How Streaming Platforms Are Changing Music Promotion and Discovery

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

As music streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music continue to transform and revitalize the music industry, artists are just beginning to fully comprehend the seemingly limitless potential of new music discovery and promotion technology in 2018’s musical landscape. Songwriters and musicians continue to struggle to financially cope in a world with that’s almost completely shifted to streaming music over owning it seemingly overnight, but a slew of new analytic and discovery features delivered by streaming platforms could be the silver lining artists have been waiting for.

Spotify, who has yet to make a profit as a company, isn’t able to pay compensate an artist much money when one of their songs gets streamed through their platform, but they are able to help in other ways. Through tools like their Discover Weekly playlist, Spotify has made significant investments in helping new music find an audience. A thoughtful mixture of human curation and algorithm genius is helping new and unknown artists connect and resonate with fans in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Will 100,000 plays on a big streaming platform earn a band enough money to pay all of their bills? No, but that sort of exposure might give a new artist enough attention to find opportunities that can.

The music industry’s newfound collective acceptance of music streaming is one of the driving factors behind what many are calling music’s big comeback, but new opportunities for exposure and promotion ushered in by streaming platforms and playlist culture deserves a good amount of the credit.

Last summer, an article published by The Guardian profiled a Venezuelan singer named Danny Ocean, an artist whose career was launched by Spotify. In a matter of months, the Latin star went from being completely unknown to having a smash hit with over 261 million plays through Spotify alone. Spotify’s technology was able to detect interest in Ocean’s single after its release, so it added the song to a few of its popular playlists and the rest is history. 

Songwriter Ron Pope has a similar rags to riches story. The Georgia native apparently earned over $250k from streaming alone in 2014 without significant radioplay and help from a label. The incredible breakout success stories of these artists is one that would be simply unthinkable just a decade ago.

With big music streaming players increasingly lending a hand to small artists, the music promotion sector the music industry may need to rethink their strategy.

In addition to helping to launch undiscovered new musical talent in a perpetual quest to satiate the music-addicted masses, streaming platforms are now able to give artists analytic insights and helpful information about their listeners that they used to have to pay good money for. For example, a college or alternative radio campaign usually runs bands anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000. The main purpose of these campaigns is to physically submit an artist’s music for possible airplay, but a huge benefit they deliver are detailed insights into which stations have started playing the music, where they’re located and how often they’re playing it. Streaming platforms are now offering up this and other helpful information to artists for absolutely free.

Radio continues to be a major source for music discovery, but with the trend of many influential stations curating playlists replicating the material they play over the air, the free analytic information artists can get from major streaming platforms can help them gain powerful insights about their unique audiences. With these free resources, artists can track the success of their individual songs, book tours based around countries and cities their music is being played in the most and can even see information as detailed as what gender their listeners are.

Shortly after the birth of social media, platforms like Myspace and then later Facebook were the ones mostly responsible for hosting the party as far as where audiences went to listen to an artist’s music, learn about them from their bio and find out about their shows. But in 2018, the party is swiftly moving over to streaming platforms.

In addition to helping artists connect with and learn about listeners, major streaming platforms now provide customizable profile features like pictures, concert listings and even merchandise store options. Essentially, big streaming companies are now helping artists condense and leverage their virtual presences in ways that non-musical social media platforms have never been able to do. Just a couple of years ago, most people used Facebook pages to learn about and keep up with bands, but now fans can do all that directly from the sources they discover and consume music.  

But while some musicians and writers are rejoicing over the new features and benefits streaming platforms are offering artists, others continue to feel the strain of diminishing record sales and fear the possibility that the artform of the album will be replaced by playlists. While no one can predict the future, the music industry’s sweeping irreversible transformation is a certainty, and those who learn to adapt will fare better than those who dig their heels in and wish for a pre-streaming era to return.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.

The 3 Biggest Business Missteps DIY Musicians Make

[Editors Note: This was written by Suzanne Paulinski.]

 

As the music industry evolves, more and more responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of independent musicians who wish to build a sustainable career in music. In order to do that, they must embrace their role as CEO of their own business.

