The following guest post comes from Budi Voogt, an artist manager, label owner, and Soundcloud expert. His latest book, The Soundcloud Bible: Second Edition, is available now. The following is an excerpt from the book.
Let’s focus our attention on your content and the way you release it. Over the last few years as an artist and label manager, there has been a single strategy that served our artists better than any other:
The creation and maintenance of momentum. Releasing great music, driving attention to those releases, converting a selection of those listeners into fans, and then building upon that growing fan-base by following up with more great releases, in a timely and consistent manner. Momentum is the driving force behind the careers of many successful artists. The secret is in how to create it, boost it and to never let go once you’re riding the wave.
Momentum works for a number of reasons.
Firstly, because the competition is killing. The barriers to the creation and distribution of music are lower than ever. One can easily download a digital audio workstation (DAW) such as Ableton or Fruityloops, and there’s no restrictions to placing your music on YouTube or Soundcloud — the places where the majority of people listen to music from nowadays.
This results in a tremendous supply of music. For most music consumers that listen to music via Soundcloud, YouTube, iTunes or Spotify, the average listening lifespan of music has been reduced drastically. A track or album is no longer the favorite for years or months, but rather for weeks or days — as there’s always something new coming out and the trends are moving quicker than ever.
Secondly, momentum works because the internet facilitates virality. Social media and broadcasting platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud create a phenomenon where content reaches a tipping point, whereafter it’s exposed to an exponentially growing number of people.
In abstract, virality occurs when something attracts a lot of attention from many different sources, which all coincide around the same time. The web and social media is programmed to provide more exposure to the things that are talked about a lot, increasing the display rates on related posts and search engine rankings. This drives more traffic to the subject, reinforcing the feedback loop. That’s virality.
The traditional news is a great example. Think about whatever scandal or disastrous event occurred on national news recently. At the root, it concerns a topic that is controversial or newsworthy, which leads to people talking about it. Different news stations and newspapers pick up on the topic, making it a topic of importance to news and taste-makers in a specific scene, or sometimes even in the public realm. As a story becomes more talked about, the scope of exposure grows – from local news, to national news, to international news.
The internet allows this to happen at incredible speeds. Local news can get promoted to internationally broadcasted television in a matter of hours. But for musicians, it’s allowed the same thing to happen. Music can spread like wildfire on social media and music related press such as blogs and promotional channels catch on to trends quickly.
The lifecycle of a typical track
To illustrate why generating momentum and a consistent release schedule is so important, we will look at the life cycle of a typical EDM release.
Observe the following scenario…
You create a track, upload it to your social channels and initiate a marketing campaign using the strategies from this book. Your existing fanbase, say 1.000 followers, appreciate the release. Your marketing efforts result in a handful of bloggers picking up the release, attracting additional traffic to the release. Hype Machine even indexes it.
All this attention reinforces each other and the track experiences a short viral moment, where it racks up around 10.000 – 100.000 plays in a period of one or two weeks.
However, in the months following the release, you do not put out a new track.
Days after the initial release date you start noticing a fall-off in the plays the track is getting. However with every notable blog feature and repost by power players, it experiences surges. At the moments where these coincide, some viral growth is generated. But once these events pass, the traffic spike quickly fades.
Your fan base will have grown from the new fans your release attracted, but over the course of weeks it will have transitioned from the introductory phase, to growth and maturity, to eventually begin it’s decline.
Look at the ‘product industry life cycle’ graph below. This is a common model used in economics and business to illustrate the life cycle of products, sometimes even of ideas. The same dynamic holds true for musical releases.
In the scenario we just illustrated, the track release was a success. The only missing factor was a good follow up on that successful first release.
Once a release approaches a state of maturity, you want to follow it up with another release. That way, the new release can ride both the hype generated by the first one, and attract new attention — of which a part will also flow back to the first release.
These mechanics are the foundations of viral. You put out great content and drive traffic to it from a selection of sources. The aim is to make it coincide. When it does, the plays and exposure will become cumulative — and the key to success is doing the same thing anew as soon as your initial project loses traction.
We’ve all heard of the one hit wonders. The acts that put out a great release, fail to follow up with something good, that are forgotten in no time. Or the big established acts, take Lady Gaga for example, who arrived at the absolute peak — yet failed to follow up with a good new album in time. She quickly lost the throne.
Yet we’ve also heard of the acts that rose to success in just a matter of months. Used to be that this process took longer, as the industry was dependent on radio and physical products. Now, with social media, this process happens swiftly. An act I work with, San Holo, grew from 4.000 to 40.000+ Soundcloud followers, attracting over 2 million plays on his own Soundcloud in less than three months time. With him, we released content according to these principles. Release a track, put in everything to make it a success, then just before the fall-off, put out another great track, and repeat. The foundation, of course, is great music and branding, but this strategy is what kick- started the hype and how we maintain it.
The dynamics of the music marketplace are deadly and unforgiving. Being aware of the principles of momentum and the short life span that your music has puts you in a position far ahead of your competition. Ideally, you should release content at least on a monthly basis. Remind people that you’re there. Don’t oversaturate your fans nor your network and filter for quality. One great track a month is much better than 10 mediocre ones. Yet putting out a great track without another great one to follow up, is almost pointless.
The ideal moment to follow up on a release is when the previous one is losing traction. Looking at the graph above, you can see a new product being launched just before the older one reaches maturity. That way, when the first one is over its peak, the new one will have reached the growth stage.
Be disciplined about your release schedule. Plan ahead. Create an Excel or Numbers sheet and plan it out. Best days to put out content are on Monday and Tuesday, that’s what our figures show. At least one release a month. And make sure to announce it, getting heads to turn in your direction before you blow them away.