August 25


It’s Your Fault–What To Do When Things Go Wrong WIth Your Internet Presence

By Keith Livingston

August 25, 2016

autorepsonder, CDbaby, email, spotify, youtube

If you’re a musician who has a web presence, you’re going to depend on services. You probably shouldn’t run your website off a computer sitting in your basement. Let people that know how to host websites do that for you. You’re not going to code your website from the ground up, you’ll use WordPress, or one of the WYSIWYG website builders, or hire a designer.

If you have a newsletter (and you should), you won’t send that out yourself, either. You might mail out your own CDs, or you might have somebody do that for you, but you probably won’t burn them yourself, or print the labels and covers.

You might use PayPal to take payments, and YouTube to host videos. You might use CDBady to distribute. You’re going to depend on services.

And when those services let you down, your fans will think it’s your fault.


Today I’m frustrated. I’ll tell you why.

I use a reputable company to send out my newsletters. They’re not a small company, they are one of the biggest 4 or 5 in the field, with over 250,000 customers. I’d estimate they send newsletters to about 100,000,000 subscribers a day.

Two days ago, they started sending multiple copies of the same email to one of my fans. 17 copies, to be exact. No one else complained, so hopefully it was just him. Naturally, he sent me an email. “Looks like you screwed up”, he said. I hate that.

If you post a YouTube video on your page and YouTube goes down, people say “Your video isn’t working, fix it.” If your website host gets brought down, people blame you. If USPS delivers your CD to the wrong address, people don’t call them, they write you. “Where is my CD, I paid for it!”

First Step: Apologize

So I sent the guy who was getting the duplicates an apology. I explained that the newsletter service I used had a technical error and that I’d contacted technical support to get them to fix it. I told him that I do my best to choose top-quality service providers, but sometimes mistakes happen. Sorry again!

And that’s the procedure. . .

  1. Aplologize
  2. If you explain what is happening, keep it short, (they don’t care why, they just care that it gets fixed)
  3. Say what you’re doing to fix it
  4. Apologize again, at the end

Of course, it happened again, and the guy sent me this message. . .

“I’m getting tons of the same email, BOX IS LOADED THIS MORNING, PLEASE FIX THIS asap”


Don’t Waste Time With Certain People

I’d just spent 20 minutes writing him an email explaining that I had no control over the technical errors my service provider makes. And by the way, it would take me about 25 hours to move all my newsletters to another provider, (who wouldn’t be guaranteed to provide any better service).

The clue in the first email was “You screwed up.” It’s an indication that this guy is more interested in blaming than anything else.

I unsubscribed him.


Your Fans

Contrast that with an email exchange I had a few weeks ago.

Fan: Hey, your download links don’t work. I can’t access anything.

Me: Whoops, sorry for the trouble. Could you tell me what page you’re on and what you’re trying to download?

Fan: Sure, I was on (download page URL), and I’m trying to get the songs.

Me: OK, let me check it out, thanks for the info. I’ll get back to you as soon as I figure out what’s going on. If I can’t get it fixed quickly, I’ll find another way to get you the tunes.

Me: You’re absolutely right, those links were messed up. I had just rebuilt that page and didn’t paste the info in correctly. I’ve fixed them, and I checked out my other pages to make sure I hadn’t made the same error elsewhere. I really appreciate you letting me know. I’ll you’ll go back to (download page URL) the tracks are waiting for you, and I’d like to send you a bonus track (I just got finished mixing it yesterday, you’re the first to hear it). You can get that here (bonus track URL).

Fan: Cool, thanks!

How To Be Happy When There Are Problems

So, here’s what I’m saying, and here’s my advice. . .

  1. Your fans won’t understand how your website, email list or any technical aspect of your musical web presence works.
  2. They will probably think it’s your fault if anything goes wrong.
  3. Keep explanations short.
  4. Fix what you can, dump those who show attitude.
  5. Treat people who are neutral or nice, very nicely.

Dealing With Unpleasant People

There are pleasant people, and unpleasant people. There are people who have a sense of entitlement, and those who simply want to be treated fairly. There are people who want what you have to offer, and others who are looking for someone to pick on. People will reveal themselves to you in the way they communicate with you.

What I do personally, when a website (or a restaurant, for that matter) makes a mistake, is inform them in a neutral manner. “Hi, I tried to order your CD, and the PayPal button gave me a 404 error. I’d love to get it. Could you let me know a different way to buy it, or tell me when the problem is fixed?”

I don’t start out with, “You screwed up.”

Here’s my big advice. When people reveal themselves to be a pain, get rid of them. If they’re complaining that your CD didn’t arrive, and do it in a bitchy way, refund them and take them off your email list. Take the loss. Otherwise, they will make you lose in other ways. If they are insulting, or reveal a sense of entitlement, they will continue to operate that way in their dealings with you. Make good on whatever you’ve promised them, delete them, and move on.

You’re looking for people you enjoy interacting with.


Keith Livingston

About the author

Keith Livingston started recording his own music in the late '70s, on a 4-track. He worked his way into live sound and studio work as an engineer -- mixing in arenas, working on projects in many major studios as a producer/engineer, and working in conjunction with an independent label.

He taught audio engineering at the Art Institute of Seattle, from 1990-1993, and in '96, contributing to authoring several college-level courses there.

He was General Manager of Радио один (Radio 1) in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Now he spends his time recording his own songs wherever he roams, and teaching others to do the same.

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