For many, this is a dreaded role they would have preferred never to fill. After all, we tend to shy away from things that don’t come naturally to us and if one’s passion and talents lie in creative endeavors, spending time with spreadsheets and business plans doesn’t exactly sound like a walk in the park.

While there is a lot to learn about the business, there are 3 major missteps DIY musicians make when setting out to build their career that can trip them up, no matter the tools and resources they have at their disposal.

#1: They spend money on the wrong things

All too often I have musicians approach me and say, “I want to work with you, but all my money needs to go to recording my next album.” Now, for some, that may make sense.

If they have an engaged following, songs that are ready to record, and plans to leverage that album by booking shows and gaining more press – awesome! Then investing in studio time serves their goal and they should move forward.

However, if they’re spending money in the studio just so they can tell people they’re back in the studio, while in reality they’re paying to sit and write songs that aren’t ready to record, and they’re not at all sure what they’ll do with the album once it’s done, maybe that’s not the best use of their money.

I’m not saying it should all go to a career coach, but one has to ask, “What will serve me right now in my career? What’s holding me back the most? What will make a difference in my efforts moving forward?”

If you’re unclear on your goals – get a coach. If you’re failing horribly at social media, take a class. If you’ve got great songs but your vocals are weak, invest in voice lessons. Being the CEO of your career means taking charge and doing what’s right for the future of that career.

#2: They focus on building a team too soon

Much like the misstep with money, many musicians put an endless amount of energy into seeking management, or fail to book a tour for themselves because they’re convinced they can’t get the gigs they want without proper representation.

There is very little one can’t do on their own in this industry. There is a distinct difference between “can’t” and “don’t know how.” While one term is definitively limiting, the other indicates that one can eventually succeed with the right tools and knowledge.

Obviously, with everything that a musician has on their plate, the thought of a team to carry out what needs to get done seems like the answer to their problems. However, what ends up happening is that they spend time pitching managers and booking agents rather than booking shows and engaging fans.

Managers and booking agents then turn the artist down, after being unable to see any action from the artist’s career to warrant their help.

If you’re hitting roadblocks in your efforts to book shows or grow your fanbase, do some research or enroll in a reputable online course to learn better tactics.

If you’re completely overwhelmed with little time to accomplish what needs to be done, look into hiring a virtual assistant (or outsource on Fiverr/Task Rabbit) who can help take care of the day-to-day administrative tasks while you focus on bigger picture goals.

An assistant doesn’t need to see a certain level of followers or performance history before jumping on board. Build until there is something formidable for someone else to manage. Let them seek you out, they’ll know when you’re ready.

#3: They try to learn too much at once

Gary Vaynerchuk, as well as many other successful entrepreneurs, often warns that a lack of patience is the ultimate downfall for many who try to follow their dreams. There is no such thing as an overnight success. Much like building a team, you must use the same advice above when it comes to building up your knowledge of the industry.

Too often musicians begin learning about one aspect of the business and then lose focus because they heard someone mention something else that was “super important” so they switch their focus to learning that bit of magic, until someone else comes along and mentions the next “up and coming” piece of industry know-how and then it’s onto that new focus.

In the end, they are left with information overload and a very low retention of skills and knowledge. Success is comprised of healthy habits. Habits take time to form. Trying to learn all of the industry’s “secrets to success” at once is a fool’s errand.

Decide what is a priority right now for the next phase of your career. Figure out what resources you have to carry out the tasks required as well as what’s still needed. Seek out the information and tools necessary to move you forward and nothing more.

If you happen to download an ebook or resource that doesn’t serve your current focus, save it in a folder for later. Finish tasks. Move forward. Reassess. Learn more.

There is no one way to building a successful career, as success is defined by the person pursuing it, but there is a right way. Hopefully avoiding these missteps will allow you to focus more energy directly on the goals you’ve set out to achieve, rather than allowing your energy to splinter off into unrelated paths.


