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Doing It All With Guguchu

by Max Willens on April 22, 2010 · 3 comments

In today’s music business, artists can take total control of their careers.

Depending on how you look at things, that fact can look either exhilarating or terrifying. Some people grow instinctively ill at the prospect of crunching numbers, keeping one’s various social media threads and profiles up to date, or trawling the Internet for booking contacts. Some of that stuff seems unfamiliar, a lot of it seems boring, and, unfortunately for them, all of it is very important.

But thanks to platforms like Guguchu, not only can artists manage all of those things at once. They can now learn how to manage them efficiently and effectively.

Screen shot of Guguchu's dashboard

Like its rivals ReverbNation and Topspin, Guguchu is meant to help musicians manage the less familiar aspects of their business.

That list of tools is currently expanding, but when Guguchu debuted at SXSW last month, it offered a database of over 16,000 venues across the United States (complete with data on capacity and up-to-date contact information for each), a website, newsletter and press-kit builder (more on that later), an online store where artists can sell both merch and music, and a social media interface that let artists manage their Facebook and Twitter business from one convenient location.

Guguchu’s owner and founder, Bernd Strenitz, sees the experience of being in a band as very similar to being in a start-up. As with most start-ups, the product or service that the business offers (in this case, songs) is very important. But there are also the practices and internal operations that keep the business working. Last week during an interview, Strenitz identified five non-musical things that each band had to handle in order to give their products a chance.

“The first part,” Strenitz begins, “is focused on sending out media kits and tracking responses.”

To most bands, the term “media kit” might sound like a good reason to hire a publicist, but Guguchu makes creating one as simple as filling in some blanks. And not only does Guguchu’s media kit present an artist’s most important information cleanly and clearly – it also tracks how much time people are spending with it. If you send your press kit to a talent booker, you’ll find out when they read it, how much time they spent looking at it, which of your songs they listened to, even how long they spent listening to them. This enables you to make much more informed decisions about how to effectively present your music.

Stages two through four deal with reaching out to fans via band pages and social media. For artists that are leery of sinking a lot of money into a website, Guguchu offers full customizable templates that allow artists to set up song streams, tour dates, and other information their fans might want. They’re also in talks with domain company GoDaddy about possibly making it easier and cheaper for artists to buy domain names for their pages.

And for artists who always forget to tend to their various social networks, the platform consolidates all your social media updates from Myspace, Facebook, and Twitter in one window, and allows you to disseminate information to them as well.

“The fifth part,” according to Strenitz, “is selling and distribution, merchandise and CD sales.” Guguchu allows its artists to set up sales of both digital and physical copies of their music, with artists keeping 100% of the profits after paperwork.

Guguchu’s interface is very straight-forward, but the company’s also going the extra mile and shooting tutorial videos that explain how its various aspects work. There’s already one that greets new registrants, and in the next few weeks, they’ll be rolling out new ones that explain how to track and analyze metrics for song plays, profile views, and social media friends (among other things).

Between all these features, as well others expected to roll out throughout the year (Strenitz has vowed to offer users updates every two weeks), you’d expect Guguchu to be shouting its name from as many rooftops as possible. But the company wants to let word of mouth work its magic, the exact opposite approach of its competitors. ReverbNation tries to leverage its large community and radio features to attract users. Topspin is staying relatively choosy about who it lets use its service, most likely for marketing reasons; if they cherrypick the bands that have the potential to succeed use their service, it will create the illusion that Topspin was the yeast that made them rise.

Strenitz, by contrast, wants his service to speak for itself. Guguchu is free to use, and there are optional premium services that may only be necessary for bands that really begin to take off. “We want to serve all bands,” Strenitz said. Though he’s still mulling how much to charge for Guguchu’s premium features, he thinks that “the best way to charge bands, we think, depending on [their] success.”

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