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When I talked to Gerd Leonhard from Sonific on this blog recently, I mentioned I’d be featuring another widget-based tool for online music distribution. Introducing Nimbit.

I’ve been looking around at widgets that musicians and their fans can embed into their MySpace page, website, blog or whatever. Sonific was a really good example of something that allowed people to share tracks they liked and link directly to a way of purchasing.

Nimbit‘s a little more ambitious, and essentially wants to be the full online merchandise and music fulfillment package. I’m worried that it might look better on paper than it does deployed in the field, but its ambition seems to be its strong suit.

I spoke to CEO Patrick Faucher about the service.

What’s Nimbit?

Nimbit is sales and marketing platform that enables artists to build and manage a sucessful direct-to-fan business with their music.

Why an embedded player?

The nimbit Online Merch Table is actually way more than a player.

The OMT provides an instant way for artists to promote and sell from wherever they have a web prescence, whether that is an official website, a community site such as Myspace or other blogs that the artist has. It’s easy to set up and easy to get out onto the web and that is key to getting artists started with selling direct.

Is there anyone else bundling merchandise with music in an e-commerce platform for independent music business?

We have yet to see anyone else do what we are doing sucessfully, especially in terms of fulfilling digital music, physical cds and other merchandise
from a single solution. We are definitely the only company that does 100% of this in-house.

It’s not an easy thing to pull off and we’ve put years of development and expertise into it.

This is clearly designed to be a viral marketing tool. How can people use it?

For one thing, it’s not just the artist that can embedd the OMT, but ANYONE who wants to can share the artist’s OMT by putting it on their sites, so it
very quickly becomes a viral tool that crosses into a variety of online networks for the artist.

Soon fans will be able to build their own OMT’s using product from any of their favorite nimbit artists, even earn commission on sales, and that will expand the nimbit network even further for our artists.

Also, the OMT captures email and contact info of the fan through its connect feature.

What’s the deal? Do artists pay you a commission on sales?

Yes. Generally it’s between 15%-20% of each sale, depending on the mix of product we are fulfilling. Our policy is to pay out the highest possible
percentage back to the artist.

Who are your competitors?

For some things like the OMT and retail distribution, there are other services that artists can choose instead of us, such as Snocap or CDbaby.

If you look at our platform as a whole you’ll see we offer the only ‘360 degree’ solution that deals with sales, marketing, and business management
for the artist and their team.

How is the e-commerce dealt with? How often do you report and pay out?

We pay out monthly.

Do you also operate as an aggregator and submit to other retailers?

Yes. We provide digital distribution to iTunes, eMusic, Napster and some others.

How customisable is the widget (to fit within the graphic design of artist websites?)

Right now it is not customizable. The next version will offer some form of ‘skinable’ look and feel. Also we are working on a premium flash store that
offers complete customization and brandability for the client.

Can people listen to full tracks or just short samples of music?

The artist can choose to upload a full track as the sample if they wish to.

We recommend offering a short sample, then if the artist wants to offer the full track for free, simply set the price to $0.00. That way the fan can get
the whole track, but it gets delivered in hi resolution and the artist will get the contact information of the customer, which is key.

Do sales count towards the top 40 charts?

Yes. We provide full reporting to Soundscan.

Is it easy for record labels to submit their catalogue?

Yes, we work with labels quite often.

Do they need to supply ISRC codes?

We can provide ISRC codes for whomever doesn’t already have them.

What sort of success have you had with this so far?

Things have slowly ramped up over the past three years since we started offering the first versions of the tools. In the last few weeks since offering the OMT we are starting to see higher numbers of new artists come onto our platform each week and we expect sales to double in the next quarter.

This kind of makes everyone with a website or a MySpace page a potential retailer. Are you offering any kind of kickback or margin for people whose blogs sell music on your behalf?

Not right now, but that is in the works as we expand the Nimbit retail platform.

Do you foresee difficult times ahead for dedicated shops online?

I think those sites that offer a good user experience and solid customer support should do well, providing there is real value in the selection and recommendations they offer. That said, getting into any sort of mass consumer model is very challenging, so many will fail, but some will survive and prosper.

Any difficulties in dealing with artists and labels from different territories?

In terms of offering product to consumers, not really, especially when it comes to digital fulfillment. Paying out to international artists has its challenges, though.

What’s the most compelling reason for labels to consider using Nimbit?

We provide the most cost effective platform for building a valuable long-term business for both artist and label.

We’ve integrated powerful sales, marketing and ecommerce tools around the direct-to-fan model, so that our clients are able to own their customer with no middlemen. They save time, money and hassle while generating more sales.

And where should they start?

Go to www.nimbit.com or call us (in the USA) at 1-866-8-NIMBIT

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Okay — I think it’s great… but here are my initial reservations:

First there’s the 30 second sample thing. Sonific realises that 30 second samples are of no earthly use to anyone. Nimbit defaults to a model in which you are expected to buy first, then hear and like.

We know that doesn’t work.

Also, when I went to find out about Sonific, I listened to dozens of tracks by artists I had heard of (and love) as well as ones that were entirely new to me. I loved the fact that there was a central repository of all this different music I could easily embed onto my site, no matter what sort of code it needed.

I also loved that I could listen to as much of any of them as I wanted to, and so could anybody who visited my site that had the embedded widget on it.

When I went to find out about Nimbit — I couldn’t find any music. Not any.

There was an example widget (Dave Coffin) on their site, but it wasn’t a working model — just a display piece. So I decided to look further.

Nimbit ‘powers’ the websites of a handful of artists their site links to, but there was no sign of the actual widget they’re promoting.

All of the other websites that have reviewed Nimbit seem to have either posted a screen grab of the Dave Coffin example, or have simply not bothered.

I had to email Patrick back in order to find some other artists that use Nimbit, and get a code to embed the widget above.

He had three examples for me: Chris Obrien, Nate Lapointe and Trebek (shown above). There was a problem with line breaks in the email, and so I had to edit it a little to make it work.

It might be early days for Nimbit, but it shows promise, yeah? It’d just be a bit encouraging if there was a massive catalogue of music for fans to choose from as there is with Sonific (after all, how many fans of only one band do you know of?).

While it’s not really their job to sell your stuff (they give you the tools to do that yourself) it would still be nice to sign up to something that would help new fans find you. That and the customisation thing need to be job one.

But don’t let that stop you getting involved. The more of you that get involved, the more likely it is to be an ultimately successful model. You just might want to encourage Patrick to read the 20 Things e-book.

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Don’t let my analysis cloud your judgement. Go have a play. See what you think. What do you like about it? What would you change? Let us know in the comments.