in niche music categories. Skype and google chat and so on all optimise audio codecs for speech - not music, so there's one thing that could be different. But how useful would it also be to have a collabedit-like guitar, mandolin, violin, piano .. etc? The teacher could share hints and notes with the student. The teacher might also be able to select from some pre-saved sets of tunes or songs, or chord charts and so on.
If Pud just started out with one high margin product (T-Shirts?), and focused on getting a really good system in place to print/sell/ship them it could make a ton of money.
The issue he will have though is inventory management. T-shirts have a (sort of) high fixed cost and you have to sell a bunch of shirts to break even. He would need to collect a deposit from the bands to make sure they were in it to sell the merchandise.
most of the ideas posted by you are revenue models through advertising (where the real value of the user base is not extracted) or with more cumbersome product ecommerce tied with shipping which you don't want to do.
I bet you have these other ideas too - just wanted to point out that if it is an expensive hobby why not keep it as close to heart while making money too:
1. Sell amateur music and published albums of artists on the site.
2. Get musicians collaborate to create a Virtual Learning Environment
3. Let musicians get a private space to blog and evangelize their music to the visitors of the site for a fee. Support reviews, rating etc
4. Let musicians collaborate and organize music tours through the portal.
5. Let fans connect to their favorite musicians - ask questions, get autographs or learn music for a fee
Pud - First of all congratulations. 404, 772 users is serious business!
You already have a nice platform for musicians. How about connecting those musicians to help them form bands? As a drummer, I'm constantly looking for new people to jam with and would love to find a kick ass lead singer. It's really hard to find people outside of your social circle, and that enjoy the same music as you. Your site seems like it could really solve this pain point.
I'd love to be able to create a profile where I can tell people "Hey, I drum, I like metal, I can jam these days, I live in this city, lets play some music". Metallica was created when Lars / James put an ad in the newspaper, the other answered, and the rest is history. Now imagine, this sort of connection on Fandalism.
In terms of monetizing, I think you could use a sort of 'first look' approach like American Idol. If a band forms via your site and continues to use your platform, you could offer to sign them to your label, and give them more exposure on your site.
Another platform that comes to mind, is online Karaoke. American Idol, in essence, is a giant Karaoke fest. Nobody's singing their own songs. If you could create a platform where singers choose a song, and have the lyrics stream across the screen while they sing, you might be able to find some great new talent.
If you really like the site & community you have built and are in it for the long term, here's an idea: build a stock market for buying a share of an individual musician's or song's future revenue.
With crowdfunding legislation passed, you could wait the 9 months for the SEC to determine the regulations for crowdfunding brokers and become one of the first brokers, with a focus on building a marketplace for investing in undiscovered musical talent. You could also, in the same platform, provide a secondary marketplace for reselling those shares so there is liquidity for early investors.
If musicians are better equipped than most to recognize the talent in other musicians, your site provides the perfect community in which to build this marketplace. The high school kid who can really jam on the guitar today might be tomorrow's superstar, and perhaps a community of musicians could recognize that, invest in him, and eventually earn a return on their investment. With the crowdfunding model, the minimum investment could be quite small and within reach for many on the site.
Your business model could be as a traditional broker - taking a fee for the stock purchase, or as a flat monthly fee for active traders. Or you could have your fee be in equity in every musician that sells their shares on the market, but that seems like it could generate conflicts of interest.
If the $2500/month burn is an immediate issue or might force a shutdown, ask your users to donate and try to get enough to cover 18 months of expenses ("personal appeal from jimmy wales"-inspired banner might work), giving the the time needed to wait for the SEC and build the marketplace.
Coldfusion? You built this with ColdFusion? Damn PUD, you're advice back in the day was to use CF for version 0.1
And still using it, impressive!
Maybe you can advertise the hell out of this, and make a threadless or kickstarter for musicians and take a haircut every month for some sort of product the consumer would pay for, downloadable mp4 at a certain quality?
Or maybe add video ads like youtube, or maybe a radio player for users to pay for to queue up entire albums/genres/suggestions streaming.
Advertising is an idea, but the problem is, that you likely don't want random ads, selling phone sex, or other products a musician does not want.
I bit to late. I would have said "Come to Germany", one to three month ago, "join me at Frankfurt Music Fair, and we hustle around to hunt targeted advertisements, by shaking hand with the right people".
