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.

October Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Adds Playlist Pitching Options, Partners With Google & Launches New App


October was a busy month for Spotify! They’ve announced some recent updates that impact fans, labels and artists. For music fans who use Google and Android smart devices, an advanced partnership now allows Spotify subscribers to use voice command control of the app using  Google Assistant. Formerly relegated to Google Home smart-speakers, this marks a move towards Google’s acceptance of Spotify’s high subscription rate and putting it front-of-mind when updating its mobile offerings. While Andorid users can rejoice in their ability to say “OK Google, Play Spotify”, Music Ally points out that the tech giant may still be leaning toward YouTube being the lead music brand for Google going forward, as it merges with Google Play.”

For independent labels, pitching for slots on playlists and Spotify’s ‘Browse’ section can be as difficult for those without representation. There also remains an internal struggle between the promotion of label playlists and Spotify’s own in-house playlists. As such, Spotify has moved to offer a new system for indie labels aimed at giving their artists a better shot at making it onto playlists while also (ideally) giving labels’ playlists “a better chance of building an audience on Spotify.” Read more about the pitching system here, and as indie artists, keep your eyes out for more transparent pitching opportunities in the future!

Finally, as creators are concerned, Spotify launched it’s “Spotify For Artists” app on iOS. We’ve talked about the “Spotify For Artists” app on the Blog before, so it’s exciting to see such a helpful tool being offered to artists right in their pocket. An Android version is soon to follow, but for now, indie artists with iOS devices can edit their bios and their ‘artist’s pick’, as well as update their playlists and keep an eye on their listener analytics.

2017 On-Demand Streams Soar in the U.S.


We know, even though it feels like time is flying, the year isn’t over yet. But as a digital music distributor serving independent artists with the opportunity to make their music available on dozens and dozens of digital streaming platforms, we can’t help but get excited about figures like this: on-demand audio and video streams are up 40.5% in the U.S. so far in 2017

At 442.44 billion streams so far, MusicAlly once again provides a helpful comparison that shows that this year, eight tracks have already toppled last year’s most-streamed track, “Panda” by Desiigner, in the comparative window of time.

While the top artists being streamed are no doubt most of the big-timers you’d expect to see leading the way, it’s important as ever to look at these types of figures as an overall shift toward the trend of streaming. Once a consumption method for the ‘active’ music listener, more and more subscribers means more and more music discovery. With direct access to these platforms, it puts independent artists in a good position to be marketing their releases across fans’ preferred channels for streaming.

BandsInTown Announces “Big Break” Platform For Emerging Artists


BandsInTown – if you don’t already know (and you should) – is a popular app aimed at helping artists promote their concerts/tour dates and helping fans keep track of when all their favorite performers will be playing locally. In addition to helping fans discover new artists by offering concert dates for bands they don’t already follow on Facebook via a “listen-if-you-like” style algorithm, BandsInTown is launching their “Big Break” platform in an effort to promote new independent artists.

The new feature “highlights everything you need to know about the fresh faces turning the industry upside down. From the secrets behind their viral tracks to their big plans for the future…”, supported by a series on their blog. BandsInTown will select 50 artists in order to grow their ‘trackers’ following from 500 to 5,000.
This is a very cool step towards further connecting indie artists with new and potential fans. The app is already right up any diehard music fan’s alley in terms of keeping up with their favorite acts’ performing schedules – even for local artists. Head on over to their blog to learn more about the platform and how to keep up with the opportunities coming from the app down the road.

Get Started With Feature.fm

TuneCore has partnered an exciting platform, Feature.fm, that helps artists get their music heard. Offering a “digital ad platform” for musicians, Feature.fm lets you sponsor your already uploaded tracks from Deezer, SoundCloud or Youtube on stores, radio and major music websites worldwide, such as youredm, EDM Hunters, Tiny Mixtapes, 1001 Tracklists, PopMatters or HipHopnMore.

