As more artists and marketers use the Topspin direct-to-fan platform and the company nears a March expansion to include a self-service platform, several views of its design and functionality are emerging. Many agree that Topspin is the most robust music marketing toolkit available. But despite several educational initiatives, some still find using Topsin confusing. "To maximize the potential of the platform, you will probably need a web marketing guru/developer," according to musician and marketer Charles Alexander.
A Steep Learning Curve
Alexander took Berklee's online Topspin course and was impressed, "Where I think Topspin shines... is that you can get data, metrics and analytics on each one of those spins and can fine tune your marketing to optimize all your digital touch points," Alexander wrote in an extensive analysis. "Topspin is one mamma jamma of a marketing platform. It can handle everything from fan acquisition to ticketing."
But to make some features work properly, Alexander, no stranger to music marketing, suggests that you need to become a Topspin "ninja". He also found some key flaws like Topspin's email program, which he remarked was, "downright prehistoric & cryptic compared to things like MailChimp and even Reverbnation’s Fan Reach Pro."
Red Light Loves The Platform
However, for Taylor Brigode, a digital marketer at Red Light Management, the mega-management firm for The Decemberists, Alicia Keys, Dave Matthews Band and others, Topspin is the undeniable platform of choice.
"While I won’t say what I don’t like about the other platforms," Brigode wrote in an interview on the Topspin blog, "I will say I like using Topspin because: 1) I’m most familiar with how it works and 2) because of its ability to let me do whatever I need, 24 hrs a day. With Topspin, as long as I can code it and the App supports it, I know it can more than likely do what I need to do, whenever I need to do it, which is something I really appreciate. I’ve always been a practical DIY solutions kinda of guy and I think Topspin helps me work that way." Many others using the Topspin platform echo Brigode's enthusiasm.
So, Is Topspin For Pros Only?
"The software has a somewhat steep learning curve", according to Alexander who believes that to get the best results requires an "in-depth understanding of the platform, WordPress (or some other CMS) and possibly FBML (or whatever comes next)". In fact if you don't have these skills he predicts "a high percentage of subscribers will abandon ship for something easier".
Of course, no one outside of Topspin has seen the new self-service version, so judging it now may be unfair. And users don't need to understand every feature of a complex platform to get value from it. I've used Microsoft Outlook for a decade to track email, tasks and my calendar. It's an indispensable part of running my businesses, and yet I'm always learning how to use new features.
It could also be argued that in 2011, it is essential that someone on every artist's team - not necessarily the artist's themselves - needs to become more technologically literate if they hope to take advantage of all the opportunities that the digital age provides.
We'll be watching closely as the next iterations of Topspin's platform are released and will reach out to Topspin and Berklee for comment.
In the meantime:
What have your experiences been with Topspin and your hopes for its open release?
Are you ready to become a Topspin ninja?