The other idea is to expand the business into a premium membership for live acts. I know that people are willing to pay for listening live to shoutcast streams. Managing shoutcast severs for musicians is one of the many small parts of my income. A good musician can earn about $50 in average per hour, by sitting in underpants in front of his computer, because people love paying tip!
All you need is a premium membership (accept pp and cc from listeners, payout with paypal), an own geoip shoutcast relay network, and charge some percent.
Last is your cost structure. You hobby costs $2,500/month. Thats a lot of money for the cloud trap. Own hosting or even co locating could be much cheaper in the long run. But you need some more admin work.
Some (random) thoughts / ideas. They might or might not hit what you're looking for but they're some types of connections that came to mind when surfing the site:
- On first sight, I get the impression that it's a profile site. The musician in me wants to find others like me, or that complement what I'm doing to connect, relate, share music with, maybe collaborate with..
- Events - Maybe music related events (learning, or looking for performers) could be something to provide. A place to find gigs?
- See if there's a way you can help musicians find and take their next step. This could have some sort of value, as nebulous as it sounds. Kind of like Mixergy.
- Group buy deals that you can target to your team. You get to keep a cut of the deals.
- Adding musician tools that would be valuable. I don't want to go all cdbaby, but maybe there's something there to help musicians learn about and manage the business side of their music. I'm not sure if that means courses, a subscription, etc.
- If you can replace existing services musicians pay for, they will probably be open to paying you instead. An example of this might be voicemail, or domain hosting (very basic and cookie cut with their own email address.
I like all these ideas and want to do all of them in one form or another. Most of them I'd want to make free (like the learning stuff). But.. events... that could be a fun one. Specifically, I envision a huge trade show like CES but for musicians. There's currently one called "NAMM" but it's not open to the public. It would be a lot of hard work but I think would be fun. Ideally it would be free or cheap for musicians, and money would be made via sponsors and selling booth/demo space.
You potentially have the ultimate meetup for musicians... Music is as much about creating as connecting.
Some more ideas from the music consumer perspective:
1) I've been listening to music on the site for an hour and I've been struck with how much soulful music there is here... Any thought in helping them publish to iTunes and taking a small cut?
2) If love to be able to make a playlist by genre and share it.
3) Maybe there's a way I can give micro payments for all the stuff I like? Another angle for consumers to maybe sign up for a membership to vote with their wallet to the artists you listen to in a month..and my 10/mo is split among the number of listeners I liked in a month?
4) Could there be sponsors for learning materials?
5) What about a digital music streaming service for businesses? Good music, all original, businesses routinely pay $20-40/month and up for this kind. Put the music into genres, let the community rate it and let it self-rank into playlists.
6) Spawn an online radio station exclusively for the music on the site.
I've been around online music and radio for a while..had lots of potential ideas, just didn't have the content. if you want to bounce ideas if love to.
Forgive any typos or grammar, writing from my phone. :)
Why not a virtual trade show? Let equipment manufacturers sponsor a forum section and require that they participate on the forum to answer questions from users. It's not an in-your-face ad, but gives the mfr exposure and an opportunity to demonstrate their customer service skills (and maybe offer discounts to subscribers?), and you get money. Done right, it would be a fair exchange of value that benefits your users.
Going along with the idea of helping musicians find gigs, make the venues pay a membership fee to get connected with musicians. I would think venues more likely to be able to pay for a service over an aspiring musician. Also, I enjoy seeing such an honest response from someone in charge of a business :)
I think the supply/demand is backwards here. Most amateur musicians gig for free. Many actually pay to perform (by pre-paying the venue for x number of tickets, then hoping to recoup costs by selling those tickets on their own directly to fans).
Big touring acts pay to play too, by renting out the venue.
You mentioned music distribution tools. Currently it's a huge pain in ass getting your music on iTunes or Amazon. There are services that help with this but it's still a pain in the ass (you need to register for an RIAA permit, get a barcode for your music.. srsly it's ridiculous).
It would be fun if I just made a simple "Get your music on iTunes for $20 per song."
I'm sorry, but $2,500 a month to run this site just seems high...I'm not sure what technology pud used to create the site, but it'd be interesting to know. I'd love to see my own sites get this much traffic, but damned if I could really afford to carry the success for too many months. This is where I really think the whole Rails (not saying he used rails...just using it as an example) argument of cheaper development costs but higher server costs breaks down. For the single entrepreneur, and app implemented in Rails versus one in a much faster/resource-friendy (PHP? Java?) framework/language could mean real, significant, insurmountable costs.
