Music Business Worldwide (MBW) estimates that over 80% of all songs on Spotify have fewer than 50 monthly listeners. This is not so surprising, considering that industry leaders have been quoted as saying that up to 100,000 songs are being uploaded each day on DSPs like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Amazon.
This begs the question: what does it take to get listeners on Spotify?
Clearly, just uploading a bunch of songs on Spotify – no matter how good those songs may be – is unlikely to turn you into the next breaking star in music. To (mis)quote American historian David McCullough, “You can’t love what you don’t know”.
If you’re an up-and-coming musician, one of your top goals has got to be moving your music out of the 80% of songs that hardly anyone listens to and into the 20% of songs that are frequently played, downloaded and shared. And this article is going to tell you how to do it.
Breaking through the barrier
As the introduction hinted, for your music to attract more and more listeners and fans, it is necessary first for people to know about it. And as you have already probably experienced, creating awareness about your music is an entirely different challenge from making (and releasing) music. Here are some sure-fire strategies to help your music carve a niche in the public mind.
Build your music into a brand
The goal of building a brand is to enable a product (in this case, your music) to be easily recognized and preferred over other alternatives, and to inspire listener loyalty. Your brand should ideally include not only your unique sound, but also a distinctive look and style as well as an emotional vibe.
Coming up with a framework of ideas for your brand might be easy and intuitive for you, or it might not. In either case, a useful starting point for building your music into a brand is to write out the following:
- Your musical back-story – A brief summary of why and how you became a musician and how it has impacted your life
- Sensory associations and voice of your music – Think of a color, an image, a ‘feel’ (tactile sensation) as well as an emotion you associate with your music. Choose the appropriate tone of voice, manner and language for presenting your music (cheerful, flippant, sweet, gritty, goofy, etc.)
- Musical mission statement – a brief description of an ideal or goal to which you would like your music to contribute; it could be giving voice to a cause, celebrating cultural heritage, spreading a message of peace, or anything that is deeply meaningful to you
Gaining clarity about your musical brand will allow you to maintain the consistency and authenticity essential for your brand to both stand out and garner fan loyalty. Keep in mind that being distinctive is as much about your style as your sound.
Tip: When choosing a color(s) for your musical brand, avoid black and white, as these are the most common and thus least distinctive.
Increase your artistic footprint through collaborations
As every musician knows, collaborations are all the rage in today’s music industry. However, the concept is by no means new, as evidenced by this 45-year-old collaboration between iconic David Bowie and legendary Bing Crosby.
If you haven’t already begun working with other musicians, consider the compelling arguments below for why you should collaborate:-
- Multiple artists working together can achieve synergy by each focusing on their strengths, be it composing, songwriting, singing, instrumentals or technical aspects of production; This way, you don’t have to be good at everything yourself.
- Often, all it takes to turn a good idea into a great product is a creative twist; Inviting other musicians to brainstorm with you usually opens up new perspectives and unleashes creativity.
- By working together, you’re increasing the odds of being discovered by a whole new set of listeners, as the track will be heard by followers of all featured artists.
- Working with other artists, especially musicians from different genres, expands not only your musical repertoire but also your versatility and adaptability.
If you like the idea of doing a collab but haven’t yet been able to identify artists with whom you’d like to partner, you could check out this helpful article which lists great online forums for musicians looking to team up.
Start small, but don’t overthink it!
At DeNovo, we’ve identified a few common causes behind music careers that just haven’t taken off. Two of these appear to be flip sides of the same coin:
- Releasing music in an awful hurry
- Laboring for too long over a music release
All too often, when an artist feels that s/he has had a great idea for a track or an album, there’s a tendency to feel pressured to get it out, “before the spark dies”. While keeping up momentum on a music project is great, what’s not so great is failing to maintain quality standards, especially when it comes to production.
One strategy recommended by veteran producers is to test your recording pre-release on a small focus group. You could ask for opinions from professional musicians, or seek feedback from lay listeners.
Either way, you’d be getting important input that would help you fine-tune either the music itself or the production. Doing this early in your career could additionally highlight important precautions to take with each recording, such as ensuring that vocals are not drowned out by percussion.
Today, there are both free and premium online services (for example, ReverbNation’s ‘Crowd Reviews’ feature) where musicians can seek and receive feedback from either professionals or casual listeners.
At the same time, keep in mind the importance of building visibility for your music and your brand. Putting together an album of 14 tracks over two painstaking years, only to see it garner a handful of listens on Spotify can be very demoralizing. A better strategy might be to release a couple of singles within a span of six months, and use them to gauge audience reaction as well as to create a buzz before releasing a full album. Check out our helpful post loaded with tips and tools for promoting your next music video. If budget is a constraint, don’t worry, we've got you covered with this article on free promotional strategies.
Deepen the human connection with your fans and followers
Evidence shows clearly that people tend to have greater liking and loyalty for those whom they feel they know and can relate to. Sharing snippets about yourself on social media and through your publicity campaigns is a good way to build a more meaningful, lasting connection with your listeners.
When sharing, however, be mindful that glimpses reflecting your real values and beliefs, inspirations, struggles and triumphs are more likely to forge a connection compared to superficial details about your life. So, deciding between a Facebook post on how you overcame a serious setback in your music career and an Instagram reel showcasing a fun vacation should be a no-brainer.
Adopt the enabler mindset
All the world loves a freebie. Seriously, there’s no better way to win people over than to help them out with something when they’re looking for help. From posting useful YouTube videos with ‘fix-it’ tips for musical instruments to leading a fund-raising initiative for a cause to which you are committed, there are endless ways in which you can build brand visibility while making the world a better place.