by Bill Conger
Saddle up your high-speed modems, throw a lasso around the World Wide Web, and wrangle your spot on the Internet at www.DigitalRodeo.com. It is the in place to be for on-line country music fans. Members can hook up at the fastest growing online social networking community that’s dedicated strictly to country music devotees.
“Our goal is to make Digital Rodeo the country music portal,” said John Pyne, D.R. Director of Marketing and Promotion. “We’re going to work really hard to make it a total lifestyle thing. Everything from news to shopping to cooking type features—everything country music!”
Free membership in the social club has its privileges to connect, upload and download audio and video and keep up-to-date on the latest country music news. Digital Rodeo gives fans an all access pass to artists like Taylor Swift and Trace Adkins through special sweepstakes and some soon-to-be announced fun interactive ventures.
“The biggest challenge has been trying to figure out what fans will come back for daily, and that’s the thing that we continue to test and continue to try. All of our biggest traffic spikes are centered around artist promotions that we’ve done. We’ve done promotions with Trisha Yearwood to Tracy Lawrence to John Michael Montgomery.”
Of course, the big name artists are featured, but almost 5,000 independent artists are welcomed onto the site, which is one of the top selling points for many fans.
“We find music on here that we wouldn’t normally otherwise find,” Pyne said of fan feedback for Digital Rodeo.
“Fans really love the new music that they find on the site,” Pyne adds. “We have Indy Spotlight and feature independent artists that we rotate. We track the most played artists and we have a signed and an unsigned column. We try to give equal exposure and try to push and promote independent artists.”
Still, in its infancy, Digital Rodeo turns 2-years-old in February 2009. It’s the brainchild of Ben Juravich and Jostin Darlington. Owned by parent company, Libcom, DR’s corporate offices are in Pittsburgh, PA while marking, promotions and industry relations are handled in the Country Music Capital. Former Mavericks bassist Robert Reynolds is the Director of Artist Industry Relations.
“One of the things that we promise fans if you see a major label artist profiled on Digital Rodeo, it’s a sanctioned profile,” Pyne said. “We don’t cobble information together and just put things up. If you see a Taylor Swift promotion or if you see a Trace Adkins’ profile, the label gave us permission to put that up. We pulled the information from them. They approved it before it went live.”
About 90% of artists from every major label in Nashville are up on the family friendly site. The remaining entertainers will launch on the site as the need to promote a new single, CD, or concert arises.
Digital Rodeo believes it offers a special niche that will set the company apart from other social networking sites like the hugely successful Myspace.
“Myspace isn’t going to go away, and we certainly aren’t trying to make them go away. I don’t know that we’ll ever be a competition for a Myspace. Even the biggest country artists tend to get a little lost there.”
What Digital Rodeo does offer is the opportunity to give the red carpet treatment to artists, putting them front and center on the site and providing an unbeatable promotional tool.
“As the numbers grow, it’s really a phenomenal tool. We offer backend tracking information to the labels that we can basically format in any kind of report that they would like. We don’t sell information to anybody.”
Digital Rodeo is able to corral demographic information for record labels that’s essential in plotting which cities might best fit an artist getting ready to go on tour. They can discover which song has been spun the most, what song got repeated, and what part of the country is giving it the most spins.
But perhaps Digital Rodeo’s greatest asset is the entertainment value for the fans on the site. For example, two of Taylor Swift’s faithful followers could win a chance to be up close and personal with the teen country sensation. One lucky fan who preorders the singer’s $75 Limited Edition Fearless Box will find a pink ticket inside and win The Ultimate Taylor Swift Fan Experience. One online winner who joins Taylor’s Digital Rodeo neighborhood will have his name selected at random for the same shared experience. Winners will receive airfare and lodging for a Taylor concert, an autographed guitar, a meet and greet with the star, and a tour of her bus.
“When we tie in a promotion like that with an artist, a sweepstakes where there a chance to win some access to the artist, is when we’ve realized our biggest spikes,” Pyne said. He says Digital Rodeo receives about 400,000 impressions each month. Visitors from about 43 different countries pop online to check things out, and their stay averages around 17 minutes.
Pyne certainly is pleased with those stats, but he has an even greater vision for the company.
“We want to big enough that people think about us first. We don’t necessarily have to be the end spot. We’re happy to direct people on to other sites. We want to be kind of a portal or intersection. We’d like it to be a great enough tool that we can really make a difference to an artist.”
Visit CMG on Digital Rodeo: www.digitalrodeo.com/countrymusicpride