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Case Study: Songsalive! Increases exposure through website design and online community building

Lori Halley 12 October 2007 0 comments

  This month's case study is with Gilli Moon of Songsalive!
Gilli Moon is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, pianist, actor, producer, author, painter, motivator, entrepreneur, visionary and empowering community builder. She is the quintessential renaissance woman, with a ceaseless contribution to the creative and artist community at large. As Co-Founder and President of Songsalive!, Gilli has established over 25 chapters around the world hosting workshops, showcases and other programs for songwriters.
In the following interview, we talked about online community building to engage members online. Gilli also shared some useful insights for successful community building on the web to welcome members to your community, answer their questions and make them feel valued.
1. Can you begin by telling us a little bit about Songsalive?
Songsalive!® is a non-profit organization dedicated to the nurturing, support and promotion of songwriters and composers worldwide. Founded in 1997 by Gilli Moon (myself) and Roxanne Kiely, in Sydney Australia, Songsalive! is run by songwriters for songwriters and now has over 20 chapter cities around the world. It acts as an epicenter, a heart of the international songwriting community and music markets, bridging the gaps, tapping songwriters into the pulse of the business and at the same time giving them and their music the support they deserve. Through Songsalive!, songs and songwriters can be accessed by the whole world and when the hunt is on, Songsalive! is a one-stop song shop!
Songsalive! gives life to songs, provides opportunities for collaboration, creates awareness about original music, promotes and educates through an amazing network of programs providing access between songwriters and music business professionals. Publishing companies, record companies, venues, managers, producers, schools and music associations are teaming up with us to create the chain of support and networking. Songsalive! creates awareness about global, humanitarian and social issues affecting our world. We are collaborating with other non-profits specializing in these areas and also through the power of music and the music industry – staging concerts, events and programs to raise awareness.
2. Before Wild Apricot, what tools/website did you use to promote your organization (i.e. traditional press outreach, press releases, conferences and teleconferences, etc.? 
We have been using a very archaic system for processing and storing our members’ details. Simply using an excel database sheet. Then we would manually send welcome letters and renewal letters. We also used Paypal for processing credit cards. We’ve been updating our own website, though, and still do. We use Wild Apricot for the Membership database and processing part, as well as creating a Backstage online portal for members to log in to and access members only exclusive opportunities. We continue to use yahoogroups as a newsletter for members and visitors to know about our programs, plus local media.
3. What drove you to create a member web site for Songsalive in the first place?
We didn’t want to have to manually process memberships and we also wanted a place members could log in and interact. Since we are all volunteers, we need to streamline the process, as well as reduce our time working on everything. For me, as CEO, I wanted our organization, and its members, to be keenly aware that the Internet is “where things are at” these days. As much as we have in person workshops and performance showcases, the new generation is online, and interacting online on a daily basis. I wanted us to be at the cutting edge of that, for a music organization, without all the who-ha of the big sell, that a lot of companies do. We simply want our songwriters to interact and have a personal relationship with our website experience.

4. What is the primary use of your website? What kind of information/news do you make available online?
Songsalive! offers 5 facets of membership services - providing in-person and online interaction, promotion, support, networking and song opportunities. Programs include songwriting critique workshops, showcases, CD Samplers, songcamp, retreats & seminars, live events and showcases, online song critiques, songleads & industry pitches; education seminars and Expos, touring opportunities, artist development; studio production; informational resources and networking. Online, our members can access the Song Critique section to receive valuable feedback on their music.
Resources include an online resource center - listings for practically everything you need on songwriting and the business. Discussion and networking forums, plus great articles and motivational tips by leading music business authors and celebrated songwriters, keeping our members juiced and oiled on their creative journey. 
Support Central includes one-on one-assistance, support and consultancy with our chapter coordinators, head office personnel and key music business referrals; Our Online Forum in our backstage section for members, to collaborate, get daily opportunities & resources; Our ever expanding website filled with information, resources, member and industry contacts, and opportunities. Whether you are an artist, songwriter, composer or music business professional, Songsalive! is your central support for info, leads and developing strong relationships within the wider community. 
5. Can you share some strategies about how your organization has connected with its members?
We conduct showcases and workshops all across the country, with chapters that we have created. We also send them newsletters weekly to keep them well juiced with opportunities. We are constantly creating new ways for them to get their music out there.
6. What web tools/social media do you use to engage your members online?
We hope they log into our forum. This is through Wild Apricot to the backstage portal, but then we still use a third party for our forum. We can’t wait for Wild Apricot to start one. We also have a discussion list through yahoogroups called Songchat that members can post to. Always using the internet, emails and our face to face programs to keep them engaged.
(Note: Wild Apricot forum module will be launched by end of October) 
7. Are there particular strategies you've employed that have helped sustain participation in the building and maintenance of the Songsalive site?
We implemented a “music news’ section on the home page that is from a third party feed of latest music and entertainment news. I like this idea because it keeps the front page new and fresh. We always add our latest news on the home page too. That’s for consumers. As for myself and my web person, well WA is just great to help us in maintaining membership. It’s a big load off our shoulders ;)

8. Have you been successful at increasing membership and if so how? Can you share some numbers for example how many members you had when you first created a website and now?

We started Songsalive! in 97 at the advent of the internet age. Can you believe it’s only been around 10 years?! It used to be all face to face, and now we are global, with 35 chapters around the world, all connecting online. We have increased our membership a lot through the use of the internet. Songwriters in Russia find us just by browsing online. So we went from about 20 members in just Sydney Australia in 97 to now 500 with over 5,000 visitors and subscribers to our free newsletters.
9. What advice would you give others who want to increase their membership online and promote their organization online?
Know that this job is a 24/7 job and to always be looking at new ways to promote what you do, with link exchanges, and enticing visitors to your website. Keep it simple, too. Ultimately you must have a great service to offer! Finally, make it affordable. There is a lot out there to choose from, so keep it humble.
10. What main features of the website have you found of most use and how do they help you attract and retain members?
We trust that the new Backstage Portal will be more effective, robust and exciting for our members' online experience. Since our collaboration with Wild Apricot, we can now:
* Update membership renewal and payments.
* Contact other members through our member directory.
* Pitch songs through Songsalive! Songshop online,where music business professionals, artists, film and tv supervisors, and publishers are looking for music for their project.
* Build a tour through the Songsalive! Touring Map of the World through our online resource center.
* Access discounts from our Partners, exclusively for our members
* Participate in our online Forum, where classifieds, chats and networking takes place.
* Read Songnotes, the regular monthly newsletter exclusive for members.
* Read our daily Blog, for up to the minute news.
* Read educational and informative articles on songwriting and the music business.
* Book a gig and apply to perform at a Songsalive! showcase.
* Access Member Tools to sell your CD through our online CD Stores and add your web link to the Members page.
* Elite members, get played on our online Podcast, get a music review and be interviewed.
11. If you were to share some lessons learned about online promotion, what are the five most important things to consider?
1. Be simple, as that is the key to being effective
2. Repetition is key. Send posts, links, comments, blogs, and eventually people will come.
3. Consider that only 10% of your audience really cares.
4. Have places for customers to interact, say with feedback forms, forums, blogs etc.
5. Most people are getting too many emails and media thrown at them. So forgive the masses that by pass you and take care of your current client base. These are your most important people, not necessarily the new unknowns.

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 12 October 2007 at 9:00 AM
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