JulyNovember already? My, how time flies. Back in January I invited visitors to respond to a site-wide survey, the bulk of which was used to compile a list of the Best Free Psytrance of 2009. The second half of the survey focused on visitor demographics and the user experience. I was fishing for feedback and–thanks to nearly 400 responses–received a lot of it! In the months that followed I sifted through the data, gained a better understanding of who visits the site (or, at least, the sub-segment of visitors who like to fill out surveys), and deployed code to satisfy several common feature requests.
The big picture: most respondents (87%) agree that the music on Ektoplazm is above average or downright awesome. Similarly, many respondents (83%) think the official in-house netlabel releases are above average or even better. These results are likely to be very biased but it is still gratifying to receive such overwhelmingly positive feedback! At least the survey engaged visitors with varying levels of familiarity with the site; some had just started (11%), others had discovered Ektoplazm earlier in 2009 (35%), many know the site from a few years ago (42%), and there were a few from “way back” (12%).
Some of the most illuminating insights emerged from the pair of questions asking what styles people were interested in hearing more or less of. (Note that respondents were invited to select as many or as few options as they liked so these figures will not total 100% when added together.) There were loud calls for more Goa (44%) and darkpsy (43%), while downtempo (31%), experimental (31%), progressive (30%), and full-on (28%) also enjoyed strong support. 12% of respondents asked for something completely different and Forest, Suomi, and psybreaks/drum ‘n bass have become official styles offered by Ektoplazm as a result. Some others–glitch, dubstep, industrial, world beat, and ambient–are already encompassed by experimental and downtempo, but I wouldn’t be opposed to adding more specific styles if and when enough suitable releases are sent over to justify the addition. Whatever the genre, I am interested in maintaining a focus on music with a certain transportive quality.
Fewer people were interested in identifying styles they weren’t keen on. Of those that responded, most were critical of techno (35%), with full-on (26%), darkpsy (26%), and progressive (21%) also earning some scorn. Goa (15%) and experimental (13%) brought out the fewest detractors. Darkpsy and full-on are polarizing styles, evidently–there is a divide between those who would like to hear more and those who would like to hear less. It is too bad people beat up on techno so much but I’m not about to abandon it as a style since I am personally so invested in it these days. I will, however, stick to the more psychedelic techno releases instead of branching out into more conventional releases. A few comments under “other” indicated a distaste for cheese–which I interpret as meaning commercial-sounding vocal stuff–and I will continue to try and filter that sort of thing out. I figure that Ektoplazm visitors prefer a more underground approach and shy away from music that simply imitates or recycles popular electronic music. At the same time, I am very open to artists making use of the human voice in interesting ways and don’t wish to limit their creativity. It is tricky to find the right balance here and you are always welcome to voice your opinion if and when I get it wrong!
Digital media preference was evenly divided between MP3 (50%) and the two lossless formats, WAV (29%) and FLAC (21%). This squares with what I see on the back-end; MP3 download counts are usually about twice as high as FLAC and WAV combined. Ideally I would like to see more visitors getting into FLAC as time goes on–it really is the superior format–but MP3s are also useful for portable devices and those with limited bandwidth.
I also asked people where they get most of their new music. Most follow the netlabel scene and download free and legal music (29%), many buy physical media (21%), plenty use BitTorrent and P2P sharing to pirate commercial music (16%), few use paid download services like iTunes and Beatport (9%), and a minority futz around with streaming sites like Spotify and last.fm (4%). Would you believe that 13% get most of their music from Ektoplazm? That’s cool. I suspect illegal download is under-reported, or perhaps those who are into the free music scene were more inclined to respond to the survey in the first place.
The next section focused on release descriptions and packaging. Most people were happy with how music is presented here but there were a few comments and suggestions, many of which I have already taken action on. Previously I only posted a single track for previewing but visitors can now sample an entire release before downloading. I have also–as of June–begun to post the previews in higher quality (128kbps stereo instead of 96kbps mono). BPMs are now listed, by request. A few readers requested track durations in the release write-ups but this seems superfluous to me–and work-intensive. If I can find a way to automate it I promise to add this feature (again). Finally, one respondent asked for a “related downloads” feature that is now live on the site. It still needs some tuning but it works fairly well, displaying a weighted list of similar releases based on artist, label, style, and region.
Facebook was the most popular channel to receive updates (39%) followed by Twitter (16%) and RSS (15%). I have since added an option to subscribe by email that I hope will be helpful for those who use none of the above. All of these options are now more visible on the home page and in the site footer to help everyone keep up with the free music posted on Ektoplazm. It is also possible to subscribe to RSS feeds for specific styles–just browse on over and click on the RSS logo that you find near the top.
The question about donating to Ektoplazm exposed an interesting result. While only 7% have already donated, fully 72% said they will donate (or think about donating) in the future. This seems promising. What would I have to do to earn your support?
I will be doing another survey in January 2011 so if there are any questions you feel I should ask just write them in the comments. And, one more time: a big thank you to everyone who responded last year!