Suzanne Paulinksi is an artist consultant with over 10 years in the music industry and owner of The Rock/Star Advocate

The Misery Myth: Why a Self-Destructive Attitude Won’t Improve Your Songwriting

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

No matter how gratifying songwriting can be, making meaningful music and sharing it with the world is often tedious, thankless and discouraging. With that in mind, it’s no wonder so many artists associate emotional pain represented by addiction, depression and other self-destructive habits with songwriting gains. But while it might be tempting to liken the economy of songwriting to a bank where the more misery you put in the greater the songwriting returns, it’s just not true.

The Misery Myth

From modern songwriting greats like Elliott Smith, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse to legendary musicians active all throughout the 20th century like John Coltrane and Bix Beiderbecke, misery has been associated with musical genius for a long time.

Some of the world’s most influential songwriters have fought and lost battles with addiction and depression on the world stage, so it only makes sense that music fans and songwriters equate self-destruction with songwriting talent and potency. And because the fact that pure, unbridled sadness is something everyone longs to relate to in music has never changed, the misery myth continues to persist and thrive today.

Recognizing the Problem

The fact that lots of phenomenal musicians have tragically succumbed to their own self-destructive behaviors doesn’t mean that misery is an essential ingredient for meaningful songwriting. There’s no telling what sort of music Elliott Smith would be making now if he were still alive today. Misery didn’t enhance his legacy, it ended it.

It’s time to recognize this problem for what it really is. Glamorizing self-destruction is foolish, destructive and completely disrespectful of musicians who’ve died battling their personal demons.

Music fans and songwriters alike have a habit of holding up a few examples of depressed, self-destructive musicians as sacred musical role models while ignoring the overwhelmingly vast majority of artists with the same behaviors who never became successful.

The truth is, things like substance addiction, depression and mental illness make it nearly impossible for musicians to create music. The great songwriters we associate with misery, self-harm and addiction somehow managed to musically thrive in spite of their demons, not because of them.

Rather than imitating and fetishizing self-destruction, if you want to become a great songwriter like Kurt Cobain, songwriters should try defining what it is they really admire about him.

Separating the Music From the Myth

Things like talent, musical intuition and consistent hard work are what make songwriters great.

And while dramatic stories about addiction and suicide often elevate artists to a legendary status, a songwriter’s legacy is built off their music, not their tragedy. Misery will only hurt you as a songwriter and as a functioning human being. If you want to thrive as a musician and writer, you’ll have to learn how to write great music. Using self-harm and destruction as tools to relate and connect with your listeners will only end up making true, impactful music a more difficult and remote goal to achieve.

Creating meaningful music over the long term is almost impossible without taking care of yourself. That’s something that isn’t discussed much in our culture for the simple fact that it’s less dramatic and sexy as the misery myth, but it’s true. It’s absolutely possible to emotionally resonate with listeners while being healthy and centered.

In fact, that’s a position the majority of musicians working today operate from. If every songwriter in the music industry was perpetually high, suicidal and on the brink of death, the world would have much less music. If you want to make meaningful music, misery in all its forms something important to write about, but it alone just isn’t capable of doing the job.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.

Personality Dynamics: Why Communication and Respect Are Vital For The Health of Your Band

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

 

Many serious bands happily sacrifice money, relationships and careers in the hopes that they’ll find an audience for their music. But while focusing on the musical parts of being in a band is important, the way the musicians who form a band respect and communicate with each other is just as vital for acts that hope to create, record and perform music over the long-term.

Bands break up for all sorts of reasons. Some musicians throw everything they have into music for a few years only to give it all up when they can’t find the success they’d hoped for, but others upend otherwise perfectly good projects because they simply can’t work with the other musicians in their band anymore. It’s become routine for bands with massive talent and untapped potential to call it quits because they fail to focus their efforts on communication and mutual respect.

What Bands Do and Don’t Do Well

When musicians set out to create new projects, they probably think about making music and not much else, and this makes sense. If the purpose of a band is to create music, it should exclusively focus on writing, recording and performing, right?

