Lyric websites have been a staple of music-related search results since the start of the millenium, but the format of presenting lyrics on many of these sites has remained mainly the same since their inception: plain text with no supplementary information or interactivity. Perhaps the most notable innovator in the genre is Genius — formerly known as Rap Genius, the site’s sidebar annotations now extend to multiple genres and even outside the music sphere to news and entertainment, and infrastructure to help “annotate any page on the Internet” is currently in beta. Google recently began showing lyrics in their search result pages as part of their Knowledge Graph, but beyond requiring a click through to the song available for purchase in their Google Play store for access to the full lyrics, their method of displaying lyrics is no more advanced. Even despite sidebar-comment approaches similar to Genius in other industries, including notes on content platform Medium and annotations on Quartz articles, most lyrics-dedicated sites have been stagnant and unimaginative.
Though I haven’t seen many major-label artist websites include lyrics natively, several Universal Music Group artists have dedicated lyrics sections with a much higher chance for fan interactivity that also leads to revenue-building streams and purchases. For example, the microsite for Darius Rucker’s chart-topping single “Homegrown Honey” included line-by-line lyric annotations powered by Livefyre Sidenotes, which launched in spring 2014 and has been used by a number of clients, including previous UMG implementations for Eminem (whose lyrics section now uses Genius embeds featuring annotations by Slim Shady himself) and Imagine Dragons. Rucker’s campaign encouraged fans to select their favorite lyric and share it to social media for a chance to win an autographed, handwritten lyric sheet and merchandise bundle; it also showcased social media posts with the #HomegrownHoney hashtag (using another Livefyre product, Media Wall). Such a campaign added valuable and interesting fan content beyond a simple display of the lyrics, but also helped push fans to social media, aiding in awareness (and therefore, sales) of the new single.
Inspired by these websites, I created a very similar lyrics section last fall for my redesign of Graffiti6’s website. Having just independently released their sophomore album, The Bridge, I wanted their website to be a showcase of their work so far and an information hub for fans, especially with respect to lyrics — with no physical release of the album, there were no liner notes so fans could verify the correct lyrics to the new songs. Luckily, Livefyre released a WordPress plugin that offers the capabilities of Sidenotes to all websites for free.
Luckily for independent artists without web development teams behind them, setting up Sidenotes is fairly simple. After installing and activating the plugin, you are instructed to register your site with Livefyre, which gives you the Site ID and Site Key necessary to activate Sidenotes on your site. You’re also able to choose which post types on which you’d like to show Sidenotes, which allows you to keep them from appearing on other pages of your site — in my example, I only kept them active on a lyrics custom post type that I created. Creating posts for each song is very straightforward: just enter your lyrics in WordPress’s standard post editor, separating with a line break after each section. After publishing the post, Livefyre will automatically show Sidenotes buttons for each paragraph when the post is viewed.
As a result, fans are now able to do much more than just read lyrics: they can also comment on their favorite lines, ask about their meanings and discuss with other fans, and share a memorable or well-written line to Twitter or Facebook. Other than on Genius, it’s yet to be seen whether or not lyrics sites will adapt to new technology and allow for more participatory activity around songs and their fans, but Livefyre’s technology makes that possible with ease for any artist’s website.
For further assistance in setting up Sidenotes on your WordPress-powered site, or to discuss the potential for other web projects, feel free to contact me: let’s work together!