In April 2013, I published the following review about ReverbNation for Artists, on my now-defunct Amber Music Express website.
I plan to write a new review this year, so I’m re-publishing this old article to enable a comparison of my 2013 and 2019 experiences.
It’s been just over six months since I signed up for an artist account on ReverbNation. So I thought it was about time for me to share my findings.
Rather than repeating all the marketing blurb listed on the ReverbNation website, I’ll give a brief summary of the main features, before giving a personal insight as to what it’s really like.
What Is It?
ReverbNation is a website that enables musicians and artists to upload, showcase and promote their material. Fans can stream, download or purchase music — depending on what options the artist has chosen. A nice touch is that artists can select some of their tracks to sell where 50% will go to one of a number of charities. (I chose Love Hope Strength.)
I opened a basic artist account, which allows you to upload 8MB of tracks free of charge. Alternatively, you can choose to pay $19.95/$41.67 per month for 100MB/200MB of space — for which you also get numerous extra promotional features.
You have the option to link your account to your own website, and to the various social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube etc. A number of Facebook apps are available. These effectively place the material you’ve put on ReverbNation on to your Facebook band page. You can also create widgets to place on other web sites, such as a music player or fan collector (where people can join your mailing list).
The user interface is generally quite good, although it can sometimes be slow, particularly on some mobile devices. There are fairly detailed statistics on plays and fans etc. It is easy for fans to share and like your tracks. You can send and receive messages, and make comments about other artists that will be displayed on their profile. Something they call FanReach lets you send mass emails to people on your mailing list. If you play live (which I don’t), it appears to have good facilities to help with finding gigs — but I’ve not tried it.
At the time of writing, the ReverbNation front page boasts “Home to Over 2.88 Million Musicians, Venues, Labels, and Industry Professionals”.
That’s probably about half a million more than when I joined, so it’s still growing quite fast.
Other account types are available for fans, venues, promoters, labels and management. But I’ve only tried the artist account.
After I joined and uploaded some tracks, it wasn’t long before I got some so-called “fans”. After the initial excitement had passed, it soon became clear that these were not real fans, but other artists who – like me – were there mainly to promote their own music.
It seems that you are expected (or in some cases, asked) to return the favour and “fan them back” – in other words, to become a fan of them too – regardless of what you think of their music. This presents you with a sort of ethical dilemma. Should you fan people back when you don’t like their music? Only you can decide the answer to that.
So why would people do this?
The short answer is – the charts. The ReverbNation website seems to make a big thing about having charts for every town and country in the world. To climb the charts, artists need to make their “Band Equity” value increase. And in order to do that, it’s necessary to keep getting more fans, more Facebook page likes, more song plays, more video views, more Twitter followers… you get the idea. It seems that there is some sort of secret algorithm that takes all these factors into account. And if things start to level off, then your chart position falls back again.
I fell for this idea of climbing the charts for the first few months, and worked like a hamster on a wheel. I actually got to number 1 locally, into the top 10 nationally, and into the top 100 globally for my genre. I don’t know what I expected to happen when I got there — but nothing did. Quite frankly, it didn’t really seem to matter, or make any difference to anything. Maybe if you get to number 1 in your country or the world, something amazing will happen. But I’m doubtful.
Family health problems meant that I had to stop for a while and turn my back on all my online activities. During that time, my chart position fell. I also reflected on what I’d been doing, and realised that I had to reassess my priorities. You see, since joining, I’d not written any new music at all. I’d spent what little free time I had every day managing my ReverbNation account and all the other social media sites etc.
If I was cynical about it, I would say that ReverbNation just consists of millions of unsigned artists all promoting their music to one another.
To be honest, I don’t think I’ve come across any real fans there yet — only other artists! Sometimes I think that the ultimate aim on ReverbNation is for everyone to be a fan of everyone else, which makes it all seem a bit pointless really. But that would be a little unfair.
Let me be honest here — few people would argue that some of the music on ReverbNation is not very good. I’ve also come across material that is very badly recorded or produced, although sometimes this doesn’t matter too much if the song is good enough. Fortunately, a lot of the music is quite good, or at least average — depending on your musical taste of course. And a small amount is exceptionally good — and truly deserves large-scale commercial success.
Listen Before Becoming A Fan
I always listen to other people’s music before fanning them back — maybe that’s why it seems to take up so much of my time. Sadly however, many artists don’t even bother to listen to a single one of my tracks before becoming fans!
How do I know? Well ReverbNation keeps track of fans and plays, and you have a count that shows the total number of plays. So if the count doesn’t increase — despite getting new fans — then it’s clear that your so-called new fans couldn’t be bothered to click play!
I’ve even had one artist fan me and send a comment, complimenting the vocals. What’s wrong with that? The track in question is an instrumental, with no vocals! To save their embarrassment, I didn’t publish the comment.
Artists that are doing well generally have a much higher play count than fan count. Unfortunately, the opposite happens to the counts when people become fans and don’t play your music – you can end up with more fans than song plays! (At the moment, I have more fans than plays — but at least the numbers are getting closer!)
In some respects, the total fan count is a bit misleading. I say this because people can be counted multiple times – the same single fan on MySpace, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube will count as four fans on your ReverbNation profile. So this can skew the numbers quite a bit. To see how well I’m doing (in terms of getting at least one play from every fan), I concentrate on comparing the number of plays with the number of ReverbNation fans, rather than the total number of fans.
I’ve come across some genuinely friendly artists that have given me helpful advice and left some great comments. Things like that can give you a much-needed boost, especially when you’re just getting started. At the other extreme, other people post comments that simply promote themselves – things like “come and check out my new tracks”. Maybe I’m not cut out for marketing, but I don’t think I would ever be that cheeky.
I’ve not paid for anything since joining ReverbNation. But they like to display occasional pop-ups and send emails offering free trials of their premium (paid-for) services, with the vague promise of getting more fans. Things like being interviewed or played on obscure radio stations, getting your music reviewed by a group of people, and advertising your band or tracks in various places. I can’t be sure, but I suspect many of these things might just mean getting more messages from artists that don’t ever listen to your music…
They also offer digital distribution — a way to get your music into 30 or more online music stores, such as iTunes and Amazon. However, if you don’t need that many different stores, cheaper options exist. I’m using DistroKid (previously part of Fandalism), which at the time of writing, is the cheapest way available.
Despite everything I’ve said above, ReverbNation can still be an important part of your online presence for music. And provided you are careful not to get too bogged down in responding to fan requests every day, and don’t get carried away with paying for extra optional features, it is worth trying.
Item Reviewed: ReverbNation for Artists
Price: Free (for the basic account as reviewed)
Original Review Date: 19 April 2013
Reviewer: Alan Edmonds
Update: As of 21 July 2013, I have deleted my account, after growing tired of being fanned by people who are not fans. I have not reduced my rating because I feel that, if you play live (which I don’t), it is still worth a try — it might work for you.
December 2014 — Here is a good article on ReverbNation at musiciansempowered.com
[Link is now broken and has been removed]
The main artist page
Part of the “dashboard”