Dave Matthews Band was formed in Charlottesville, VA in the late 80s/early 90s, and in just a few years became world-renowned for their catchy tunes, unusual rock ensemble setup, and most importantly, their live concert experience. An unique blend of rock, jazz, and world influences, the live show was their ticket to superstardom - that was what set “DMB” apart. Contrary to what their name might suggest, each member has contributed artistically and shared in the praise for the band's success. The DMB lineup looks something like this:
Dave Matthews – guitar, lead vocals
Carter Beauford – drums, backup vocals
Stefan Lessard – bass
Boyd Tinsley – violin, backup vocals
LeRoi Moore – saxophone, various other winds (recently deceased)
After nearly two decades, the band continues to uphold its reputation of live musical prowess, bringing on additional live performance band members throughout the years such as Tim Reynolds (guitar), Butch Taylor (keyboards), and Jeff Coffin (Sax, fill-in for LeRoi).
DMB is currently in the finishing stages of recording their seventh studio album, due out June 2nd, 2009. In support of the release, the band is also gearing up for a summer tour of nearly 50 dates. It has been four years since the band's last studio release, "Stand Up" in May 2005. Since that time the band has released a whopping fifteen live albums, and one greatest hits album. As a fan, just knowing about the new album has me excited. However, the band's internet presence does less than a fair job of promoting it. The home page of the DMB website displays fifteen promotional boxes, and at a time when the album is near completion, a lack of news is hardly acceptable. With the 2005 release, the DMB team at least maintained a website devoted to sharing the creative process with fans to stir up excitement and anticipation. With the recent passing of saxophonist LeRoi Moore, one could say that the band is going through such a loss that sharing intimate details via a studio blog is too much. Perhaps the tones of the sessions are too somber and full of personal emotion to share with the world. Or maybe the team is so busy planning a sizeable tour and other various projects that a studio blog fell by the wayside.
Whatever the case may be, the fact of the matter is the whole DMB community feels that with the loss of an original member, now more then ever the band should be connecting with fans on a more personal level. With the technology available today, there is frankly no reason this can't be done. An even deeper personal connection with fans at such a pivotal moment would be the perfect thing to usher in a new era of this great band's legacy. The members of DMB are not known to stay in the limelight of celebrity gossip, or go out of their way to attract personal attention. Every bit of promotion is rooted in the greatness of and appreciation for their music. Five years ago, it was more difficult to make an artist-to-fan connection without intervention from other media. Today, fans can obtain news, music, video, and even a passing thought right from the horse's mouth, all the while maintaining the artist-to-fan dynamic.
DMB recently launched a brand new website. I was initially overwhelmed by the new home page, as it's used entirely for promotion. It's very effective, however, at making sure fans know about specific things. For example, five out of fifteen promo boxes are used to promote them as a live band, whether it's to check out tour photos, or purchase the latest live album. This is an instrumental part of the band's online presence. Running with their strength of live entertainment reminds existing fans and encourages new fans to put DMB on their calendar. The next thing that struck me about the new site is that it's very "nature" oriented. The band has always been an active force in conservation, and their site communicates that very prominently. On both their MySpace page and their site, a gorgeous landscape is chosen for the background image. This does a great job of communicating the Dave Matthews Band brand and reminds you of all they've done for the planet. It is a big step up from their previous website.
First impressions aside, the new site is definitely a huge improvement. It runs more slowly than their earlier site, which is due to the vast amounts of information and media that gets served up. You can start your visit by turning on the music player located at the top of the page, which runs independently of the rest of the site. Once the player starts, it plays through the track list so you can enjoy nonstop music while navigating the site at will. This adds to the overall experience you get from the visit. Not a lot of artists’ sites have this feature, which shows that DMB is thinking ahead. So, you have the player on, now what? Choose from twelve different tabs or fifteen different promo boxes to get started. The site includes standard information such as recent news, band history & bios, tour info, discography, and other links. Also included are links that pertain to DMB specifically, such as:
The major benefit of this new site is that it's easy to get comfortable, take your time, and explore the band. There's plenty of content available for an extensive visit, an uninterrupted music player for a smooth accompaniment, and a beautiful landscape to tie it all together.
- The Warehouse – the DMB exclusive fan club, which offers advanced ticket sales, $35.00 per year.
