Direct-to-Fan (D2F) marketing is essentially creating a relationship with your fans through a marketing outlet, fans help you and in return you help them. D2F marketing is a creative business model that allows artists to eliminate the need for a middle man by delivering music directly to fans. Which means, artists keep a higher percentage of their own sales, compared to the current business model where major labels, distributors or even iTunes take 30% or more away from the artist! D2F is most easily identified by free content give-aways in exchange for a tweet, Facebook shout-out, or e-mail sign up, reference MattCosta.com.
However, D2F marketing is evolving to include custom storefronts and marketing analytics that enable you to better grasp your audience and sell directly from your website and various social profiles. After researching the following sites; Bandbox, Nimbit and Topspin, I have outlined a detailed explanation of the costs, benefits, similarities, and differences between each platform.
What is Bandbox?
Bandbox is a widget that you embed on your blog, website, and/or social profile that enables fans to directly purchase digital downloads, order full CD’s, and other merch bundles without having to navigate them away from your website or social profile.
Free to sign up and no monthly cost. As long as you make over the $10 minimum, Bandbox pays you through direct deposit every 30-days. So, what’s in it for Bandbox, you ask? Bandbox only takes 10% when you sell physical products (CD’s and other merchandise). Even though it sounds like the upside is digital sales, the credit card companies will take 10 cents for every $1 download, so either way the artist is reaping 90% of both digital and physical sales.
Why it’s cool?
It’s free and it’s right there! The fan doesn’t have to go looking for your songs on an online store or separate download application. Which is why Bandbox is great for independent and up-and-coming artists. This platform also enables you to set your own price for songs and physical products, which means each artist controls their own store.
In addition, Bandbox also gives you access to consumer data (e-mail and shipping address) to see who is buying your songs. This information is great for geo-targeting fans later on down the line.
What is Topspin?
The Topspin D2F platform consists of three components; a retail channel on social sites, blogs and websites, promotional widgets that drive and track traffic, and campaign management through integrated Google Analytics E-commerce reporting.
The embedded shopping cart enables you to sell customized merchandise and product bundles, where you are able to set your own prices and promotional agendas. Topspin is one of the few platforms that advocates a fan/customer support system.
No monthly or yearly cost, Topspin only makes money when you do. They take a percentage of your earnings that range from 5-20%. They take the highest percentage (20%) from sales at the beginning of the campaign, and gradually take less based on the more money you make.
Why it’s cool?
Topspin is the only site that accepts international currencies and allows you to fulfill physical product shipments from any warehouse in the world. Topspin provides detailed information about each fan, which allows you to track specific fan behavior profiles.
The Topspin Knowledgebase is a great way to learn the basics of direct-to-fan marketing and how using their product can benefit both you and your audience. They did an excellent job at providing a user-friendly resource to go to with any questions or concerns, check it out here.
What is Nimbit?
The Nimbit D2F platform is comprised of three parts, Marketing, Direct Sales, and Business Management. Managed all from one Nimbit dashboard. Nimbit does not choose to utilize a marketing widget like the other two platforms, instead they capture fans through e-mail lists and sign-ups, in a customized store front that matches the skinning on your site or social profile.
Every time someone downloads a free track or purchases anything from your site, they automatically get added to your e-mail list. Which allows the artist to see what each fan is purchasing, where they are purchasing from and gives you a means to contact them, in order to sustain that reciprocal relationship between artist and fan. Nimbit also utilizes very detailed analytics, click thoughts and geo-targeting features, that enable you to easily segment and customize your marketing campaign. Features include a fan list manager, content manager, campaign manager, message editor and custom search windows.
On the storefront, every Nimbit account includes digital and physical fulfillment, which means you don’t have to worry about shipping anything out to anyone, anywhere. Other features include nimbitskin, (allows for the customization of the retail store), Mystore and nimbitOMT (a channel to embed across your social profits).
$19.95 per month or $199 per year, which is the only option if you want to manage multiple artists form one account ($3 per additional artist). There is however a free option with limited features; Mystore, NimbitOMT storefront, and eCommerce. Nimbit pays out 80% of retail sales and 90% of eTicket sales on their storefronts. Artist payouts are monthly by check or Paypal.
Why it’s cool?
It’s totally easy and user-friendly. Catalog and content management allows you to submit content once into the Nimbit dashboard and you can instantly add it across all of your social networks, blog, calendar and website, (I’m still uncertain about how this works for tour dates). But, it does provide the fans the opportunity to instantly buy tickets from you website or social profile.
People who don’t know how to write professional messages to send out in an e-blast can choose from a template and fill in the blank with a promo code to get free tracks. It tracks each fan’s activity for you, which allows you to foster a better relationship with the “super fans.”
Nimbit provides a means to capture fans as soon as they purchase a digital download or any other product from your customized storefront. This site also integrates text messaging into their marketing campaigns more so then any other site, which is definitely the next step in social media.
In summary, Bandbox is a widget that you embed into your social profile or website, it provides you with basic fan information (e-mail and zip code), and is the most cost efficient. Topspin is not entirely free, but it is affordable. Their features include marketing campaigns using embedded widgets, your own retail channel and detailed analytics that identify revenue sources and traffic on each of your sites.
Nimbit is the most expensive, but it does the most for you. My concern is that because Nimbit sounds more like a program and less like a widget, it may potentially have more operating problems. However, as a social marketer, I feel managing multiple sites and social networks from one user-friendly dashboard is going to be a popular trend in the near future.
Both Nimbit and Topspin provide a platform that tracks fan purchases and behavior on the site, such as click-through rates. Likewise, both sites also provide targeted and custom e-mail blasts to fans with special promotional content. Overall sites that offer these analytics provide you with more detailed information regarding your fanbase, which will allow you to better understand and segment your market.
Most bang for your buck: Nimbit
Small to medium size artists on small to medium size budgets: Bandbox
Large artists (larger budget and pre-established fanbase): TopSpin