For dance music artists the pinnacle of success was once a poppin’ SoundCloud page, and while that is still a definite sign of your marketability and proof of the impact of your music, Spotify is now the most potent litmus test of how an artist is really performing. Pittsburgh’s Headphone Activist has not only made that cross over successfully, he’s essentially mirrored the success of his SoundCloud page on Spotify, with an audience that is increasingly seeking out his music on the subscription streaming service, allowing him to fully monetize his content.
While there may be some debate about the amount of money one stands to make from streaming royalties, taking ownership of that content is a necessary step in an artist’s success and will lead to even greater future opportunities. We had a chat with Headphone Activist to find out how he made it happen and get some tips on how you can too.
While some may say that Soundcloud is failing, it's still a legitimate platform for music discovery. What are the advantages of starting your brand on Soundcloud?
Personally, I think Soundcloud is still a solid outlet for anyone looking to push bootlegs, remixes, and unlicensed music that they would like to share with the world. As you mentioned, the platform still offers many opportunities for artists to connect with new fans from around the globe.
I wouldn't say it is failing exactly, I just think we are seeing more and more people transition over to services like Spotify and Apple Music.
Was your move to focus more on Spotify an organic one or one based on necessity?
I think a bit of both. Spotify has some really positive features for artists. "Release Radar" notifies your existing followers of any new releases by putting it in their Release Radar, which is like a small, fine-tuned version of Soundcloud’s stream. However, you are not seeing any of the clutter and spam from reposts on Release Radar, simply new music and releases from the artists you follow.
People seem to be using Soundcloud less for discovering new music. So making the move over to Spotify was a lot easier when I realized how well their algorithms work for organic promotion, via features like Discover Weekly and Release Radar.
SoundCloud is still very much the wild west of music promotion. How have had you had to pivot to continue your growth rate on Spotify?
At the start of my growth on Spotify, I had a lot of help from guys like Mr. Suicide Sheep. He has had a large following there, so having him feature my music helped drive a ton of traffic to my page at the beginning of the transition.
From there, we found out that regularly releasing new music combined with releases that were more playlist-friendly aimed at studying, working out, and driving went a long way.
In our experience - my team and I have found that while people will always love a big bass banger, having something that is chill listenable on any occasion goes a long way on Spotify.
Soundcloud has repost networks, Spotify has playlist pluggers. Can you talk about some of the tools you've found to be effective in getting your music noticed on Spotify?
For sure, So with Spotify, I have a had few factors that have helped me out a lot.
My friends over The Husk, have helped me build my playlists up to trade with other curators for cross-promotion. Cross-promotion with other curators has been the most important tool with growth hands down. [And] having listeners convert to followers leads to an increase in the streams I receive from my Release Radar, which has significantly helped solidify my growth on Spotify.
How have you integrated the two to make them dually effective?
What I’ve been doing lately, is putting out music out on Spotify first to give the song a few weeks to grow and then follow it up with a release on SoundCloud. The two fan bases are separate for me so it is good to make sure both audiences get a chance to stream my work on their preferred platforms.
Do you feel like the two platforms will continue to have a place in the industry? What place is that?
I do. SoundCloud will slowly drop back into a purely underground platform. You will see new artists come up the same way Mr. Carmack, or $uicideboy$ have. However, I think it will really be up to their company & development team to bring some new life back into the platform.
Some suggestions I would have for them are:
Opening a pay-to-trade outlet where pages of substantial size can offer affordable and effective marketing for musicians on SoundCloud. This would be a feature created by SoundCloud and they would see a percentage of the money spent on these campaigns as a way to help drive more income into their business.
SoundCloud has countless artists with who have reached a substantial amount of followers that have not built their presence elsewhere. Specifically on other platforms that offer a live stream option of some kind.
Personally, I think that if SoundCloud can find a way to create a "chat room" or "private stream event" feature for artists to directly connect with their fans live - that could be a great way to help keep both fans and musicians on the platform.
If SoundCloud can find a way to make their mobile app much more user-friendly, that too would be a solid way to help sustain user activity and growth on their platform.
Spotify is planning on going public next year which is clearly a good sign of growth and success for their company. They work with distribution companies and have strict copyright laws which in turn prevents "janky", sub-par, and low-quality remixes from over-saturating their site and leaving fans to have to cycle through the music they don't want to hear just to find a good song. Between artist royalties, curated custom playlists, and their user-friendly mobile & desktop apps, Spotify has really proven itself as a forward-thinking company.
What's your best bit of advice for those attempting to transition from SoundCloud to Spotify?
The first and most effective step is this - just do it. Use both platforms and if you don’t know where to start on Spotify here are some steps:
Sign up with a distribution company. I use Routenote. They don’t charge you anything to get your music featured on streaming sites and they only make money after you do.
Make sure to get all of your music up on Spotify / other streaming outlets ASAP - the more time your music is on those sites, the more streams you will pull in and the more your music will get out to people from all around the globe.
Use fan-gating sites like The Husk to help grow your playlists, followers, and general presence on Spotify. Their customer service team is on point and will help you learn how to use their site effectively and efficiently.
If you have any questions on how to grow more on Spotify feel free to contact me via FB messenger and we can talk directly. I am always happy and eager to help out other artists.