Headliner.fm + SoundCloud = artists reaching new fans

Social media may work better for musicians when they ask other artists to recommend their music. CNET talks with Headliner.fm founder Mike More at the MusicTech Summit in S.F.

Boonsri Dickinson
Boonsri Dickinson is a multimedia journalist who covers science, technology, and start-ups. She is a contributing editor at CBS SmartPlanet, and her work has appeared in Wired, New Scientist, Technology Review, and Discover magazine. E-mail Boonsri.
Boonsri Dickinson
3 min read

JSmooth tells his Twitter followers to listen to T-Pain's new song, in a new kind of marketing service available through Headliner.fm. Headliner.fm

American rock singer Rob Thomas needed a new way to promote his single, "Someday." His agent, Nick Lippman, used Headliner.fm to promote a campaign around the new song. Headliner.fm gives artists like Thomas a way to connect with other musicians, and gives those other musicians an incentive to recommend new music to their own fans.

Lippman, a vice president at Lippman Entertainment, said Thomas' fans were asked to create a cover image for the single, with the winner's design being chosen. "The contest was a success. We used it to target people who would be interested, because we knew hip-hop guys weren't going to care about his single," Lippman told CNET.

Headliner.fm can be used to help new bands find and book similar unknown, rising stars. Lippman said he uses reports from Headliner.fm to see which bands are talking about one of his up-and-coming bands, New Kingdom. "Finding similar acts that dig New Kingdom outside of their hometown helps us book tours with them," he said.

"If you ask another artist to market for you, it's much more powerful than when the recommendation comes from a fan."
--Mike More, Headliner.fm founder

New Kingdom and Rob Thomas are two of the 78,000 artists using Headliner.fm's service. Headliner.fm's founder, Mike More, says the service is based on musician recommendations: "If you ask another artist to market for you, it's much more powerful than when the recommendation comes from a fan."

I spoke to More on Monday at the MusicTech Summit in San Francisco, where it seemed the tension between old-school music industry folks and digital media geeks softened. Even though many artists use Facebook fan pages and Twitter for their social-media presence, there's still a lot of noise to sort through, for musicians and listeners. Who has time to watch every tweet sent out by Rob Thomas? Existing social-media tools are also limited by the number of fans the artist has. Headliner.fm expands the social network to fans of other artists.

Last week, Headliner.fm partnered with SoundCloud, a start-up that allows artists to upload and share their music. For instance, a band can ask fellow artists to send out messages that link to an iTunes song download page, promote free songs to download, or steer new fans to their YouTube and Facebook pages.

When an artist composes a message on Headliner.fm, such as "it's been a long night in the studio, check my new song," they can also upload their new song onto SoundCloud and provide a link to the song. The artist then sends out a request to other musicians, and when others accept, the requested message goes out to all that artist's social-media networks of choice, including Twitter and Facebook, so fans can hear the new song.

The recommendation style of marketing on Headliner.fm mimics what really happens when artists go on tour, More said, by providing artists with a way to virtually expose their fans to music they like.

Having an incentive to return the favor is key. Headliner.fm rewards the artists who recommend songs and artists by paying them with a virtual currency called "band bucks." The service is free but uses band bucks to give artists a reason to share messages with their fans: You become richer when you help more artists out. And the bucks might encourage more robust networks of contacts: If you have a thousand Twitter followers, for example, you can earn a thousand band bucks, and each time you agree to share an artist's message with your fans, you earn a thousand more bucks for your generosity.

The band bucks can be used for various promotions. And in addition to earning them by spreading the word for colleagues, artists can buy them a la carte or pay $30 a month for a subscription. "When an artist subscribes to our pro account, they get better targeting features, like the ability to send promotions to local fans as well as 350,000 band bucks each month," More said. This is useful if artists have a campaign they really want to push in a short amount of time.

Without a system like this, many bands would have to curry the respect and favor of more popular musicians the old-fashioned way. And today, who has time for that?