Which platform will get you the best results in the long run to grow your fanbase?
Depends on what kind of fanbase you’re trying to develop. If you make electronic music, you likely focus on selling music to DJs. Here's why exclusively choosing this tactic might be a little short-sighted...
To say the music industry has changed in recent times is an understatement. It's no secret that global music sales have fallen off a cliff over the last 20 years. Music fans have shifted the way they expect to consume music, and new fans have come into the market with no sense of how people used to collect and consume music. All DJs are likely fans of music, but by no means are all fans of music DJs! In other words- what percentage of the festival crowds do you think are DJs versus non-DJs? Food for thought as we dig deeper here... Some DJs still do buy music, but most people just stream it these days, leaving sales figures well short of the glory days of the music business. Furthermore, many electronic music DJs love to share music in the form of playing it in sets, but a large percentage of those are highly reluctant to share their set lists with the general public.
Having exclusive music is one of the hallmarks of top-tier DJs, and many aspiring artists follow the culture. The net result of this is seeing "ID-ID" for multiple tracks in a DJs set list when all you want to do is find that new favorite song you just heard. If you're reading this there's a chance you ARE a DJ, so you KNOW what I'm talking about... Apps like Shazam and SoundHound can help, but this relies on the listener having access to the app at the time they hear the music- it works, but it's not ideal. Do you want to focus on selling to the smaller audience who *might* share your music with new fans in a way they can discover YOU, but is more likely to want to keep it as a secret weapon, or do you want to target the larger audience that’s more likely to share it with other people? Moving on...
For electronic music producers, Beatport can seem like the 'gold standard' of music outlets, but is the juice worth the squeeze?
Almost every electronic music artist has at one point lusted after claiming a spot on the Beatport Top 10 within their specific genre. This has historically been a relevant metric for promoters seeking to book new talent, but the sad fact is that many of Beatport chart-toppers have achieved it by, shall we say, less-than-ethical methods... While the concept of Payola is not new to the music business, there are many grey area methods resembling it being used today, particularly involving how artists and labels secure the relevant sales numbers to hit the coveted chart positions. It's not uncommon for artists to try and game the system through buy/swap arrangements where the artist or label will purchase another's release in a tit-for-tat exchange. Worse yet, some will engage in "download farming" where 3rd parties spoof IP addresses and locations to purchase the same track multiple times pumping up chart numbers for a short period- and this has been happening for YEARS! "So, what?" you might think " I don't care, as long as it's getting my name out there, and people are still 'buying' my music so I'll get paid." Not so fast! If you're still thinking about selling music to create an income stream, you're going to want to keep this in mind: no royalties are paid out to an artist until the label has recouped their up-front investment for putting the music out. Mastering fees, marketing costs, and cover art design are just the tip of the iceberg with whats considered 'recoupable expenses.' Don't think for a second that the labels engaging in 'payola-esque' practices would think twice about considering the cost as recoupable- they'll likely just conceal it in another line item when they're sending you reports. Ok, so most people aren't buying music, and when they do we can't tell which ones are real and which sales are generated thru payola-like practices. Yikes.
Regardless, you may still want to have your music available on Beatport, as it is still relevant to promoters in the electronic music scene. DistroKid gives the option for a flat fee of $9.99/month on top of the regular release fees to offer your catalog on Beatport. Club DJs can still contribute to breaking an underground record, so you'll have to decide if it's worth it to have your music there, and if so how you plan to sell enough copies to hit the charts, or if you just want it to be there for its own sake. If topping Beatport charts is essentially pay-to-play for a limited audience, are the other two options any better by comparison?
YouTube & Spotify are two of the largest music consumption platforms in the world. YouTube has over 2.3 billion active users, Spotify has +345 Million.
With an audience that size on either platform, the chances of finding a crowd of people who will listen to and become fans of your music are pretty substantial. The key is understanding the benefits and drawbacks of both platforms so you can apply your efforts for best results.
What to consider when choosing your preferred platform.
Is your goal awareness/audience growth, or is your goal stream numbers in an effort to generate streaming revenue?
Do you just have the music itself to promote, or do you also have a music video, lyrics video, behind-the-scenes footage, and/or other rich media supporting the music you're planning to use in your promotions? Obviously if you have a full music video YouTube is necessary, as Spotify currently only offers streaming video for podcasts, but you may want to have a short clip of the video prepared for the Spotify Canvas feature. Spotify Canvas allows for a 3-8 second video clip to be uploaded, which replaces the album cover art on the mobile app.
Let’s examine two factors relevant to promoting music. Potential audience size, and potential for capturing their attention.
