Over the last couple years, I’ve participated in the RPM Challenge which led to the releases Exodus and Change The Station. While I enjoy the challenge of trying to build and complete music within the month and posting about it, I’ve decided not to participate this year.
When I got the notification about the 2023 challenge, I initially thought I might give it a go. Why not, right? Plus, I’ve done it two years in a row, I should keep that streak alive.
However, I sat back and took an honest look at my current schedule. Wow, I’m busy.
One of the ways that I’ve been busy: marketing.
The Soundcloud Experiment
You can probably guess that being a musician and artist is a dream for me. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for such a long time and the last couple of years have been amazing.
I’ve created and released music!
While my listener base is still small, I’m still happy to know that there are people in this world that have listened to my creations. And that listener base? It’s growing slowly.
I like to think this is because I’ve embarked on a bit of an experiment this year. I’ve been working harder on marketing Jellyfish in Space to prepare for an upcoming, untitled release.
I started by uploading music to Soundcloud, which is an interesting place. Frankly, I’m not a huge fan. What bothers me about Soundcloud is that you can upload music to the service but they don’t pay royalties – even though they charge users. (You either have to listen to advertising or you can pay for an ad free tier. Either way, the user is paying.)
I’m not opposed to Soundcloud existing or people using the service. Giving people, both artists and listeners, choices is important. But, I’m generally opposed to paying any artist in exposure because that doesn’t pay bills.
I guess the argument is that someone will see my song on Soundcloud and then fall in love with it so much, they’ll pivot to another service so I can get paid? Or maybe they’ll just send money directly, out of the kindness of their hearts. Maybe, I’ll amass a large following that I can use as a talking point to negotiate a deal with a record label.
Here’s the catch, though. This is not how listening to music works.
O.M.G. This song is sooooo great, let me pause whatever I’m doing and send them support money!
Nope. Not going to happen.
Even though I’m an artist myself and understand these struggles, I don’t even do that. Why would I send an artist money direct? I mean, how much do you tip an artist if you like their song? It would be better to just buy the album or merchandise from the artist.
And… in this era, why would I buy music when I already pay for a streaming service to listen to music?
Some people are not like this. Some people do buy music and refuse streaming services. But, those people are definitely not the majority. Music streaming is successful for the same reason illegal downloads were in the 90s: it’s easy and you get to listen to whatever you want.
I’ve mostly ruled out Soundcloud as a place I want to be. It just doesn’t fit into my plans really. But another area of marketing that I’ve been working on is Spotify playlisting.
If you’re not aware, you can pitch songs directly to Spotify editors before your release goes live. (Amazon Music has a similar feature, I don’t want to leave them out.) If the editors like it, you get playlisted. Honestly, I’ve never gotten a response from these.
I don’t have followers or a fanbase. My music is sometimes rough – frankly, I can’t afford a true sound engineer to help with mixing and mastering. The vast majority of my music is not commercially mainstream, either. A few songs, sure, but a lot of it is experimental. I love my music but I’m also well aware that it’s not for everyone.
A company like Spotify has no incentive to help me grow as an artist. They need established artists to bring listeners to their service because that’s how the company makes money. It’s a business. And no matter the reasons a business gives for existing, they really only exist to make money for their investors and shareholders.
Anyway, when you don’t make it on these editorial playlists, well, then you have to do your own marketing. You can send messages off into the void – I used to do this on Twitter and now on Facebook, write a blog like this one, or you can spend money on platforms like SubmitHub or with a marketing platform like YouGrow.
Just to give you the broad strokes:
- SubmitHub works by you paying to submit songs to playlist curators, they listen to the song, and then decide if they are going to add it to their list.
- YouGrow works by you paying them to pitch songs to their network of curators.
The concept is roughly the same in my mind. You pay money to get someone to listen to your music and if they like it enough, they put it on a playlist. Then other people can hear your music.
It hurts a little when you get rejected. I get rejected way more than I get accepted. This is the natural order for all artists, though, just ask any writer how many times they were rejected before finally getting published.
Getting accepted, though, has perks. My songs get added to playlists, two in the month of January actually, and then people hear my music. Some of them save the song to their own playlists. But here’s the most important part: the investment has a return.
Those people hear my music and if they like it (you know, with the thumbs up or heart or whatever), it’ll increase the odds they’ll hear it again. It’ll increase the odds of them hearing my other music. It’ll increase the odds that all these magical algorithms will play my songs for other people and so on down the line.
It won’t make me rich. It won’t even pay the bills. But streaming royalties from Spotify beat getting nothing at all from Soundcloud.
The Other Services
I didn’t talk about any of the other services out there because I don’t have much to say about them. Many of these services work the same, they’re just run by different companies. Some are more closed (looking at you Apple) and some exist probably because everyone else had a service (yeah, that’s you Amazon) but they’re all generally the same to me.
You listen on those services, they pay royalties to my distributor a few months later, and then those trickle down to me.
Bandcamp is a notable exception to all of this because it really is different. When it comes to streaming, they’re like Soundcloud – you get paid nothing for streams, just exposure. However, you can limit the number of streams a user gets of your music and you get to set prices for your songs and albums so users can buy them. Bandcamp takes a cut of that, rightfully so, and delivers the rest to the artist.
When it comes to the marketing game, I’m still researching options and looking for anything I can to get my music out there. My goal is fairly simplistic: I want to build up to my next release.
And let’s be honest, I just want people to hear my music. Because everything about the process is more exciting when you know someone, anyone, is out there waiting patiently to listen.
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