Five years ago having your music posted on the right blogs and aggregators meant the difference between labels calling you or you calling the labels. During that time labels still wielded significant power, streaming was a distant concept, and Facebook allowed you to reach all of your fans without paying a small ransom. That’s all changed.
My experience as a publisher afforded me the opportunity to observe artists like T-Wayne, Chedda da Connect, TK N Cash, TK Kravitz, and Lil Yachty leverage the blogosphere to create fan bases out of thin air. I had a front row seat to their failures and successes. In fact, buzz generated from the blogosphere led many of the aforementioned artists to sign (rightly or wrongly – I’ll let you decide) with some of the biggest labels, management teams, and publishing companies in the world.
Presently, the blogosphere is on life support. Monthly page views are down across the board, notable blogs have closed up shop, and programmatic advertising revenue (which is how blogs monetize their content) is in steady decline. Managers of unknown artists masquerade as “contributors” at popular music blogs to ensure coverage, game algorithms, and achieve access. As a result, blogs no longer deliver the impact they once had for an artist. Significant headwinds exist, and they’ll only continue to get worse. How then does an artist gain real traction online? It starts with dropping quality content on a consistent basis. People’s attention spans rival that of a goldfish, and even releases by the biggest artists have an average shelf life of only a few weeks. There’s simply too much shareable content online to compete with. That’s why it’s imperative you stay in front of tastemakers, fans, and labels with quality content every two to three weeks. Not only will this approach allow you to build momentum, it will also allow you to build relationships, which are key.
So you’re dropping content online on a consistent basis. Now what? You’ll want to focus on sending your releases to Soundcloud and Youtube curators. Soundcloud and Youtube curators are the new blogs. These curators can re-post or upload your latest release to their thousands (and sometimes millions) of subscribers and followers if they like your track. A great example of a Youtube curator is Blake Coppelson at Proximity, who’s one of the most notable distributors of dance music on the web. While competition to be covered by a curator is incredibly high (Proximity receives over 1,000 e-mails a day) one upload or re-post can mean the difference between success and failure for an artist. Curators are that important, and their role in breaking records online will only continue to increase.
Now that you’re targeting curators, it’s time to talk about converting those listeners to followers and fans. Hive.co and Toneden.io are two technologies that allow you to incentivize listeners to follow, re-post, and share your latest releases in exchange for a free mp3. Like-gates are no-brainers for an artists, as they allow you to build a following across your social platforms quickly and efficiently. I’ve used like-gates for countless labels and artists we represent, and they work. Hive.co and Toneden.io both offer free trials, and a range of innovative tools, insights, and features.
The above options are great, but being playlisted on a streaming service is perhaps the most important (and most difficult) piece of puzzle for an artist looking to make an impact online. We now live in playlist culture, where consumers of music only want the hits in an easily digestible format. No one listens to albums anymore. The album is dead. Consumers of music don’t have the time or attention span. That’s why playlists on Spotify-like “Rap Caviar” and “electroNOW” dominate the culture and move the needle.
How hard is it to be playlisted? It’s no walk in the park. Not only are you competing with major labels (who are also fighting to be playlisted) but there are only a few key individuals at both Apple and Spotify that make the decisions on what gets playlisted and what doesn’t.
Furthermore Spotify has an incredible amount of data it has amassed. Thanks to their data scientists, Spotify now knows when a song is going to be a hit before the artist, label, and management does. A prime example of this is Lady Gaga’s latest “Joanne” album. Spotify knew the album was an instant flop given the rate that users were skipping songs on the album. Spotify will continue to make data-driven decisions, which is sobering for those looking to be playlisted.
It’s harder than it’s ever been to cut through the noise online. Being able to self-release music has been a double-edged sword for the artist. However, with the strategies outlined above, you’ll be head and shoulders above your competitors, well on your way to gaining real traction online.