Of course, I could be wrong, and I'm sure someone will throw out the rails-is-not-the-bottleneck-the-database-is argument, but I recall reading an article about the gentleman who wrote plentyoffish.com in an unorthodox fashion with C#, and was able to run it for some time successfully on his home machine, then on one physical server. I think this would likely be impossible with rails.
builtwith.com is showing fandalism to be running on IIS. It was quite a rant you had about rails before even checking.
You can write a resource hog application in any language just like you can write an efficient app in any language. Don't blame the tools. This isn't to say different languages are all the same with performance levels, I just think it's negligible compared to the different performance levels of developers.
Around 40,000 uniques per day. So 10% log in daily? That seems reasonable for a site like this. I guess Facebook is at 50% but that's super insane rare.
Otoh Fandalism is kind of like LinkedIn in that I'm not overly concerned with user engagement -- it's more about building the database of users and content (so they can meet likeminded musicians, and one day I can launch new services that take advantage of the large database).
1) The site is setup for individual musicians, not bands or acts. I'm really targeting the high school kid who sits on his bed and plays lightening-fast guitar solos. He doesn't have anything to sell.
2) If I promised that kid he'd make significant (to him) $$ selling his music, I'd probably be lying.
3) Most musicians aren't going to make money selling their music. But they get a high out of having lots of people listen to it. So I'd rather just let people give it away for free and optimize for generating lots of plays, which would make them happy. Vs helping them sell it only to be disappointed.
I have an idea that probably doesn't have much revenue generating potential but it could be a cool new feature (to me at least). I spent about 20 seconds on the website so sorry if you already have this, but I didn't notice it. The users could have the ability to do interactive jam sessions, even if they are miles apart. Maybe something like a high fidelity audio only version of Google Hangouts.Each participant would need some headphones and a resonable quality microphone. I guess if you were looking for a way to squeeze some money out of this, perhaps you could sell recorded copies of the jam sessions to the participans or anyone else willing to pay for them I guess. Sorta like a demo mixing service :P I bet a lot of bands could get their start this way. You'd be removing any limitations of proximity between musicians. Can you imagine if every member of the Beatles had been born in different parts of the world?
I think any musician that's serious about playing music has at least one decent microphone and some sort of recording setup (M-audio stuff is a low-cost way to get into recording). Hearing yourself play is also invaluable towards learning.
The second issue is real and since I know nothing about how to solve it perhaps the idea is dead in the water for now. But anthonyb's suggestion of recording all the tracks separately and allowing the musicians to mix them in post might be one way of going around this.
You could sort of go the kick starter route... Raise money for bands, take a small percentage... Raise money for musicians to sign their own label? Raise money for something bands do like maybe equipment? Take small percentages. Do a craigslist for musicians. Sell things like Ebay.
That's an interesting idea. Kind of like how you can pay Ebay to give your posting a yellow background, making it more noticeable.
There's something slightly icky about charging my users for visibility though. Who I consider "starving artists" (even though plenty are probably doing fine...). There's something nice about Fandalism currently being a level playing field for everyone.
By the way, Fandalism uses a version of the Hacker News algorithm to determine which posts get featured.
That all makes sense. It may not work in this case, but in general I like businesses where the customer is clear. I tend to think there's always a tension when the user, the musicians, aren't also the customer, guitar companies for example. Obviously a hurdle that has been overcome countless times before.
You have built up a large userbase that is current free for users? I think that charging a fee for these users and for the app would not be a smart move.
However what about adding some paid features - like fee for promoting a profile to the front page, premium profile page (blog, sell tickets to gigs).
What is often overlooked is deals with corporates. Is there anyway to tie into promotional deals with companies? eg Fandalism members get discounts to gigs promoted by x event organiser? Corporate pays you a fee.
What do your current members say? How would they want the site to make money to keep it going?
If was doing anything related to music, I would be doing everything I could to build a spotify with a transparent business model that made it easy as possible to get artists music in front of monetizable fans as much possible (both through direct sales and indirect revenue, concert tickets, merchandise etc)
I love spotify, but they have had to make severe concessions to labels and it doesnt look like it will be possible for them to build an app that completely disintermediates labels, I think its inevitable someone will though.
If you have advertising, perhaps try not to compromise the site visually and limit it to below the fold, and keep it relevant.