Bands obviously need to spend time developing their identity as musicians, but alongside non-musical relationship skills like communication, openness and respect. Musicians in newer bands with plenty of enthusiasm and energy tend to be great at writing lots of songs and playing shows, but they’re notoriously bad at making goals, being open about feelings and speaking up when they feel unheard or disrespected.

Blame it on the male-driven culture behind so many bands out there or the fact that making serious music requires musicians to frequently enter vulnerable territories they’re not usually comfortable in, but most bands are simply not great at being open with how they feel about things, and this is a big problem.

All Relationships Take Work. Why Would Your Band Be Any Different?

Whether you realize it or not, a band is a relationship unlike any other. Falling somewhere between a friendship, marriage and creative business partnership, the personality dynamic behind every band is completely unique. But like all other relationships, it takes effort and sacrifice to keep a band healthy and together.

The work that makes the other relationships in your life possible is similar to the work you’ll need to do to keep your band healthy and on track. Some bands, most famously Metallica, even go as far as to get professional counseling for their issues. Your band might not need therapy, but you will have to learn to speak openly and respectfully to each other if you want to stay together.

Opening the Lines of Communication

It can be awkward and unnatural for some musicians to open up and talk about their needs and feelings, but for bands to be successful, they have to be able to really talk and listen to each other. Communication in band settings is so vital because making music with other people is complicated on every level and there’s often so much at stake.

Bands routinely deal with everything from complicated finances and contracts to spending months together touring crammed together in a small van or car. Sure, at band practice once a week you’ll be able to stay quiet and let some things you’re not happy with slide, but when you’re on tour for two months promoting an album you’ve just put a couple thousand of your own dollars into, it might be a little harder to hold your tongue. Opening up the lines of communication now will keep you from saying things you might regret later.

Respect, Openness and Empathy

Musicians in successful bands find ways to respect and empathize with each other, even when it’s not easy to. Under ideal conditions, it doesn’t take a lot of work for some like-minded musicians to be kind and patient with one another, but like in any other relationship, people show their true colors in the face of real challenges.

Who you are when the van breaks down or when your band blows the show? It’s more important for that person to be kind, open and respectful to your other bandmates than the person you are when things are going swimmingly. Easier said than done, of course, but the effort here is the important thing.

Taking Stock of the Health of Your Band

It can be uncomfortable to address underlying issues in your band, but ignoring them will only make things worse. Setting aside time after rehearsals is a good way to make time for getting things off your chest, making plans and opening up a dialogue about what your band is doing and where you want to go.

Rather than waiting for disasters to appear and become unmanageable, getting in the habit of creating opportunities for respectful dialogue now will help your band stay together and make music for years to come.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.

A Look Back at TuneCore in 2017

Where did this year go?! It feels like just last week we were cheering about all the accolades and big moments that made up TuneCore’s big 2016, but here we are entering into a new year once again.

One thing that never seems to change is the ability of all the artists that make up the TuneCore community to shine. We’re thrilled to have spent another year helping artists take control of their journeys, build their fan bases and collect 100% of their sales revenue.

Along the way, TuneCore made its presence known at events and conferences around the world – connecting with artists to advance the mission of helping them get heard and get paid. It’s always exciting to see the artists who use our platform for distribution gain traction and show the world why it pays to be independent. So join us in taking a look back at 2017.

GRAMMY Nominations


TuneCore artists, songwriters and arrangers are making some serious waves in the GRAMMY nomination pool this year. Check out some of the awesome noms received by independent artists from the TuneCore community and join us in congratulating them:

SZABest New Artist, Best Rap/Sung Performance, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best R&B Performance

Sylvan EssoBest Dance/Electronic Album

Julian Lage & Chris EldridgeBest Contemporary Instrumental Album

August Burns Red  – Best Metal Performance

K. FlayBest Rock Song

Raul MidónBest Jazz Vocal Album

Miguel ZenónBest Latin Jazz Album

Tina CampbellBest Gospel Performance/Song

The Walls GroupBest Gospel Performance/Song

CeCe WinansBest Gospel Performance/Song, Best Gospel Album

Marvin SappBest Gospel Album

Alex CubaBest Latin Pop Album

Los Amigos InvisiblesBest Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative album