So what can Feature.fm do, and how do you get started?

There are three ways that feature.fm can help you get heard:

  1.    By playing your song to a targeted audience of Deezer users.
  2.    By playing your song to a targeted audience of people listening to the 8tracks Radio service.
  3.    By promoting one of your existing YouTube Videos, SoundCloud tracks or mp3 across various popular music websites and blogs.

The ability to create a campaign to promote your music to streaming stores like Deezer, or popular upload platforms like SoundCloud, make this an extremely worthwhile service in engaging your audience and music everywhere!

As one of the biggest streaming services, Deezer has 10 million active users, and offers its service in 182 countries worldwide. These millions of users are a huge opportunity! By generating more streams of your music inside a service like Deezer, you can drive trending activity, and start to rise up the Deezer charts – meaning  more exposure! As an additional bonus because TuneCore pays you 100% of revenue for your streams from Deezer, you will recoup some of the costs of your feature.fm campaign from the increase in streaming revenues you get from people hearing your music!

Once you’ve selected the song,  you will be asked how you would like to target your campaign – you can select locations, ages and genders. You then need to add some tags – genre, similar artists and flag whether or not your song has explicit lyrics.

If you’ve already distributed your music through Spotify, you can use the “similar artists” area to target similar artists based on data – but if not, then make sure you put in some well known artists here, so that you’re getting a broad pool of potential listeners. Targeting your music to the right audience is super important – be specific enough to hit the right people, but don’t be too specific – you want to get in front of as many potential fans as possible. If someone doesn’t like your song they can skip it so don’t worry. And if they skip before 30 seconds, you don’t get charged for the sponsored play.

Let’s take a look at the UK artist Karmah  to see their experience  using the service! They were specifically interested in boosting themselves on Deezer and selected that as their campaign focus with the song “I Ain’t Worried”. Now, as they are a UK band, their currency is in £, but you can use your own Local Currency (CAD$ £, €, $ etc…)

Above, represents the initial campaign creation process and then two days of activity. You can see that by spending £40 the campaign drove 2500 sponsored plays – so that’s more than 2500 potential new fans reached. One really interesting thing to note here is the “play sources”. You can see that almost everyone listened to the track on either an iPhone or Android phone. The number of Deezer users using the Deezer.com website is tiny by comparison. This is worth taking note of generally when you are promoting your music on social media (for example when using TuneCore Social Pro) – remember that the vast majority of people streaming your music will be doing so on a mobile device, and ensure that you are messaging appropriately.

In the image above we can see that there are 152 “engagements” – representing 6% of the people who listened. Let’s dive into bit more detail on that section.

You can see here that 81 people added the song to their “favourites” in Deezer while another 59 added it to one of their playlists – 140 people took an action related to saving the song. This means that new listeners are engaging with your music! By getting your music in front of a new fan with feature.fm, you may actually have started a relationship that continues for years!

Some more useful information that feature.fm gives you is a breakdown of the age and gender of the people who are listening to the track – but also the age and gender of people who engage.

When Karmah’s team created the campaign, they set some broad targeting criteria – you can be as detailed as you like here – the more relevant the data you put in here, the better the audience you will be targeting. The age range selected for the campaign is 12 to 40, and the locations are UK, USA, France, Ireland, and Canada. For Gender, the campaign targeted both female and male listeners.

When you look at the age and gender or people who heard the sponsored plays, you can see that females aged 18-24 heard the most number. This could be because of the “similar artists” that were used to target the campaign. The screenshot below breaks down the age and gender demographics of your audience.

Creating our first campaign with feature.fm took just a few minutes – and already we are seeing some exciting results…

For £40 (and remember, this is just a snapshot of two days in the campaign) Karmah not only got 2500 plays, but also 152 strong engagements as a result of people hearing and liking her music. She and her team also got some really valuable data about what kind of fan is most likely to engage with her music. All of this for just £0.26 per engagement – and with long term potential for those people who favorited or playlisted the track to listen again and again and again.

