A Post-MySpace World In Search of Music's Best Online Outlet

A Post-MySpace World In Search of Music's Best Online Outlet
In 2006, MySpace was reportedly the most popular website in the U.S. Not the most popular social networking site – the most popular overall. Of course, music had a lot to do with that, but now it seems that MySpace (which can hardly be called a social networking site anymore) could be on its way out. Some say it's because of spam, others because of the overly-complex and buggy layout. Millions of bands having to redo their pages when they updated to 3.0 didn't help things either.

In its heyday, Myspace was good for two things: social networking to build fans, and having a profile to showcase your band. Facebook and Twitter have the social networking side taken care of, but as for profile sites, there are lots of alternatives.

Here are four of the more popular options, with pros and cons for each.

A relative newcomer, Bandcamp allows you to upload your tracks, arrange them by album, and offer streaming and downloading to users.

The Pros: The biggest advantage is the ability to download tracks directly from the site, so there's no need to link out to iTunes or CD Baby. The download options are flexible, too: free download, free download for email address, set price downloads, name-your-price downloads, and more. The site has a great layout. Controls are easy to use, downloading is simple, and social media sharing options are attached to each track. You can also upload a custom header and album artwork to keep your branding consistent.

The Cons: Artists can only upload lossless audio files (wav, aiff, flac, etc.), meaning it won't accept MP3s. Bandcamp then offers download options in various formats, which the user specifies. This is actually a good thing, offering flexibility and quality, but to artists who aren't technologically savvy, this could be a hurdle. Bandcamp is an online store first and a promotional tool second. It's a great way to showcase your music, but there's not much room to put information about the band itself. Show listings, videos, etc. aren't part of the design structure.

Reverbnation has a huge database of artists. Much more than a simple profile site, it provides lots of tools for musicians to promote and manage their career.

The Pros: Reverbnation promotes itself as having tools, and boy does it ever. You can add pretty much anything you can think of to your profile, including music (of course), gigs, videos, tweets, and a whole slew of widgets. The control panel lets you add a store to sell physical media, downloads, merch, and more. You can even design merch to be sold on-demand, much like cafepress.com. The site is really set up well to manage and help grow your fan base. Visitors can become fans right on the site (signup required), and the control panel captures some amazing analytics. You can even have Reverbnation calculate your total number of fans and plays, including those from Facebook and MySpace.

The Cons: No question, its biggest downfall is clutter. With so many tools, widgets and gizmos, it's hard not to be overwhelmed and confused. This hurt MySpace, and Reverbnation should be careful to not follow in their footsteps. You also can't offer downloads for free, a potential deal-breaker for some bands.

The most social of all of them, Soundcloud is another favourite. With its signature "waveform" look and feel, it's definitely a unique way to promote and share your music online.

The Pros: The social aspect of Soundcloud is incredible. You can upload your own music, sure, but you can also follow other musicians, comment on their tracks, "like" their selections, add favourites, and more. Tracks are also easily embeddable virtually anywhere. Adding it to your blog, your Facebook page, or your website is a snap. The most unique feature on Soundcloud allows people to comment not just on the song, but a specific part of a song. "Love this riff," "The drums sound great here," etc. Great for getting feedback on what your fans love about your music.

The Cons: Soundcloud is great for uploading and sharing, but the profile element leaves something to be desired. You can add a description and link to other sites, but the focus is clearly on the tracks themselves. Great for sharing, not so great for branding. Because of the waveform view and the highly integrated social media, Soundcloud looks so different that it can be intimidating. Technically savvy folks will feel immersed, but un-savvy folks will feel lost.

There are a number of apps that let you to create a music tab on your Facebook fan page, such as BandPages by RootMusic and Band Profile by Reverbnation. MySpace has also taken a huge step by creating their own app for Facebook.

The Pros: It lives on Facebook, so most of your fans are already there. It's easy to set up, especially if you already have an account on Reverbnation or MySpace.

The Cons: It lives on Facebook, so they have control. Facebook like to change things, so if they decide they don't like the way an app is set up or it violates their terms of service, they'll switch it off and you're back to square one. You can brand the tab itself, but it still sits within the Facebook profile page, meaning users won't feel immersed in your look and feel the same way they would with other services. There are no built-in commerce options.

Finally, don't forget that the best profile site is probably one that you build yourself. A custom website is owned, designed, and controlled by you, so don't overlook this as an essential part of the equation.

Scott Honsberger is a consultant and founder of music industry advice blog Your Band's Best Friend.