Imagine this: You’ve just finished adding the final touches to your debut single in the studio, and you’re preparing to share your masterpiece to the world. You send your CD into a few local radio stations hoping to get some airtime, and before you know it, thousands of people are listening to your music across the state.
Whilst this sounds like an ideal situation for many musicians entering the scene, unfortunately in the modern world, this route just isn’t feasible. Modern technology has completely changed the way people consume all types of media, with the rise in online unlimited streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and Soundcloud near enough making physical sales and downloads obsolete. Despite this, there are still plenty of ways that a musician can use both Social media, and online streaming platforms to grow an audience in 2020.
One of the easiest, and most popular ways to increase your online presence as a new, undiscovered musician is by using an independent distribution label, such as Distrokid, CD Baby or Tunecore, who will release your music to many online streaming platforms for either a one-time fee, a yearly subscription cost, or a percentage of the track royalties.
If you are a new artist initially looking to grow an audience, I would recommend Distrokid as the platform to use, due to the fact that it operates as a yearly subscription service of just $19.99 for one musician, and offers a wide range of online streaming services for you to release to. As well as this, the dashboard is very user friendly, and easy to navigate, making your experience a lot easier.
My music is Online – now what?
Releasing your music online is only half the struggle, the next part is to get people to actually listen to your songs, which can be done through many different methods.
Spotify is currently the most popular online streaming service in the world, with 170 million users overall, according to the Telegraph. The platform works on a monthly subscription service and offers access to advertisement-free music streaming at 320kbps, which is one of the highest audio qualities on the market. Within the service, users can create playlists based on their personal preferences, as well as access public playlists either created by other users, or by Spotify themselves, with some getting millions of listens every day.
So, how can we use this to our advantage?
Many of the playlists on the service are created by small, independent labels, blogs or media services looking to push specific genres or artists towards their listeners, however some are created by everyday users of the website, or other independent artists. For example, a search for “Fingerstyle guitar” on Spotify brings me to a playlist with over 2,500 followers named “Fingerstyle guitar greatest hits”, created by guitarist Dylan Ryche, who is a fingerstyle teacher from Canada.
Getting your song on this playlist would not only boost your song’s stream count, but it would also tell Spotify’s algorithm that people are interacting with your profile, which would further increase the chances of your song being added to bigger playlists that have been curated by Spotify themselves. The best way that you can get your song on these playlists, is by directly contacting the creator of them via email, which can usually be found either on their website, or social media.
And what about social media?
Social Media encapsulates a huge part of everyday life in the modern world, with platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp allowing us to be connected to others wherever we are. As a musician, having a good online presence is vital, as it allows your audience to put a face to the music, and really get a feel for who they’re listening to.
Your social media profiles need to look clean and professional, so that people know that you are the real deal, and not just a fan or repost account. Using high-quality images, correct spelling and grammar, as well as information such as an official website, links to your Youtube, Spotify etc… is important to achieve this, as an audience will be more inclined to interact with what you post.
What’s just as important as your profile is what you post on it. You can have the most attractive profile in the world, however, if you don’t have the content to match, your audience will simply get bored and leave. Exciting, engaging posts, optimized with popular hashtags such as “#music, #guitar, #songwriter“ along with calls to action to listen to your tracks should generate more traffic for your music, therefore growing you a strong, loyal audience.
But no one uses Twitter or Facebook anymore!
Another great way to build an online presence as a musician in 2020 is to utilize the algorithms of popular social media websites Tik Tok (Depending on where you are), and Instagram. Both of these websites offer short-form video content which is viewed by scrolling through each video, eliminating the need for a direct search.
The way these platforms work is by analysing the users viewing habits, such as what type of videos they tend to watch the longest and interact with. Based on this information, the algorithm will show the user videos it thinks they will be interested in, rather than showing content produced by the same people, which the user may not always want to watch.
Therefore, in order to effectively grow an audience on Tik Tok and Instagram, one must first do some research into what videos are currently trending on the website, which can be done by simply visiting the trending videos page on Tiktok, or by visiting the “explore” page of Instagram. Upon first glance, the most popular videos on both websites tend to be either dance videos, life hacks or gaming videos, which may not sound useful to us as musicians, however, that’s where the beauty of these platforms lie.
You see, one of the great features both Tik Tok and Instagram Reels offer is the ability to integrate existing music into the videos, with the original artist being credited in the top left corner of the screen. What’s more, through most of the aforementioned independent music labels, you can collect royalties if your music is used. In order to get your music used in a viral Tik Tok, or Instagram reel, you should be looking to get in contact with some of Tik Tok’s biggest stars, some of which can be found on freelance websites such as Fiverr, or via a search for their name on other social media websites such as Instagram or Facebook.
So there you have it, whilst modern technology may have changed the way that the music industry is consumed, there are still a variety of ways that new and upcoming artists can get their content out to a global audience without breaking the bank.