You could develop a section which creates/collates guides that might interest amateur musicians. Have some basic ones for free, small fee for others. Things that might appeal to amateurs: finding band-mates, splitting meagre proceeds, sticking together, battling stage nerves, inspiration for writing new material. Even up to and beyond getting your first sales online.
Crowdsource content by asking your more experienced users to answer questions. What's worked for them? What challenges have they overcome? What do they wish they could've told themselves 10 years ago? Maybe some content goes into a Guides section, while another goes into Fandalism Stories.
Allow people to flag themselves with badges like: only listening, learner, just jamming, gigging, touring, etc. Maybe charge for badges related to online sales (links to their stores), commissioned music (contact form), etc.
I know you're reluctant to suck amateurs dry, but you could give everyone a random chance at being featured so people don't have to pay, but charge for others to jump the queue and be featured in a different way. e.g., top row of results are promoted. Have a paid option to enhance/theme their page.
You could trade some level of careful promotion on your site with a another in exchange for opportunities to offer your users - that won't make you anything, but it will strengthen your site.
Here's an idea that I'd like you to try first.
Pay what you want subscriptions. Offer a subscription service that is completely voluntary. Do not label it a donation system. It is simply a subscription service. People will pay an amount of their own choosing to support the site. Offer monthly and yearly subscription packages. See what happens. I bet you will get a significant conversion rate to paid members, all whom enjoy and want to continue using your service.
Agreed that premium probably won't net you all that much. I would guesstimate that to make enough to cover your costs with ads, you'd end up putting more ads up than your aesthetic sense would prefer.
I have no experience going this route, but what about helping the artists to make money off of their music and taking a share along the way. Something akin to etsy perhaps. You'd go from 400k musicians to ~4M musician's friends who are interested in supporting them.
You mentioned Etsy. I don't think selling music would work (for reasons I've outlined in another HN comment here) but oddly there are several people on Fandalism who make their own instruments and have contacted me about helping them sell them. Custom guitars and so on. I wonder if there are enough of them to warrant building an Etsy-like platform for them.
The expectation for entrepreneurs is that they always have this very clear vision of how they are going to change the world when in fact many of them simply get hooked on an idea that then goes on to change the world. Uncertainty is viewed by many as a sign of weakness but if you're being honest then you need to expect that there will be times when you don't know what to do next.
Very interesting post. First of all, congrats on making Fandalism such a success.
I am a musician too, and 10+yrs back, I used to browse Harmony Central for all kinds of gears. Read reviews, read NAMM report, check out used gears classifieds.
One idea would be, just like you have artists and people give thembs up to artist, you could create profiles for gears. Then connect artists to those gears, as in artists recommending, endorsing those gears. If Fandalism is all about fans, if I am big fan of Pud the drummer, would love to know what sticks he uses and what kit he endorses.
Again, extending the fan aspect, sell used gears by the artists themselves to their fans. Fans will be happy to pay a premium for the used gears of the artists they follow.
Artist profile can be paid too. Basic profile is free to create. You can add, maybe upto 10 tracks. And to reduce your server bandwidth, stream those at lowres (low BPM encoded) for the free users. Subscribed users get hires versions. No artist wants to sound bad. That'll push many guys to be paid subscribers.
Would it be too cheesy or abusive to have showdowns? Puppyshowdown.com came up yesterday or the day before and had a good interface. What if you had musicians pick one or two of their songs to be used in head to head, this or that, contests. You could have a showdown each month then release a compilation album using the winning tracks. Revenue from the album would be shared with the musicians, you could get a small cut, and it would be a cool way for people to discover new music that has been filtered by their peers. This won't make a ton of money but it could be one little piece of the puzzle down the road.
There was a piece on NPR a few weeks ago about a classical music company that is doing very well releasing targeted albums on iTunes. They find out what people are searching for then compile their albums and choose relevant keyworded album titles. You could use your giant musician base to pump out indie albums to iTunes and other digital music catalogs. The albums could also be crowdsorted. You research and pick an album topic and title then set up a contest, the users crowdsort relevant tracks, you compile and release the digital album.
I don't know how you want to interact with other platforms but you could push updates to FB and the like "I just voted for X to be included on the upcoming album Y via Fandalism"
You could also make an app out of this functionality and people could listen to tracks and vote head to head or even just thumbs up or thumbs down pandora style. Everyone who was listening and voting would be sorting music for you.
