The third installment of ASCAP’s DIY “U” took place in the performing rights organization’s conference room Aug. 16. The DIY series is designed to introduce members to various technology companies and this edition featured the Topspin direct-to-fan platform and Topspin Sr. Director of Artist Services Nashville, Wayne Leeloy.
Topspin has many layers of tools and ways to obtain and analyze data. Looked at simply, it is the next step for an artist who has already begun to engage fans on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but wants to gather more individual information about those fans, for example an email address. It is one thing to have a Friend, Follower or Like, but another level of trust entirely when a fan feels secure enough to give you his or her email address which then allows you to contact them when you want to do so.
According to Leeloy, who began his Nashville career working for Ticketmaster, Topspin was a closed platform until last March but has rapidly expanded to over 12,000 members. “It can be harnessed for music, books, film and more,” said Leeloy. “Anything where the goal is to build community around a brand. It’s a platform for creating and managing a retail channel including an artist store, plus a sophisticated toolset to help acquire new fans and analyze data.” Artists currently using Topspin range from Paul McCartney to Nashville’s Jim Lauderdale.
Some of the kinds of available tools include a series of flexible widgets that allow artists to offer free content, fan club memberships, tickets or contests in exchange for email acquisition. The widgets retain full functionality when shared on social networks and third party websites. So, for example, a widget can be shared in someone’s Facebook stream and others can discover and interact with its functionality. A second key feature of the platform is its robust data dashboard where the fan list is kept and analyzed. Artists are able to filter the list and sort by zip code and distance parameters. Emails are ranked in terms of influence, engagement and other interests. The list can also be downloaded for use with email programs such as Mailchimp, for example.
One ASCAP member noted that while the platform seemed “amazing,” the learning curve for best leveraging its power can be challenging. “Think Pro Tools, and what that did for recording,” said Leeloy. “It takes some time to master, but it’s worth it.” The Topspin website has a series of educational features and videos to help artists move through the process. Also Berklee College of Music’s online school has a 12-week course given four times a year designed to provide “deep insight into the strategies, skills and tools required to market your business online as well as the tactical training you need to become a Topspin pro.”
Sharing, awareness, viral engagement and data acquisition systems like the Topspin platform aren’t just terms or concepts for tomorrow’s music industry, serious careers are already immersed in them.