Aida CuevasBest Regional Mexican Music Album

Blind Boys of AlabamaBest American Roots Performance

The Infamous StringdustersBest Bluegrass Album

Lisa LoebBest Children’s Album

 

TuneCore at SXSW, A3C & Midem 2017


As we have been in the past, TuneCore was in attendance at some of the music industry’s most important events and conferences this year. It’s always incredibly meaningful for us to connect directly with artists, labels, and managers to talk strategy and success – and of course where TuneCore fits into that conversation for them.

At SXSW, our team held down the Artist Gifting Lounge for four days where we were able to hold one-on-one consulting sessions, introduce our artist services and distribution options to newcomers, and shoot the breeze with artists during one of the busiest events of the year. At night, that same team was out on the streets attending TuneCore Artists’ sets and showcases all over Austin.

In other rooms of the Austin Conference Center, TuneCore’s Director of Entertainment Relations Chris Mooney chaired the Transforming Online Popularity to Offline Success” panel. Additionally, Manager of Artist Entertainment Relations Amy Lombardi could be found running the “Creating For a Cause: Music For Action & Awareness” panel.

 

Across the pond, TuneCore’s VP of International Marie-Anne Robert was invited to speak at a distribution-focused panel during Midem 2017. Being able to chime in during one of the largest publishing conferences in the industry is always a massive honor, and Marie-Anne advised artists on the importance of making sense of the data from streaming services and how it can help influence business decisions.

Later in the year, members of the TuneCore team hightailed it down south to Atlanta for one of the biggest and increasingly important events for independent hip hop: A3C Fest 2017.

With so many independent artists popping their heads in and out of the Loudermilk Conference Center in downtown Atlanta, TuneCore took advantage of this opportunity by hosting “Music Made Me Industry Talks” that included a combination of hip hop artists, producers and music industry professionals. Topics included distribution, beatmaking, business planning and radio promotion.

International Highlights


TuneCore’s International team was busier than ever in 2017. Brand managers across Europe were busy meeting with and informing artists about the benefits of using TuneCore during our first-ever “TuneCore Indie Tour” – stopping off in the UK (Manchester, Birmingham, and Nottingham), France (Marseille, Nantes, Lyon, Paris, Lille and Annecy), Germany (Hamburg, Dusseldorf, and Dortmund), Austria (Vienna) and Romania (Bucharest).

 

Aside from connecting with artists on these tour dates, TuneCore also established new partnerships with like-minded, artist-friendly European startups like the CapiTalent, Arezzo Wave Love Festival, Music on Stage, Les Etoiles du Parisien, NME, Focus Wales, Liverpool Sound City, SPH Bandcontest and the Reeperbahn Festival. Partnerships like these have allowed us not only just reach more international artists and labels, but also helped create more exclusive opportunities for them to take advantage of.

 

Music Made Me: The TuneCore Podcast


By promoting articles written by experts active in the music industry today, we like to think the TuneCore Blog is a strong resource for independent artists seeking information that can help them further advance their careers. Education is a key component of getting ahead in this game, and in the summer of 2017 we branched out into a new medium by rolling out “Music Made Me: The TuneCore Podcast”!

Each episode is hosted or curated by a member of TuneCore’s team and features conversations with artists, managers, publicists, music supervisors and more – all with the goal of getting the right kind of information into the hands of those who need it most.

Haven’t had a listen yet? Be sure to catch up on this year’s episodes and subscribe to keep up with all the exciting upcoming episodes we’ll be sharing in 2018 and beyond.

#2018Goals


Finally, we’d like to say congratulations to all of our TuneCore Artists on their successes. We appreciate you working with us for digital distribution, and we’re excited to find new ways to support the independent community.

In fact, we’d love to know what you’ve got planned for 2018. Let us know by sharing your #2018Goals with @TuneCore on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram

Thanks, Happy New Year, and see you in 2018!