Illustration: George Wylesol
For better or worse, we live in a world where the “performance” of our art is quantified, and those platform metrics almost always matter when working toward commercial success.
Today, some major music press outlets are focused on publishing articles about recognizable artists in order to drive clicks (and ad revenue) to their websites rather than promote lesser-known creators. Labels want to see that an artist is working hard and has gained some traction on their own before signing them.
Music supervisors and sync agents often want to find something “underground” while also knowing it’ll be well-received by their audience. Even some fans are influenced by numbers, whether it’s streams, downloads, Billboard rankings, Pitchfork ratings, or social media followers.
One of the benefits of digital music platforms is that they provide unprecedented data on who your fans are and how they’re engaging with your music. In addition to geographic and demographic information, you can now find specific details about where your fans are finding your music, what other artists they listen to, which tracks they favor, and more.
That said, we know that tracking these numbers can be disheartening at times. It’s easy to get caught in a vortex of trying to drive them up and getting disappointed with the return on your effort. Or worse, feeling like you’re taking actions that don’t align with your values.
The good news is, you can approach analytics in a way that feels good and helps further your career. It’s possible to use these numbers to learn who your dedicated fans are, grow that base, and garner the attention of taste-makers such as press, label people, playlisters, and other curators. These numbers can also help generate ideas of how to express your most genuine artistic self and attract the fans who align with who that is. Here’s how.
1. Follow your followers
Some streaming platforms like SoundCloud provide a list of who follows you. In addition to following them back, you can find links to their social media profiles and follow them there. They’ll be excited to see an artist they enjoy following them and will likely follow you back if they don’t already.
With the way social media algorithms work today (at least for now, as they’re always subject to change), posts “liked” by folks are presented to the people they’re connected with either in-feed (like on Twitter) or in a discover/explore tab (like on Instagram). If your fans are engaging with your content on these platforms, their followers will likely see it.
2. Read comments and DMs
We spoke to KJ Jaundoo, manager to Baby Rose, who said Rose reads and replies to almost all direct messages and comments across platforms. She uses them, along with likes and shares, to gain an understanding of what’s resonating with her audience the most.
Most importantly, she leverages these conversations as an opportunity to communicate who she is and what her goals are as an artist. We dive into this further below, but Jaundoo points out that these intimate moments allow an artist to become a part of the culture that surrounds them. Once Rose noticed how much her fans enjoyed engaging with her one-on-one online, she started doing meet and greets at her merch table after every show.
3. Cross-promote on each platform
SoundCloud makes it easy to share your tracks to Instagram stories, providing a new opportunity for engagement. Through the SoundCloud feature, viewers can click on a link in the top left of your story to visit your track and profile. There, they can dive deeper into your catalog and follow you to be notified when you release new tracks.
Jaundoo shared that through analytics, they learned that YouTube is the most valuable discovery channel for Baby Rose fans. By spending time with the numbers, they decided to double down on video content from Baby Rose including Rose talking about herself, tour recaps, lyric videos, official music videos, and beyond. They use YouTube to link back to where fans can buy or stream her music, driving more visits to all channels.
Set up your website and all social media channels so they lead back to where people can buy or stream your music. Leverage a tool like Linktree to provide an access point to every platform your music is available on from your social media bios. Use the metrics provided to learn where your social media followers are listening to your music based on each social platform. That way, your ads can click through the most relevant platform creating a visitor experience.
4. Pay attention to pre-release plays
When sharing album or track previews with the press, consider leveraging SoundCloud’s advanced stats to see who’s streaming it the most and are therefore most interested in your music. After they’ve published the piece, you can also see which publication drove the most plays, deepening your knowledge of where your audience discovers new music. Use this intel to refine your press strategy, save time pitching, and learn more about your target demographic and where they’re discovering new music.
5. See who’s sharing your music
With a SoundCloud Pro Unlimited account, you can track what playlists, stations, similar artists, and SoundCloud Weekly features are driving listens to your tracks. This is helpful for connecting to the curators and fellow artists who made them. Consider sending them a thank you and asking them if they’d like previews of future music.
These experiences also provide insight into who else your audience is listening to. Try targeting paid ads promoting your music or shows to folks who are fans of those artists or curators. They may recognize your name from those curated playlists.
Once upon a time, the rule of seven stated that a consumer was most likely to purchase something after hearing about it in an advertisement seven times. Today, that number is exponentially higher. The more times potential fans see your name and relate it to publications and artists they’re fans of, the stronger the chance they’ll recognize it and pay attention.
6. Discover where your fans are IRL and online
Similar to above, some streaming platforms will tell you where your fans visited from outside the platform. These referring sources include social media channels, websites, and specific keyword searches in search engines. You can use this information to build relationships with publications and fans who write about you or, target paid ads to followers of specific websites.
The most basic information streaming platforms provide is geographic data. By knowing where your listeners are, you can properly plan tours and distribution strategies. Use this data when deciding where to build relationships with local record stores, promoters, radio DJs, and of course, fans.
SoundCloud specifically encourages artists to get creative with their data; plan a private listening event for your most engaged fans in your top markets, or consider giving tickets to your “top fan” (measured by listens, comments, or DMs) in a few markets.
7. Be a part of the culture
Jaundoo said it best: “Yes, the numbers are important, but they can lead you into a dark hole of pleasing people. When you start looking too much into certain numbers, you can find yourself in a space of not being who you are as a full person. Instead, you may act in a specific way in reaction to those data points. Pay attention to the numbers, but know what you’re trying to sell. Exercise patience and let those numbers slowly grow. Do something that has more depth to it outside of trying to keep numbers high. Remember why you’re in this and what the art means to you. You can still be you and meet the fans from a genuine place. That’s our mode. It’s not about the numbers but about creating culture and ensuring you’re integrated into the culture in a real way, and the numbers will follow. It’ll take a long time, but we’re invested in that process.”
Do you have any questions about platform analytics and how to use them in a way that feels authentic to your art? Leave them in the comments below!
February 5, 2020