- Bama Works – established in 1999, this is a DMB fund set up to benefit charitable causes in Charlottesville, VA.
- DMB Store – you can shop through a variety of DMB products, and purchase right on the site.
- Road – you can find extensive info on set lists, gear, photos, and even the touring crew.
MySpace & Facebook
Besides DMB's official site, the hub of DMB's online presence is MySpace, Facebook, and more recently, Twitter. It makes sense that they would give MySpace and Facebook a lot of attention, since they are the most popular social networking sites, and offer useful tools for building relationships with fans. However, with only three songs in the MySpace player and having recently done away with their SNOCAP store, MySpace is becoming a place for fans, and less about the band.
DMB's Facebook page, although not as extensive as their website, is another big source of online DMB entertainment. There, you can get all the latest on concert events, merchandise, and Facebook activity among the DMB community. A decent amount of media is also available. You can listen to a number of tracks with the option to purchase from the DMB store just by clicking "Buy Now". Move to either the "photos" or "video" tab, and get ready to explore through a plethora of not just official DMB content, but also fan content. Post your reactions in the comment field, or move to the "Discussions" tab to read and respond to what the band and the fans have been chewing over. As you can tell, the Facebook page is kept very open to fans, and is probably the #1 place for fans to interact directly about the band's content.
Dave Matthews and Stefan Lessard are both on Twitter. Follow them to find out their thoughts on how the album is going, what their day is looking like, or anything else on their mind.
Mailing List & Sales
Once you’ve confirmed your email subscription, you'll be receiving 3 or 4 messages a month. The mailing list is simply an extension of the website, meant to draw people back to either that or the DMB store. They regularly promote merchandise, which you can buy in just a few clicks. It seems that there is always a merch event going on in the DMB store, whether it's old gear, or auctioning off signed material to benefit DMB's Bama Works Fund. The online store offers a variety of products: t-shirts, jackets, hats, posters, stickers, DVDs, books etc. The store is staying somewhat up to date, offering all physical albums. More importantly, most of the catalog is available via digital download. A drawback is that some of the well-known albums are only available in physical format. However, a handful of albums have additional digital options such as audio format and quality. For the DMB store to be as powerful as possible, it needs to offer every album the band has ever released in all formats. Hopefully we'll see this in time.
Outside the official site, Dave Matthews Band music is available for digital download from many locations: iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Napster and Lala. You can buy physical albums from stores such as Barnes & Noble, Target, Wal-Mart, etc. Although you can find the cheapest deal with digital downloads, DMB always offers a deluxe purchase option, which usually includes a bonus DVD with behind the scenes/live concert footage. "The Gorge" is an example where the band released not only the live double CD set, but also a full live/documentary DVD. A DMB album will cost $10 to $14 via digital download, about $14 on the DMB store, and $14 to $20 in other physical stores. Most songs are available as single downloads. Overall, price differentiation gives the consumer many options. If someone is relatively unfamiliar with the music, they can ease in with a couple of songs and pay less than $5. The more avid fans place greater value on DMB, and will pay $20 for a deluxe edition release. Ringtones are also available on both their website and MySpace page for $2.99 each.
DMB's internet presence is going in the right direction, but there are still some holes. I think they are using certain tools like imeem, last.fm, bebo, and YouTube just enough to get by, without giving any of them more attention than necessary. They're really trying to draw attention to the official website, MySpace and Facebook pages. I’d like to see the other two members of the band (Boyd Tinsley and Carter Beauford) on Twitter. People are fans of each band member, so I’m sure whatever they have to "tweet" would be just as interesting and relevant as anyone else. As of now, not all albums are stream ready on the website's music player. The more content to choose from, the more satisfying a website visit will be. I believe this will only help music sales. If people enjoy the music, they are going to want access to it whenever possible. And lastly, if they want to maximize on the industry trends of today, they'll need to make every bit of recorded music available for digital download, and preferably with a variety of format options. The music is very fan-driven. Once it sticks, it will spread. The best thing DMB can do is to help promote word of mouth dissemination and community building, which is something they’ve already done an impressive job with through the use of online utilities available today.
This case study was written by Tom Richards, a drummer, percussionist, guitarist and songwriter at Berklee College of Music majoring in Music Business/Management. You can connect with Tom through Twitter or visit his Berkleemusic profile.