Karmah’s manager Jermaine from Public Sector Entertainment said, “Karmah already has a really engaged fanbase through SoundCloud, Twitter and Instagram – but we know that as her career develops the thing that matters most is getting out in front of new fans who have never heard her music before – feature.fm has allowed us to do that in a way I have not seen from any other tool. Creating our first campaign with feature.fm took just a few minutes – and already we’re seeing some exciting results. I will definitely be using feature.fm with other artists I manage. We made a small spend to test the platform, but I’m already imagining if this campaign keeps running. With a £100 campaign spend, that could be over 6000 streams, and more than 380 engagements… With £200 campaign spend it could hit more than 12000 streams, and possibly as many as 750 engagements – and we will see some of that spend come back directly through streaming revenues. Longer term I’m sure that the value of developing these new fans is sure to pay off.

Get started with feature.fm today – look for the link backstage in your TuneCore account and sign up using that link to get some free feature.fm credit to use in your first campaign.

iTunes Holiday 2017 Delays & Closures – Plan Ahead!

You read that right, folks! We’re already approaching the holiday season, and once again we’re here to remind you that it’s imperative to be prepared if you’re planning on distributing music during November and December. Like many of us, our pals at iTunes and other digital store partners take time off during the holiday, resulting in potential delays.

See below for some guidelines that’ll ensure you have a successful release just in time for the holidays:

  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Friday, November 17th and Friday, December 1st you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 7th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 2nd and Friday, December 8th you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 14th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 9th and Friday, December 22nd you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, November 28th.
  • In order for content to become available in iTunes and other stores between Saturday, December 23rd and Sunday, January 7th you must upload and pay for distribution in TuneCore no later than Tuesday, December 12th.

In order to make sure that you don’t miss the release date for your song or album, plan ahead and distribute your new music as soon as you can to avoid getting caught in holiday closings/delays. The earlier you get your new music on iTunes and other stores, the more time your fans will have to buy it!

If you’re not ready to release that album just yet, we always recommend releasing a single early to garner some excitement!

Regardless of how your fans celebrate the holidays, give them the chance to use your music as a soundtrack – distribute your holiday music today!

August Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Begins Testing Videos Within Playlists


It’s amazing to think about the progress that streaming platforms have made over recent years. Streaming itself was and is a groundbreaking way to listen to music digitally, but one can even point to the amazing influential powers of playlists as an example of how quickly the way fans discover music and engage with their favorite artist changes. Any independent artist who has been added to a higher profile playlist will likely be able to tell you about the positive impact it has on their career, too.

This month, Spotify – which also announced that it has surpassed 60 million subscribers – officially rolled out the inclusion of videos within its incredibly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist (it began testing this feature in March, as reported by MusicAlly). While this is only available in the U.S. for now, it marks another impressive step towards integrating new forms of content for fans to geek-out on. One could say this move also shows video giants like YouTube that Spotify can keep up with the demand.

Outside the realm of traditional music videos, this will be exclusive video content from various artists aimed at engaging fans in a less traditional manner: Spotify claims fans will be able to see everything “from 2 Chainz visiting Dr. Miami to assist him with a butt-lift surgery to Sza hanging out in the woods and talking about her rise to fame, or Wale getting a gourmet meal from a five-star weed chef”.

As this feature is sure to be rolled out further in the coming year, independent artists can see this continued commitment to playlisting as a positive. Getting placed on a playlist can be a powerful way to market your music to new fans, and the opportunity to include video content down the road only sweetens the deal. TuneCore always offers artists the opportunity to be considered for feature placements (with no guarantees, of course), and this facet of marketing and promotion should be implemented into their upcoming releases.