I like to find new music but it takes a ton of effort to sort through totally unknown artists. Make it social and fun and empower sorters to contribute to a project (the albums).
"Help build the next great indie album @Fandalism"
Sorry for rambling but you just went from a music sharing site to an independent music label in 5 minutes.
I would try and use a couple of methods. Firstly highly targeted ads are pretty much a no brainer. Look at ultimate-guitar.com - they are constantly pushing video lessons etc.
Use the data you have and display the most relevant ads possible a la Facebook.
Secondly, I would consider a low cost premium model. Most musicians are desperate to promote themselves so a few dollars a month to get in front of nearly half a million viewers is good value.
You might find many people are looking for band mates as well, a premium model could make this process easier for them and I think would be well worth a few dollars. With half a million users you don't need to get many premium subscribers to earn a decent living from this.
Finally, I would try and contact some advertisers and maybe even record labels or something directly and see if they have any suggestions. They likely have more experience and will probably bite at your ankles to get some exposure on such a targeted network.
Bottom line, try multiple revenue streams and test, test test!
A lot of nice, practical suggestions here. Let me add one on more abstract level. But first congratulations on achieving hard thing - building two-sided market (http://cdixon.org/2010/10/16/the-ladies-night-strategy/). I think that in that situation you need to check which side benefits more from your site - and that's the one to get charged. And that's something what can be (and should be) tested - for example by this one-question technique "How would you feel if Fandalism was shut down tommorrow?" (can't find the proper link right now). The other thing to identify/verify is what actual problem does your site solve for the people and what additional value related to this problem they would appreciate (and pay for). You have quite big userbase so you don't need your own ideas anymore. Just ask people (as some people already stated here).
Musicians typically don't have a lot of money, so I wouldn't introduce premium features.
You do have a very niche market, so targeted advertising should work nicely.
That said, you know your market best. Your question is a bit like asking us what kind of pants you should buy. How the heck should we know? If you've got a fat butt, go with cargo pants. You know best.
You could follow the Dribbble model, and offer "Pro" accounts where artists could list themselves as available for hire. For bands that don't want to be hired, but just want to let their fans know where they'll be performing, give them access to MailChimp-like features to send email-blasts to their fans.
Figure out the music industry and find your place in it.
There should be more than a handful of possible buyers.
Don't forget the value of the data you sit on / will be sitting on. It might feed up to managers/labels etc. Especially talk to the guys from BigChampagne about that.
Go talk to Ian Rogers from Topspin (although I'm not sure if he has a competing product), Eric Garland from LiveNation/BigChampagne, Matt Sandler from Chromatik .. find someone that can navigate you through the industry.
Who's on your platform more? Fans or Bands? Both groups can be catered to. Figure out which one holds more value.
Make it easy for artists to sell music. And try to find people who have enough from mainstream music and want to support local/smaller bands/artists. Take transaction fees?
Hooking up smaller venues with talent?
Let me know if you need an intro to someone..
Music tech should be fun :)
I've made some suggestions for monetization below, but I also have a suggestion for improving user engagement and stickiness:
Have a ranking system page for the most popular artists. It can be based on both views or a more explicit voting system by other artist peers. One of the first things I looked for was a popular tab.
Also, by having such a ranking system you can identify who are the most influential users on the site, and do all sorts of other projects with them to further increase site engagement.
You even have the potential to either start your own record label or feed other record labels with up-and-coming artists. You'd have perhaps the best metrics-based system to find who the next great superstar musician will be; Even more so than Youtube as you'll be using a system of fellow musicians to determine talent/popularity.
It strikes me that musicians are like computer geeks, in that they often have a fair bit of expensive kit lying around and there is a fair bit of tech involved in making and recording good music.
So if in addition to showcasing the music, you also let the musicians talk about how they make it, you would both foster interesting conversations about the technicalities of the music and the tools used. That in turn is a perfect place for a marketplace for musicians to connect and buy/sell second-hand items - and a very valuable spot for companies to advertise gear to interested buyers or an opportunity to charge the site's members themselves for posting ads.
Also, finding session musicians who can stand in or help with a recording session may be another reason members might want to advertise to each other.
I'm not a musician, but I have some friends who dabble with music. I've seen them hunt for guitar tabs online to learn new songs, and it always looks like a sad night of romance with Notepad. Is there a better system for sharing tabs than a basic text file?
Either way, how about a more elegant system of recording tabs that can also be sync'd to streaming tracks (like SoundCloud, except with scrolling tabs instead of the spectrum graph) or sync'd to YouTube videos.
