I hear artists complain a lot about needing to use too many different online services. One for email, one for websites, etc… They wish all these features could be rolled up into one dashboard, but the reality is using different services is a very good thing. In fact, artists should seek out services with focused features, because companies that focus on one core thing produce the highest level of service and quality.

A common struggle that exists for entrepreneurs in the tech world is the impact on  adding more features vs. improving current ones. Once you build an application with successful core features, there is the overwhelming feeling you need to add stuff that makes it do more – especially when competition starts adding new functionality. But the best services don’t. The best companies make their core even stronger.

So, although inconvenient, my advice to artists is to figure out what functionality they will need and work with companies who specialize in those services. It’s a natural tendency to use the service that does the most, but the companies who have the largest quantity of separate features have sacrificed quality to get there. As they spread their financial and intellectual resources across too many initiatives, no one piece of functionality gets enough attention, and soon it’s just one big dashboard of a bunch of crappy features.

Just a few examples of companies who focus:

  • CD Baby is focused on being the best independent music marketplace. Almost every rising band sends their CD to be sold on CD Baby. CD Baby charges higher fees than a lot of similar services, but they have obsessed over helping indie artists sell music for over 10 years, and they are amazing at it.
  • TuneCore has become the defacto DIY digital distribution engine for independent musicians. It’s simple to use and focused. Even though CD Baby, who wins at physical, offers their own digital distribution, all the TuneCore staff does is work on getting music into more stores in more countries. Their core product is extremely powerful. They too have tried side projects like tour widgets, but that never took off because it wasn’t the focus.
  • Bandzoogle is an awesome artist website hosting service. They focus on this feature, and they do it better than anyone else. CD Baby has a website division with HostBaby, but their real business is CD Baby. Bandzoogle’s web product is better than HostBaby’s just because it’s the full focus of that company.
  • FanBridge is focused on email for artists. You won’t find an indie artist email product anywhere else as strong as theirs, because they focus on it. Bandzoogle, who I just said is awesome at websites, also does email. My guess is that FanBridge kicks Bandzoogle’s ass with email the way Bandzoogle kicks HostBaby’s ass with websites, because FanBridge spends 24/7 thinking about email. They obsess over it.
  • MobileRoadie and MobBase obsess over building apps for bands. It’s their focus. And they rock at it. Both companies have different business models, different approaches, and different customers, but both built amazing products for these customers. iLike released an app builder product last year as well, and it was wasn’t nearly as impressive. The design, customization, and functionality were all pale in comparison to what MobileRoadie and Mobbase built. For those companies, it was their obsession, while for iLike, it was a side-project.
  • Bandcamp is another great example. Artists LOVE this service, but Bandcamp doesn’t do that many things. They just built a media player with download, sharing, and sales capabilities. A lot of other services offer this too, but Bandcamp has obsessed over it for several years, and their product is amazing. It’s easy to use and highly effective. Other services that offer this feature haven’t executed it nearly as well.

So artists and managers, I know it’s not as convenient as you may prefer, but you will be much better off using 5 different services specializing in 5 different things rather than trying to find one service that tries to be everything for everyone.

When a company obsesses about solving one problem, users – in this case, artists – win.

Brenden is founder of ArtistData and current strategic development VP for Sonicbids. Follow him on Twitter: @bmull

Editor’s note: if you’d rather go for the all-out comprehensive approach, this video lists possibly all the online music tools out there… in four minutes! Enjoy…


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  1. Great article Brenden! Totally agree with your assessment of Hostbaby vs. Bandzoogle, and Bandzoogle vs. Fan Bridge, nice examples.

    I realize this is a little ironic to be asking you this question, but do you think Sonicbids might be in danger of trying to do too much, i.e. through their partnership with Zazzle, or ahem, acquisition of ArtistData?



    • Brenden Mulligan on


      Thanks for the comment, and great question.

      Sonicbids is focused on helping bands play live music. That’s their focus. They’ve always been the best place to find and apply to new opportunities. That’s part of the live music lifecycle. With ArtistData, they are just extending that to when an artist gets a gig, they will help the band promote it. In my opinion, ArtistData is in line with their previous focus, which is why I dont think it’s them trying to do too much.