 

Nielsen Report Shows Interesting Millennial Music Consumption Trends


Tired of reading reports and headlines about how ‘millennials’ are eating, drinking, ruining industries, and interacting with the world around them? Too bad! But hey, at least this recent report by Nielsen actually pertains to folks – millennial or otherwise – making music and distributing to digital platforms.

Millennial music fans display “Lots of Love, Lack of Loyalty”, Nielsen says. The report touches on a lot, but when it comes to music, it appears as though fans in the 18-34 range are using multiple platforms to tune in with little regard for the brands fueling them. 57% of millennials are using two or more apps to stream music, compared to only 39% of those streamers over the age 35.

While it’s commonplace to bemoan the decline of terrestrial (and even digital) radio listening among this generation, figures around how much radio they’re dialed into have barely dropped since last year (10 hours and 14 minutes per week down from 11 hours and 17 minutes per week). An interesting thing to note, though, is that millennials are “21%more likely to frequently choose songs than to let the music play without making changes” – an obviously different listening experience from what broadcast radio offers.

As mentioned above – if you’re an artist distributing to popular streaming platforms, this is some must-read stuff. The report concludes that loyalty to platforms aside, “the reality of today’s media scenario is that the addition of new offerings has actually inspired increased consumption.”

 

YouTube Begins Offering In-App Messaging & Sharing


Tired of reading what those animals in the YouTube video comment sections have to say? Yeah, we all are. The good news is that YouTube has launched an exciting new way for fans to share their favorite content with their friends and chat about it without ever leaving the app. As streaming services like Spotify scale back their messaging offerings, YouTube hopes to inspire more sharing, discovering and private conversation while keeping folks in-app.

YouTube Product Manager Benoit de Boursetty says, “We think it’ll make sharing easier, faster and more fun on your phone… These shared videos all live in a brand new tab on your YouTube mobile app, making it easier than ever to catch up on videos your friends have shared or to show them a few of your own favourites.”

The demand for music on YouTube continues, and thankfully independent artists are offered a way to not only distribute properly but also collect sound recording revenue from the Google-owned giant. It’s not hard to believe that we’ll see a spike in sharing among dedicated users who might shy away from music-first platforms such as Apple Music, Deezer or Spotify. As an app that attracts less-than-active music listeners at higher rates, YouTube’s new features stand to make it a friendlier place for artists to share their new releases.

Your Music Was Added to a Popular Spotify Playlist…Now What?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Sam Friedman and originally appeared on the Soundly Blog.]

 

It’s 2017, and album sales are sinking to historic lows. CDs are becoming obsolete. Even digital downloads are plummeting. But people are listening more than ever — they’re just streaming. The music-publishing industry is changing fast. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) reported that in 2016, streaming services were responsible for more than 50% of revenue earned in the music industry today. And the biggest player of them all is — you guessed it — Spotify, with an unbelievable 50 million paying users.

Spotify is known for its “discover” features, most specifically its playlists. Whether it’s “New Music Friday,” “Today’s Top Hits,” or “RapCaviar,” many of these playlists have millions of followers. If your music gets added to one of the biggies, that’s about as close to a Willy-Wonka golden ticket as you’re going to get in the streaming world. Overnight, your track can soar from a few hundred plays to tens of thousands.

Today, it’s just as important (if not more so) for indie artists to try to get their music featured on Spotify playlists as it is to get press coverage. Obviously, both are optimal, but Spotify can generate some serious revenue, especially if the artist owns the music.

And beyond getting paid, it exposes your music to thousands of new listeners. In many ways, it’s not unlike opening for a huge artist in front of a new audience. Spotify often curates its playlists based on genres or moods, so when your song comes on, it’s usually because someone was looking for or listening to a song like yours. But as much as artists (and labels) are competing for features, not many of them have a plan for when that magical moment happens.

