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.

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!

4 Ways To Engage With Fans in Digital Stores

You already know how to get your music into over 150 digital stores and streaming services worldwide – whether it’s a single, a brand new EP/full-length, or even just a cover song to surprise and delight your fans with.

And while it’s easy to get caught up with the desire to end up on Spotify playlist or get featured in the iTunes Store, independent artists often overlook some even easier ways to solidify their presence and interact with fans in some of these well-known streaming and download platforms.

Let’s take a look at a few simple ways you can engage fans and make your music easier to find when they come hunting:

spotify

1. Set Up a Spotify Verified Artist Account

Start building a community of fans who want to discover music through you – with a Spotify ‘verified artist account’ you can let your fans know when you’ve made a  playlist or share a new song. Your account will be linked to your discography pages, (making them easily searchable) and you’ll be creating a direct-to-fan channel within Spotify.

Once you’ve distributed your music to Spotify and signed up for your own account (avoid signing up with a Facebook profile), head over to this site to complete Spotify’s “Verification Form”. Be prepared to have a URL to a hosted 200×200 pixel profile image on the form. Click here to download a PDF of Spotify’s “Best Practices Guide”.

Next, add a playlist to your account (make sure to ‘right click’ on the playlist name to ‘Make Public’) – that way, you’re not launching an empty page.

Finally, share it with your fans! Copy and paste the playlists’ ‘http link’ and let your fans on Facebook and Twitter know you’re open for business.

2. Get Access to Spotify Fan Insights

Last November we reported on one of Spotify’s coolest roll-outs: Fan Insights. Now you can find out who your fans are, where they are in the world, how they listen, what their other musical preferences are and how they engage.

spotify fan insightsYou can still head over to Spotify’s Artist site and request access to the beta version of Fan Insights here.

 

Google Play

3. Set Up a Google Play Artist Page

If you’ve distributed your latest releases using TuneCore, it’s pretty likely that you’ve decided to include Google Play in the stores we send your music to. And why wouldn’t you? Google has risen to the ranks as one of the biggest household names in digital media, and Google Play serves as it’s platform for getting music, videos, apps and more in the hands of fans.

Selling your music, personalizing your store page and reaching users with your music on Google Play is easy! After you’ve made sure that your music has gone life on Google Play, head over to the Google Play Artist Hub.

Google Play Artist Hub

From there you can sign in with your Google account, find your artist name, and you’ll even be able to use a credit card (without being charged) to protect against “artist impersonation”.

apple music

4. Claim Your Profile on Apple Music Connect

By now, Apple Music has made enough headlines and become enough of a go-to platform for so many fans that as an indie artist, you want to make the most of it. Apple Connect is described as a ‘place where musicians give their fans a closer look a their work, their inspirations, and their world.

When you claim your profile on Connect, you can engage directly with your fans and share audio, photos and videos. Get started by visiting this site and signing in with your Apple ID.

AppleMusicConnect2

From there, you can search for your artist name or paste a link to your iTunes artist page and claim that profile.  Additionally, you’ll be asked for your Artist Management and Label contact information – keep in mind, TuneCore does not fulfill either of these, so if you’re lacking this information, just put in your own personal contact information twice and move on.


Now that you’ve stepped up your store game, head over to your social media profiles and break out that email list – it’s time to start sharing some links!

September Industry Wrap-Up

Spotify Expands Video Features, Partners With Hulu

It’s rare that a month goes by without some sort of news around the music streaming platform Spotify’s latest ventures. Last month, we reported on Spotify extending a test to U.S. customers that added videos to their playlists, specifically within its wildly popular “Rap Caviar” playlist.

This past month, Spotify rolled the feature out globally. The expansion was highlight by an exclusively-shot video for pop star Sam Smith’s latest ‘Too Good At Goodbyes’ single. Included in 40 popular international playlists, this quick development one month from its initial testing shows that the company is feeling confident in the feature’s reception from fans. As MusicAlly points out, the expansion of this feature is notable as it highlights Spotify’s video strategy shifting towards playlists as opposed to original shows.

Speaking of original shows, Spotify has also expanded its marketing of premium subscriptions by partnering with another likeminded and innovative player in the media space, Hulu. The two industry disrupters have teamed up much to the delight of college students heading back to campus this semester by offering a bundled subscription package: just $4.99/month for Spotify Premium and Hulu’s on-demand streaming plan. Spotify already offers a $4.99 student special, but this bundling deal is sure to sweeten the offering for a lot of tempted college kids looking for entertainment on the cheap!

Between finding new ways to entice paying subscribers and expanding artist-friendly creative features that we’re seeing in their video strategy, all signs point to Spotify staying on course as an innovative leader in a space in which indie artists can earn more revenue. We already know that music videos continue to be a big part of artists’ marketing strategies, and this combined with college campuses being a breeding ground for new music fans gives artists all the more motivation to get creative in this space.

 

RIAA Reports Strong Growth in Music Industry Thanks to Streaming

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) dropped it’s 2017 mid year music industry review in September, and it turns out everything is coming up streaming! Not a huge surprise to most, obviously, but the numbers are definitely encouraging overall.

Comprising 62% of U.S. industry revenue in 2017 so far, paid streaming is now the largest contributor to the industry, a slice of the pie once dominated by digital downloads. In fact in just two years, that number jumped up from 33% in 2015 – while digital downloads accounted for 22% less this year, down to 19% from 41% in 2015.

Another less surprising point from this report is Spotify and Apple Music remaining ahead of the pack in terms of paid subscribers; but it’s important to note that paid music subscriptions overall grew in the U.S. to 30.4 million – a 50% jump.

Music to investors in the space’s ears? Probably. But the big takeaway for TuneCore and the indie artist community we support: streaming continues to grow among music lovers, giving artists more and more opportunities to get their music heard and discovered on the platforms we distribute to.

 

Australia’s Music Market Emboldened by Indies

A joint report by Deloitte and AIR (Australian Independent Record Label Association) dropped this month, revealing that Australia’s independent labels account for 30% of the country’s $400 million music market.

Always known for some its legendary independent labels and innovative music, Australia ranks #6 in the world music market share. Streaming accounted for 55.9% of digital revenues in 2016, up almost 30% from 2014-15.

While some indie artists may overlook the continent’s power in terms of music discovery, we here at TuneCore are celebrating the figures in this report – because whether it was an indie label or directly through distributors like TuneCore, this shows an encouraging trend towards independent music’s popularity.
Additionally, it’s a helpful reminder that when you distribute your releases worldwide, territories you might not personally visit or tour in can be viable when it comes to revenue and building a fanbase. Read the whole report here.

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.