      In the post I am speaking mostly of companies building too many features. Partnering for other features isn’t as much of a concern. If Sonicbids was to try to build online merch stores for bands in house, it would be a complete mistake. But recommending Zazzle as a place to do that doesn’t take our focus off our main core.

      Hope that helps!


  2. “you will be much better off using 5 different services specializing in 5 different things rather than trying to find one service that tries to be everything for everyone.”

    says the guy who runs Artist Data…the site that tries to do it all.

    The weird part is I agree with him…so what does that say about Artist Data?

    • Brenden Mulligan on


      There might be a misunderstanding, but ArtistData is a service that primarily sends data to a bunch of other sites. We dont really “do it all” .. In fact, ArtistData does very little beyond data management. The few times we’ve tried to go outside that core, the whole product has suffered. But we’ve tried to stay with the focus of not “doing it all” but “synchronizing to all”


      • Brendan,

        My apologies for the abrasiveness of my comment. A lesson in itself about reactionary commenting.

        Let me clarify.

        I think that “synchronizing to all” is the perfect way to sum up AD, if that’s all it did.

        From the Artist Data Tools site:

        Profile Sync
        Show Submission
        Artist Data Page
        Direct Linking
        Concert Posters
        Alert Local Media
        Tour Documents
        Basic iCal Feed
        Multiple Users
        Data Feeds
        Calendar Widget
        Headlines Feeds
        Feed Importers
        iCal Plus
        Priority Support
        Show List Exporter

        Most of these, as you said “primarily sends data to a bunch of other sites” but there are also Widgets – Calendar Widget, PR – Alert Local Media, planning organizing tools with the Tour Documents.

        These are great features but broaden the focus of the site. By your own admission saying a specific site for Widgets or PR or Documents, would be more effective than one that “does too much”.

        Seemed contradictory to me, hence my “doing it all” comment.

        I am not a programmer, just an artist who uses your site and I think AD has great potential.

        Your write up would have been more compelling, IMO, if you had referenced any shortcomings Artist Data had trying to go beyond merely syncing. Or, how its not beyond the focus of the site by having these additional features.

        • Brenden Mulligan on


          You make a good point about including ArtistData’s shortcomings .. I’m the first to admit them, but didn’t add them to the article. Lesson learned.

          Thanks for your list, and I think ArtistData has proof of losing focus. Earlier in my career, I wanted to build more instead of better, so a lot of those features were added very early. Tour books were added because I was tour managing Mat Kearney on his arena tour with John Mayer, so we extended the tour management tools for that. But we never returned to them, and they could be much better. I think they’re really useful, but someone else who focused on them could do them MUCH better.

          ArtistData’s focus is to enter information once and have it syndicate it to as many promotional places at once. Most of our tools do that. Concert posters is actually just an add on that lets you add concert posters to the syndication. Feed importers let you get info INTO ArtistData easier so we can then spread it. Four of our features (icals, data feeds, headline feeds) are just xml feeds. Multiple users is just an infrastructure feature. The one that straggles the line is the local media alerts, but that is built in a similar way, as a distribution point for tour dates.

          Anyway, hope that helps! We’re actually polishing up ArtistData to be even more focused and cleaner so it’s more obvious how everything ties into one core focus.



  3. Brenden lists some amazing service providers and should add his own Sonicbids. But as he stated when he started ArtistData, d.i.y. artists are also strapped for time.

    Jumping from service to service to upload and keep things updated can be too much for some. Single source convenience offers advantages for some artists, as does integrating other sources as Sonicbids done brilliantly with ArtistData.

    I’m not suggesting that Brenden is wrong, rather that there is more than one right way. I hope (and believe) that we’ll see more cooperation, integration and even consolidation of artist service providers in the coming months.

    • Brenden Mulligan on


      Thanks so much for the comment. I think having a streamlined way to use different services, such as data management across platforms, makes it easier. I just don’t know of an example where one company has built a bunch of different features that are a higher quality than companies that focus.

      Single sign on would be amazing for all these services!


    • That’s a great post Brenden (and thanks for the mention), and great comment, Bruce.

      At Bandzoogle our approach is definitely to offer a wide variety of features, with a single sign-on (and single pricing model, also super important).