Personally speaking, I didn’t even know my song was featured until an A&R rep reached out to me to talk about my music, mentioning he found me on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I checked my Spotify plays and saw that one of my tracks, which previously had less than 1,000 plays, had suddenly increased to nearly 40,000! I had no idea what to do next other than just feel giddy that people were discovering my music. In reality, there are several important steps that every artist should take when his or her music is featured in a Spotify playlist.

Promote Your Feature

First things first: if you do get featured on a playlist, treat it like a good press feature and share that thing! This is a good time to do a sponsored social media post with a link to your song on Spotify. You should already budget for promoting your music on Spotify, but after your song is featured on a playlist, make a custom post and bump up the awareness. Be sure to share the playlist itself, too, not just your song.

Thank the Playlist Curator(s)

You may have to do a little research to find the names of the playlist curators, but that’s what Google is for, right? Get to stalking! If you can, find their emails, send them a genuine thank you, and establish a relationship. It’s also a good idea to find their Twitter handles and tag them when you share the playlist.

If someone out there likes your music enough to put you on a playlist that literally thousands of other musicians are dying to be on, chances are he or she is going to be open to hearing from you. Capitalize on their interest, and make a connection as soon as possible.

Search the Charts

Even if your song is added to a small playlist and you only get a modest bump in streams, the rate of growth can be enough to earn some chart action. Search Viral 50, Spotify US, Spotify Global charts, etc. Making it onto one of these is a huge opportunity to shine.

It’s also a great way to encourage your fans to share your song. People always like to help something grow. Ask your fans for their help, and update them every time you move up a notch.

Check Other Playlists

When a song is added to a big playlist, there tends to be a domino effect. You can typically find out which playlists feature your song under the About portion of your Spotify artist profile. Search daily, but also actively go hunting. Every Friday, check the “New Music Friday” playlist. Every Wednesday, check all of the “Fresh Finds” playlists.

Remember, each playlist that features your song is going to grow your audience and is worth raving about. In addition, people will find your music and add you to their smaller playlists — thank them.

Use Data to Build Your Press Kit

Take the data from your playlist feature — number of streams, cities where you’re most popular, etc. — and add it to your press kit or EPK. Today, new artists are introduced with press quotes and their streaming data if it’s impressive. Similar to a good quote from a reputable publication, notable streaming data helps sell your music to prospective bookers, record labels, A&R execs, etc. and is powerful ammunition to build your career.

Reinvest Your Earnings

Various studies report that the aggregate net average per stream is around $0.005 depending on how much of your music you own. It takes a couple months to get paid, but make sure you have a plan ready for how to reinvest that income back into your music.

For example, stash a certain amount of that money away for promoting your next single with Instagram ads and sponsored Facebook posts. Using your streaming money for cocktails over the next five weekends might not be the best investment to help keep your music career growing.

Keep an Eye on Your Stats

Obviously, you should pay close attention to your streaming stats, but watch your overall numbers on other platforms like Facebook and Instagram along with other streaming services like Apple Music. Unfortunately, people streaming playlists that feature your song doesn’t automatically mean they’re becoming fans — they’re just being exposed to your music. Look out for people commenting on your pages saying they found you on Spotify. Those are the fans you’re going to want to nurture and build a relationship with.

Another helpful stat to track is where people are listening. If you’re popular in Sweden, for example, plan to include that territory in your next promotion, or possibly think about planning a tour there. Spotify insights are crucial in helping you target new fans and nurture existing ones.

Pitch to Other Playlists

Now that you’ve been featured once, use that as an angle to bolster your single for inclusion on another playlist. When you’re pitching, mention your success and how your track is growing. Remember, a lot of Spotify is about credibility. People tend to only pay attention when you’re on the rise. Capitalize on that and keep pitching. Singles die off fast these days, so keep extending the life of your track until you release the next one.

If you feel overwhelmed by all this data gathering, that’s because it’s designed to be complicated. There are over 900,000 distinct royalty streams that artists around the world have access to, and between 20-50% of royalties generated never make into these artists’ pockets.