Corey Smith is garnering a lot of attention for his success as a country music star in the US, but even more so because this success is very grassroots, built upon a simple message, a great live show and a direct connection to fans using the internet. Previously a schoolteacher from Jefferson Georgia, Smith always played music, and slowly built up a following. Eventually he quit his teaching job and left to play and tour full time. He's been at it about 4 years.Findings
Smith made the decision to stay independent, and not sign with any record label. He uses his main website and an email list system as a way to stay in touch with his fans.
The messages are fairly standard. They are clean, well organized, and cut straight to the point. The main purpose of the email list is to announce pre-sales for shows. Each newsletter has an introductory "hello", then an announcement of new shows, the dates of which link back to his site, and finally a review of perhaps one or two past shows and how they went. Towards the end of the newsletter there is also a sentence and link directing you to the store to buy t-shirts and CDs. A thank you and "see you at the shows…" closes each newsletter.
The newsletter doesn't come frequently; I've been on the mailing list for about 3 months and I think I've received 2 in total.
One interesting area on Smith's website is a "promote" page, which has posters you can print out and put around your town, and press clippings and links to interviews and videos of Smith being interviewed on the radio, etc. There are step-by-step instructions on how to best promote with posters, but other than that, there is nothing interactive. The only thing you get from joining the mailing list is the newsletter. He has some cool videos on his "promote" page of him being interviewed by college students where he plays, and other videos of him playing live, but these are really just news pieces and press that have been linked to his site.
Smith's music is sold mostly digitally, through his website, Amazon, and iTunes. You can download around 20 of his songs for free, spanning all four of his albums, but not all of the available content. You can also download and read the lyrics for those songs for free.
You can also buy t-shirts and caps through an online store (linked from his main site), and there are various deals where you can get a t-shirt and CD for $25. Also, there is currently a special where you get a free "koozie" (beer holder) with any purchase of merchandise.
The bulk of what Smith is selling is his live show. It's all about the show. He has $5 pre-sale tickets available for certain shows, and keeps all of the show prices between $15 and $30 dollars. This has garnered him a lot of press and really keeps his fans happy. He sells out about half of his shows, and is constantly on the road all over the country, especially in the central and southern parts of the US.
A very common review of him that's available in the "promote" area is that he's "definitely worth the money", because he is delivering a simple but great show for cheap.
Facebook and MySpaceIn Conclusion
On his main site, he has links to his Facebook page and MySpace page; that's it. His Facebook is set up with four tabs across the top including wall, info, photos, and boxes. He uses the wall section to give fans updates about his live shows and ticket sales. Fans are unable to leave comments. The first thing you notice in the info section is a complete listing of upcoming tour dates, once again emphasizing his live show. There is also contact information for his booking agent and links to his main site and his MySpace. The photos section has only four pictures uploaded by Smith himself, but over 400 uploaded by his fans. The pictures are either of Smith onstage playing, or of him hanging out with fans. It makes him look like a very nice, easily approachable guy. The boxes section of his Facebook includes a music player with 19 songs. You can listen to the entire song, and there is a link to the left where you can buy directly.
Also included in boxes is a section titled "Discography". It seems that this functions only to list his albums, because we couldn't find any links to buy. Merchandise is sold through his boxes tab, but it's handled by an application called Music Shop. If we wanted to buy merchandise through Music Shop we would first have to be a member of Facebook, then we would have to add Music Shop to our page, which gives them access to all our information as well as information on our Facebook friends. It took a lot of clicks to get to the actual purchase page, and we were a little weary of using that application.
Smith’s MySpace page is laid out very well, using nice colors and portraying a good image overall. It's easy to see the information and to find links to other pages. On the left is an area to purchase any of his CDs either from iTunes or Amazon. Each CD is listed individually, and clicking the link takes you directly to the purchasing page whether it be Amazon or iTunes. The entire right side of his MySpace is filled with concert dates and locations. To purchase tickets you need to head back to his main site because this is where he controls ticket sales. There are also links to his Merch Store, main website, and Facebook. On the bottom of the page is information about a promotion with AT&T where you can receive ringtones through a text message.
The feeling of community on these sites is positive, and they seem to be updated with some regularity. Smith has over 18,000 fans on Facebook, and over 800,000 friends on his MySpace page, which has over 10,000,000 plays. It seems like he has a substantial following of loyal fans who come to his shows and visit these sites. Smith's social networking sites definitely help his fans connect and find out information, but if they want to purchase anything it seems like the main site is the best place to do that. All roads lead back there.
The layout of his main site is clean and crisp. It is very simple, with an easily visible navigation bar at the top. The links to the other parts of his site and to his other pages like Facebook and MySpace are clear. The font is much too small and it is difficult to read the news section and shows without looking closer and squinting.What Stands Out
Clicking on any purchasing-related link navigates you away from the main site - this is a drawback. If the store was integrated into the main site, it would make for a more pleasant online experience.
Overall, we would say that the Corey Smith site is simple and pleasant looking, but lacks ingenuity and is very standard. It is more like a brochure than a hub for an interactive community; however, we think that this may be intentional, in that the majority of what they're selling is the live show. Ultimately, if you want to connect with Corey, go see him live.
- Smith's success is based on his live performance, so his online presence is focused around getting people to the shows.
- This presence is limited, but because he is independent, we can safely assume that this is all he and his team can manage (someone should let them know about ArtistData).