      Our core site builder is best-of-breed, that’s for sure. But we keep upgrading our media hosting, mailing list management, blogging platform, store front, download codes, analytics and community features to remain top-of-the-class or very close, at no extra cost for our musician members, and following their requests and suggestions.

      At the same time, we make it super easy for our members to integrate other services (like Topspin, ArtistData, or Fanbridge) into their site, if they wish to, even if sometimes competitive to our own features. Ultimately, it’s all about choice, and finding the right tools that work for the artist.

  4. I’m with Bruce – a roll-up of other services is different from a single service trying to do several things. ArtistData lets you manage several other services, it doesn’t create those services. It’s a management tool for these other disparate technologies, and as Bruce said I think we’ll see more of those (think Next Big Sound, for example, which is a central point for your data from all over the web).

  5. Very solid article Brenden. I once worked at a software company (not music related) that had one piece of software but with many many parts because it tried to customize it for everyone. It ended up looking like a mess on the user end. When the developers went to fix it up they tried to focus on everything all at once instead of the core functionalities, and the resources used to fix it were spread inefficiently and the quality suffered still.

    What is your take on the future of these music services that do focus on one core thing partnering/merging? I’m sure you have insight since ArtistData (which I love btw) merged with Sonicbids. Thanks!

    Brian Franke

    • Brenden Mulligan on

      I think someone should create a dashboard that makes it stupid-simple for these services to all build on top of and share data. That way, each feature is built by a focused company but they are somewhat integrated. That was my vision for the ArtistData App Platform, but didn’t have a chance to execute it ..

  6. Hi Brenden, great article and i agree completely – focusing on doing 1 core thing is extremely important.

    This mentality has led us to develop viinyl.com, a service that allows artists to create song based websites optimized to showcase and promote their music — 1 Song. 1 Site. 1 URL. We want artists to brand their songs & enrich the music experience for their fans.

    Takes minutes to make & each song site comes with lyrics, artwork, videos, notes, a variety of download options & access to intuitive promotional & tracking tools.

    If interest, here are some examples: http://www.nothing.viinyl.com, http://www.tequiero.viinyl.com.

    Regards, Armine

  7. I have spent 35 years working with musicians as well as emerging, mid level and major artists of all types. One thing has become crystal clear to me. Great artists are uniquely creative individuals who, except for a very few, are not business or tech savvy enough to handle their own business affairs. Those that can run a fairly successful business are usually lacking on the talent end. I understand there many excellent tools for artists to use, ArtistData certainly being one. However,artists do no have the time to tinker with them to figure out what works for them and then to fully implement their use all the while maintaining their creativity. It’s truly a daunting task. The new music business will absolutely have to figure out a way to combine the right tools into an easy to use system that artists, regardless of their shill level, will be able to implement, use, and immediately build a business with. If not the music business will continue to be a business of the haves and the have nots, with the former making the lion’s share of the money.

    David Sherbow, CEO

    “Live Music Machine helps bands book shows directly with their fans from an easy to use booking widget that can be placed on their MySpace profiles, Facebook pages, blogs, and any other basic website.”

  8. Although I do agree in parts to Brendans comments but in the real world it isn’t possible.

    What isn’t mentioned is that on top of the mentioned services you need to do mySpace, Facebook, Twitter etc and then keep up to date with all the other online things such as PRS and PPL.

    I found that using platforms as a hub is the best solution for me, everyone is different though. I manage 3 bands and use a new platform called get-ctrl, while it doesn’t say it’s the best at everything it does a job and the thing that impresses me most is that it traps all the data about the fans, sales, comments in one place, something that can’t be done across multiple platforms.

    Thinking about it if everyone did use single platforms, where would ArtistData’s business model gone?

  9. Information well worth considering. Brenden I would be curious to know your thoughts on another compay called MyNewsletterBuilder.com and how you would rate their effectiveness.They distribute newsletters and emails that are quite artist friendly and they were recommended to me for one of our artists.
    Thank you again for the info.

  10. Pingback: Your band needs a webiste, goddammit! | Arnbjorn J. S. Marklund

  11. At the risk of sounding stupid, could you please explain to me the difference in CD Baby, TuneCore, and Bandcamp? I guess I’m confused on if you are saying they are all different enough to need all three???? Is there a reason to have more than one of these to sell/distribute your music?

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