First, YouTube is the 2nd most-visited website on the internet, behind Google, with 14.3 billion monthly visits from 1.7 billion unique visitors. If you're trying to be where the attention is, YouTube has an undeniably large share of it globally- according to veteran music attorney Donald S. Passman, as of 2019 the platform accounts for more music delivery than all the other sites, including pirate sites, put together. YouTube is absolutely chock-full of content, with over 400 hours of content being uploaded every minute, but it's safe to say the majority of it is not-at-all music related. With a large portion of users checking the platform for tutorials, cat videos, sports, entertainment, politics, science, tech, comedy, and a slew of other content, the competition for attention on the platform is high. However, this alone shouldn't be a deterrent from using the platform to find new fans. According to a 2021 IFPI study, 22% of weekly music engagement comes from video streaming platforms like YouTube. In this case, engagement can be loosely defined as a user doing something actively while listening to the music- this could be a simple as 'liking' or commenting, or something more desirable like sharing, reposting, or creating user-generated content (UGC as it's known in the business) with your music. An engaged user is generally more desirable than a passive one, as they're more likely to follow you and become a fan, assuming they like your music. The second, and perhaps more relevant factor, is that currently YouTube has a less paying members for its subscription services, but Google claims it's the fastest growing music subscription service. Spotify's 'freemium' model means ~46% of the users are paid subscriptions, and the rest are listening to ad-supported music streams. YouTube offers a similar model, free users can listen to unlimited songs all day long if they're willing to be served ads, or they can upgrade to YouTube Red and ditch the ads. YouTube Music is most popular among Gen Z, which may contribute to the lower subscriber numbers, but it won't be long before they are attending clubs, and artists like Marshmello have connected with younger audiences in clever ways, so there's definitely potential for growth.
Over 70% of Youtube watch time comes from mobile devices, and upwards of 52% of Spotify's listening time comes from smartphones and tablets according to a 2020 TechCrunch study. Spotify tries to serve enough ads in their mobile app to annoy the users into upgrading to the subscription model, and it works because 41% of Spotify subscribers started on the free trial. Since YouTube has a fully interactive app on mobile, and the majority of users are non-subscribers, the revenue generated for any streams of your music there are mostly supported by YouTube's advertising revenues. This means in general, your potential payouts are significantly lower from YouTube than they are from Spotify, which we'll examine in more detail momentarily.
Spotify does have the higher payout potential, but given most people are listening on their mobile device means most of the audience are passive listeners. These are less likely to follow you or ad your music to playlists, because they're listening to the music in the background while performing other tasks rather than paying attention to whats on screen while listening.
Even if the majority of the audience are passively listening it doesn't mean you should ignore the platform either. We've got an entire article dedicated to why your music should be on Spotify, so for now let's just examine the differences in payouts.
What's the pay-out per stream on YouTube versus Spotify?
Spotify pays between $0.003-0.008 per stream, depending on what region the stream comes from and whether or not the user is a paid subscriber. This is because paid subscription fees in India, for example, are far lower than subscription fees from the US. Payouts from YouTube streaming are roughly $0.00324, $0.00990 for YouTube Red, and $0.008 for YouTube Music. These numbers might get you excited at first, until you realize combined the premium YouTube subscribers only make up about 50 Million users as of September 2021; less users = less potential streams. Also, YouTube doesn't break that figure down further, so it's difficult to assess what percentage of the paid users are using which service, or which are on a free trial of the paid service versus long-term subscribers.
Can artists make a living from streaming revenue?
The short answer is, if you eventually reach a critical mass of fans, maybe. This will depend on your definition of "a living" but with enough music listened to by enough people enough times, it does add up. However, if you’re an artist who’s just starting out there are many steps before you're at that level.
Learning to think of yourself as a business instead of just an artist is critical for long term success in the music game. Operating a business takes money, and marketing is just one of many costs of doing business.
While you’re on the growth trajectory, it's probably best to consider proceeds from streaming as an offset to the cost of marketing rather than an income stream. You might write the best music, but if no one is hearing it you’ll have a hard time gaining new fans. Until you’ve got a fanbase, building a following is going to be a critical step to earning money, so you’ve got to do some form of marketing to get your music out there in front of new people.
The competition for attention is high on both platforms, but the recommendation algorithms on both platforms are phenomenal at serving up new content that users want to see/hear- it's your job to make sure they are recommending your music to those potential new fans. Well-targeted marketing campaigns are one way to ensure your music has the best chance to connect with new fans when combined with the recommendation algorithms of either platform. With proper configuration, targeted ads can help give your songs the boost to get added to algorithmic and user playlists.
Makes the choice seem a little easier, doesn’t it? Now, the only question is- do you know how to get your music in front of people on your platform of choice? This is a subject we'll be exploring in depth here, and a great place to start is our article on 'How To Set Your Next Release Up For Success.' Ready to get started working with pros who have done it before and have proven, repeatable results? Drop your info in our Contact Form and we'll get in touch to schedule a call and learn if we're a good fit to work together. You can learn more about how this works by reading our Case Studies to see other artists we've helped, or read thru more articles here for some additional breakdowns of music marketing strategy, examples of strategies we've created and executed, as well as cases examined from afar and dissected to determine what made them successful, and other insights gained from 20+ years in the entertainment industry so you can benefit from our experience and take the shortcut to the Big Show. Want more articles on mindset, marketing, and making music? Subscribe to get notified when we drop our next article!
Tons more coming, see you soon!
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