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Artist Advice Column: Building A Smart Streaming Strategy Pt. 1

Knowing how to approach the myriad of streaming services is tough. We want to help demystify that.
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Streaming. It is the buzzword of the moment in the music business, beyond blockchain. Everyone knows it is crucial to your career and where music is and is continuing to go for the foreseeable future. Building a streaming strategy is paramount to a creating a fanbase, a long term career and generating a little revenue that maybe, if you get lucky, might turn into a nice pile of revenue. Putting that together can be hard, but we want to help.

In the United States, the main players are Apple Music, YouTube, Spotify, Amazon Music and to a lesser extent Tidal. They each have their strengths and all cater to different fanbases in some small way. If you are electronic or pop artist, Spotify is where a lot of your fans will likely be. If you are a rapper, you may find a lot of your success on Apple Music or even Tidal. Look at the recent streaming numbers for Drake and Travis Scott on Apple Music, which despite having less users than Spotify, still posted more streams on Scorpion and Astroworld in the first week than on Spotify. The fans are there and are really into those genres. Amazon Music is a general hodgepodge of music, but country and pop do well.

Just because there seems to be a focus among the fanbase and infrastructure on one service that does not mean you should ignore the others. In fact you should actually put a considerable amount of effort into these other channels, because your competition may not. It is incredibly difficult to balance time between making music, performing, administrative tasks, social media, press and other things you may have to do for your career, but taking the time to focus on these could get you more attention in big company playlists and give you better luck with the algorithms.

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The dark horse in all of this is YouTube. The money may be lower on a per stream basis (though the numbers always shift, YouTube will always contest them and the opacity of deals between services and labels makes exact rates for all artists hard to pin down), but it has the most users of any service. As of May 2018, it had 1.8 billion users on the platform around the world every month. They aren’t all for music. They could be there to watch their favorite YouTubers, watch clips from TV shows and other strictly video content, but music is also an important part of the YouTube experience. The company in May launched yet again another $9.99 streaming plan for music, including all of its videos that they hope will be the one that finally catches on for users. Walking down the street or on the train or at the gym everyday, you will see people listening to music on their phone and a good amount of them are listening to videos on YouTube.

Keeping up with YouTube is difficult, since it is geared towards those who have more followers and who upload more. You will want your channel to showcase the best of what you do, so little snippet videos should be kept for social media, but live show recaps, music videos and all releases need to go on YouTube. If you are good at shooting videos for skits that are funny and help promote who you are, don’t hesitate to do that as well. If you record a live stream of you answering fan questions or making a song, you could upload it after if the entire video is compelling.

Just like YouTube, you will want to keep up with the other streaming services consistently. That means keeping your playlists updated regularly in a manner that fans know if it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly. Similar to a podcast or mix series that you might run regularly, keeping your playlists up to date is crucial. Over that period of time, you will have been listening to music and maybe released music, so plug your song and then include other music you like. Keep it regular so the playlist itself starts to gain more followers and in time, this will be another avenue for you to be a tastemaker yourself. Take back control.

So how do you actually approach getting your music more plays? How do you get those partial cents and tiny royalty checks? Well that would involve pitching playlists, getting your friends to playlist your songs, pushing fans to your tracks on streaming services, getting more followers there and enabling pre-saves. We will go more into that next time.

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