All this talk of monetizing and better user connections is great, but what about better technical tools that make the actual creation of music easier? Build a garage of well-loved tools and they'll finish the rest of the house for you.
Firstly, Congrats. Around half a million users in three months is a great achievement.
But as for 'now what?': I noticed that there is nothing in your list that I would state as being a direct win/win. Almost every item on your list seems like a distraction (yes, a distraction that will get you the really important money).
The exception is your suggestion of 'premium features'. But, if not done correctly, you start competing with yourself - and your free users might start to resent you. Instead, what if you focused on one or more features that are:
(a) free but bring you revenue - like helping users sell albums (and taking a small cut).
(b) require payment because of some limitations - like showcasing a users profile for a day.
I think this is the best idea so far. It's clear that the ethos of the site is about musicians supporting and learning from each other. At this scale, voluntary contributions would easily make the thing self-sustaining, and it would help keep the focus on the community.
If I were in that position, I'd try to participate in advertising scheme for concert tickets for the very same artists whose pages you visit. That's something that could even add value for the visitors.
What say the musicians? What are their pain points? And really focus on disruptive, as that is where the ripest of opportunities remain.
Just don't try to be the ______ (Craigslist/Facebook/Pinterest/HotOrNot) for musicians because _____ is probably sufficient, if not better for the simple reason that it's already being utilized and substitution is unlikely to be the droid that you are looking for.
Though I'm not a musician myself, you've really piqued my interest and I'm going to go poll my surprisingly large collection of musician friends and acquaintances...
@khangtoh - American Idol online - Isn't that just Ourstage? won't fandalism already capture this with the "props" feature that already exists on the site?
@mladenkovacevic- Re: A Discovery engine for Musicians to find one another and "jam" over the internet - +1 Others have pitched this, but not with @pud 's vibrant user base. As far as monetization worries, a cool tool of this kind is just as much a sound business model as any site fueled by display ads. Here's why in my opinion...at this stage in the development of the consumer web every product's success is a function of its ability to capture the waking hours of the consumers' disposable leisure time (this isn't the 90s when every web site was supposed to have the same business model as the new york times). Consider this assumption. Musicians spend a lot of time playing music alone and with each other, possibly more than instagramers spend taking pictures. Ultimately, especially if the bull market for venture backed companies continues, someone will create a way to capture these disposable leisure hours from the wide user base of musicians. but @pud it would be a lot easier with half a million users...
Mic Quality Problem
a) A fair point, but its worth considering the fact that most musicians would cede a high quality mic for the ability to interact with one another. Also, lets not forget that the barriers to entry for a powerful microphone have come down considerably in the last ten years. Today, a Blue Snowball (<$100 used maybe new) will compete with microphones that were well above its price range ten years ago.
Also check out the iRig. The possibilities are endless and could tie back into the mobile platform @cruso (building a quick mobile app) and the online @mladenkovacevic jam session idea.
P.s. its interesting that crusso's was the only post that mentioned mobile
b) key problem that every video chat service has been able to overcome, and if we can't solve it now we will be able to solve it shortly as bandwidth improves...
Thanks for the opening up the dialogue pud. This is an exciting space. Excited to see where people take this, but you have a one up with your years of experience and rock solid user base (don't leave them hanging!) :)
P.S. ur servers were down temporarily last night ;)
Remember the old adage, if you're on a site and you can't figure out what the product is, the product is probably you.
I would start polling your users to find out what they find valuable about your site, what they would like to see, and what features they would be willing to pay for. Why ask the lot of us who don't have a stake in your success?
Your users will vote with their dollar, or their logins, and will have the most powerful opinions of what paid features will be most valuable to them.
Best of luck, musicians are a hard lot to monetize.
Could you facilitate IRL meetings like Meetup? I.e a Jam-up? Sometimes I just want to hook up with someone in my area, but I'm too lazy to make it happen. A few local ambassadors could probably do a lot to get that going.
I was talking to a musician friend of mine about a website I plan on building and he mentioned a hip-hop centered site that made a mix-tape track everyday. The artists on the site paid for a slot on the mix-tape and it was available for anyone to download for free. I think it would be cool to have a few mix-tapes, separated by different genres, maybe once a week. I'd probably even pay to get a mix of all new artists every week.
