Marketing Music On The Internet
by Angela Pancella
Website Review: www.thenylons.com
he definition for today, class, is "narrowcasting." And it is today's definition because only today, in the modern world, have we become so obsessed with finding our niche, expressing our individuality, marching to the beat of a different drummer.
That's right: the Internet.
Now, as a marketing tool, narrowcasting is not for everyone; therefore, neither is the Internet. It can, however, be used to great benefit by those who have a specific target audience in mind. That's why music is well represented on the World Wide Web. So many solid, talented groups out there have enthusiastic fans, but they don't get press in Rolling Stone and their records don't sit on top of the pop charts. What do they do? If they're smart, they'll eliminate the mass media middlemen. They'll run a website.
The Nylons, the Toronto-based vocal quartet, are smart. Here's a band entering their twentieth year of performing together, a band with eleven albums to their credit, a tight, bursting-with-talent bunch of guys with fans all over—in Canada, the U.S., the Netherlands, Japan, Australia—all over. Now, if they took a strictly broadcast approach when marketing themselves (by, say, taking out ads in magazines or lining up interviews), they'd expend a lot of effort and cash and probably not see much return. With their website, conveniently located at www.thenylons.com, they can talk to their fans directly, albeit only their computer-literate ones, and without the expense of a major advertising campaign.
Many bands have websites run by their record companies. These sites are official, but often they're rather soulless. Fan-run sites have more energy, but they lack the "official" stamp and can get shut down for copyright infringements by grumpy record companies. The Nylons have what may be the best of both worlds—an official site run by a fan—and, like all the best things, it happened by accident. "The first website I created for The Nylons was done without their permission," says Gary Deroo, creator and maintainer of www.thenylons.com. "I had recently obtained an Internet connection and, with it, some space for a website. I was surprised to find that there was very little info about [The Nylons] on the Internet. I thought it was the perfect subject for my website."
Deroo posted messages on the newsgroup rec.music.a-cappella to advertise the site. Jim Frewen, a fan who was in contact with The Nylons and their manager, Andrew Turner, emailed Deroo, encouraging him to try to get The Nylons' seal of approval on his site. Then Andrew Turner himself wrote to Deroo. "I suspected I was going to be told to take the site down for copyright reasons," he says. "Instead, Andrew and I agreed to meet in Toronto at his office and we made the site 'Official'. The rest is 'a little Nylons history'."
The Nylons' website has bios of the band members, pictures and audio samples of songs. All that is standard practice on band sites. But, true to the power-to-the-people Internet ethos, the most popular page is the Discussion Group, a public bulletin board where fans can voice opinions on all things Nylon. It's here where one can judge the effectiveness of the website's approach most effectively—by talking with visiting fans. Point one in The Nylons' favour—fans visit often. "[I go there] almost every day," says Geoff, who says he's liked The Nylons since he was six. "There's always something new and exciting to talk about and an upcoming concert or TV appearance to know about…If you don't [visit], you'll miss key appearances or chances to interact with them."
The interactivity of the site is appealing to many visitors, who can read a tour log kept by members of the band themselves or see posts on the Discussion Group from Arnold, Claude, Garth and Mark, who comprise the current lineup. Deroo says it took some persuading to get The Nylons into cyberspace, but now they see for themselves that "E-mail has made communication of material and information much more convenient." Fans are happy to see the group participating, and they want to see more of it. Geoff says, "I would also like to see more on the road stories posted by the guys and a place where we could send e-mail and get a response."
Nylons fans can be an opinionated bunch—that's something other bands should keep in mind if they are considering launching a website, especially one that allows so much fan participation. Karen, another frequent Discussion Group poster, says weaknesses to the site include
"[The official part] says, 'This is what we want you to feel about The Nylons,' and then you walk inside to the part where you see how people really feel and you see this range of colors that's very different. It can be a bit of a surprise."
Paolo's presence in the Discussion Group is a prime example of the good that can come out of a narrowcast, Internet approach to advertising. He is a nephew of Marc Connors, a longtime Nylon who died in 1991. He wanted to find out if other people were still talking about the contribution Connors made to the group. Not knowing whether or not there was a website dedicated to The Nylons, he says he "put in a little search on the search engines and it turned up a few things…The Nylons' website was the first thing I checked out. Through there I found the Discussion Group, where there were so many people saying such wonderful things about Marc. It was really touching."
A narrowcast approach makes it difficult for those who are not yet fans to discover groups like The Nylons, which is why it should be balanced with other, more general publicity. But it rewards those who are already fans with information about, and a sense of connection to, their favorite groups—which helps them stay loyal. The Nylons' website made all the difference in Paolo's quest for information on his uncle. "The Internet opens up this kind of research that at one time was incredibly difficult. It allows you to simply point and click and find your way to what's important to you."
Fans without personal connections to The Nylons agree the site has been beneficial to them as well. Friendships have formed among frequent visitors to the Discussion Group. Nylons memorabilia has been shared and traded between friends, and the possibility of meeting in person at concrts has been discussed. One frequent visitor, Elaine, when asked what she liked about www.thenylons.com, summed up the dominant feeling well. "I really enjoy reading the discussion group and joining in when I have something to add. I also enjoy the up-to-date tour info, messages from the guys themselves.
"I guess I like everything about the website."
Angela Pancella was Canadian in a previous life. Now she is a freelance writer living in St. Louis, Missouri.
visit the Marc Connors memorial: http://users.accessus.net/~anjelle/connors.html
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