A while back someone posted a "digital busking" project he made for his father, a musician. Maybe give fans a way to throw a few coins into their favorite artist's digital guitar case? You sell the coins, artists can then use them to buy promoted listings and such on your site.
(if anyone can find a link to the Show HN post I'm referring to, I'd appreciate it... something about mp3busking I think)
Just like all those "indie game and app bundle" sites, but you source the goodies from your musical userbase. It could be anything, but enough to be of "value" for say 10 bucks, or $25, or $50 or whatever, i.e. 10 mp3s, 2 cds, 1 t-shirt, 25 stickers -- whatever, just start small and built it up in future bundle "events".
Making a Pandora like music player to discover new music from profiles on your site? You can throw ads all over that, and maybe charge a couple of bucks? Plus have musician eCommerce so people can buy stuff they like.
So I say I like "Nirvana" and your player matches me to undiscovered artists that are similar? I LOVE discovering new music.
I like this idea. People probably have never heard of the artists on your site, but I'm sure there is some incredible talent there already. If you could create a service for listeners, I think you could attract a lot of music fans. And hipsters.
People expect to hear ads in radio streams, as they have been conditioned by Pandora, Spotify, etc.
thanks for posting this - i actually had a similar start with my start up, artmeme. after hearing "expensive hobby" to "business hobby" i can relate. took me over 2 years to find out what the art community needed. this all through the on and off line community i built. get a newsletter going if you dont have one already. i'd love to hear how i can improve and generate some cash flow. i think you got the concept there - just continuing to build the community - you'll figure out what's needed after surveying musicians to see what's lacking in their community. this might be a good udemy for musicians down the road...i also praise you for reaching out and getting feedback. not many people can put their pride down for a second. would love to hear where you end up going with it. good luck!
You could become a music publisher! Allow the artists to sell their songs for ~.5 usd and you take 10% of that. I know everyone of them would be very glad if someone paid anything for their music, and it would help pay for the site (and make you a millionaire, who knows!)
A music selling platform sounds like a pretty good idea for this I'd say. It could be a one stop shop for searching for music, interacting with artists, and buying music. Might be interesting. Take some notes from Myspace Music, Bandcamp, and Ultimate-Guitar.
Check out http://headliner.fm. Marketplace for musicians to promote each other and grow their respective fan bases through social media. Seems like a win-win for both of you and you'll gain a revenue model.
I would also apply to a start up hosting program. Many hosting companies offer big discounts or even free hosting in exchange for a "powered by" on the bottom of site. Not going to solve your problem but at least reduce monthly cost.
Starting at 10c CPM, if every user viewed one ad... $405, most sites have 3 ads per page so $1200 if every user logged in during one day.
Better targeting and click through can get that CPM up, most places I know of managed a consistent 40c through automation, through sales teams $20 is achievable (big diff between google and agencies huh).
Now the real trick is how many pages does each user view per visit, and the daily visitor rate. Going off a user visit per month and 3 page visit. (((((400,000 users) * 3 ads)* 3 pages)/1000 cpm) * 40c) = $1440 from basic impressions without including click throughs and targeted spends...
Not much for a month unless you are in an area where the bidding is high like travel, I've seen travel ads going through at $20CPM, at $20CPM the above calculation is $72k.
So a huge range in profits, I would assume music sales would be a highly bid on thing, so maybe $30-50k a month ?
Given the huge size of fandalism, Phil would probably be better of hiring an investment banker or business broker to sell the it (not that it's his goal here)... Flippa's specialty is under $250K, once you start approaching 7-figures, the transaction gets more complex, the buyers get bigger, and it makes sense to have a professional involved.
It may be poor advice but it is an option nevertheless. pud asked for what to do next and selling the site is a potential road to take. I'm disappointed that some people have down voted this to death. I am following the rules of the site. I feel bullied after expressing an opinion.
I believe downvoting is only available to users with high karma. This makes me believe that downvoting is meant to fight misbehavior. Unfortunately there is no way to report misbehavior of downvoting. If you already have high karma you have a conflict of interest in reporting downvoting misbehavior.
I believe a taboo has slowly been growing among the entrepreneur community regarding selling startup businesses. I think it started with Mark Z. turning down offers from major tech players and it has continued with Dropbox turning down an acquisition from Apple.
I am not taking sides on whether entrepreneurs should sell their companies. But I think there is a problem when bringing up the subject is frowned upon on. I am unsure whether this is a problem with Hacker News' moderation system or it really is a taboo.