The wonderful world of online music offers a host of different ways to bring your music to the public. Since I launched my solo music project a year and a half ago I’ve explored a few of these opportunities and here I want to give you some tips relating to the most successful of these explorations: SoundCloud.
I now have over 1000 followers and I have increased my weekly plays from under ten to 100+ using these techniques/methods. My profile here has also helped me to establish some great relationships with other musicians. These in turn led to commissions for remixes and other collaborations. However, I still do not claim to be a master of all things SoundCloud, just an enthusiast. The site holds opportunities for any musician or producer and I can’t praise it enough, so please enjoy my little “beginner’s guide”. It is in no way official but I hope it might help you get the best from your online music.
SoundCloud vs. other online music portals
When I started my project I already had a MySpace profile, but that site had already turned into a faceless pile of advertising so I had to seek out a better place to put my tunes. I started off on ReverbNation, soon built up a following and got into the top 100 in the charts. However, the constant mails offering expensive promotion opportunities with no guarantee of any success soon started to annoy me. When I got a message offering to submit my music for a fee to a festival where I had performed before (and got paid for it) I realised that I needed to find a better option. . . and then I found SoundCloud.
The main basis of SoundCloud is sharing your music. I suggest uploading tracks steadily, at fairly regular intervals. If you upload all your tracks at once, you will get one burst of attention. But by spreading out your uploads they will appear in users’ activity feeds more often, providing more chances to catch their attention at an opportune moment. In short, your name popping up every week or so with one new tune is much less likely to be overlooked than just appearing once with ten new tunes.
Tagging your tracks is an important feature because many people will search by genre/sub genre or by instruments they are interested in. So be sure to include as many appropriate tags as you can think of. Look around for ideas used by other SoundCloud members producing similar music.
Free and paid downloads
Giving away the occasional track as a free download is a nice way of saying thanks to those who support you. Quite often you will see that free-download tracks get many more plays than non-downloadable ones. And these plays provide an important multiplier effect, as other users see what tracks their friends are playing.
For tracks which you are selling on sites like bandcamp, iTunes or Juno: add a ‘buy it now’ button by putting the url into the ‘buy link’ box when you edit the track info after uploading.
The power of community: comments and groups
By far the best way to ensure you get enough traffic through your page on SoundCloud is commenting on other artists’ music. I don’t always have a great deal of time to listen but I’ll press play whilst I am checking my emails or having a brew and drop a comment when I hear something I like.
Better comments are ones which are constructive and mention something particular in the track, although general compliments will get you some attention and hopefully a comment or listen in return. Sometimes I don’t actually like a track very much but I really appreciate the efforts which have gone into the production, so rather than lie or put a negative comment I pick an individual sound which I do like and comment on that instead.
Adding a track to your favourites list is the ultimate compliment and if you have linked SoundCloud to your facebook or twitter account then these selections will be automatically shared across your social networks.
Use the groups feature to find similar artists. Then comment on their music and start sharing directly using the dropbox feature.
Actively participating in the musician community like this can lead to you finding people to collaborate with and open up remix opportunities. You may also come across remix competitions (there are lots of them across a variety of genres). These are brilliant ways of making your name visible even if you don’t win. If you do, then you might even get a track released on a label or some other cool prize.
To follow or not to follow…
Follow others and they will follow you, that is the theory.
Now this might sound like the easiest one but actually there a couple of things worth considering. Some users seem to click follow and when they get a follow back then proceed to unfollow you. This makes it look like they have more followers than people they follow. This started to annoy me a bit so now I look at and listen to new followers first. Some of them have loads of followers but have never left a single comment; others have hundreds of listens but no comments on their tracks: either of these suggests they may be playing a numbers game and not really taking part in what is a wonderful online music community. This is a bit like paying some marketing company to supply a million listens to your YouTube video, it is certainly not a sign of quality music and if I see a profile like that I often move on by.
Good music gets comments and plays at the same time. When sharing music directly with others try to keep it personal, an inbox message directly addressed to me by name is much more likely to be opened first (or at all, on a busy day) than one sent to me and 20000 other people. Mass mailing will not make you friends and in my opinion yields much less success than individually targeting producers and fans who listen to music like yours.
Once you are up and running and settled into your cloud there are loads of other things you can do: start your own group; embed your widgets all over your sites and social network pages; or even hold your own remix competition. Normally these competitions have a prize so it might help to team up with a label who can put the winner on a release or a music shop who may have a piece of tech they can offer in return for a banner on your website and the free advertising they will get through the event.
I shall be exploring all these ideas in time so if you have any tips and tricks then please feel free to add them here as a comment or let me know directly.
No “works in progress”
Of course, I haven’t mentioned one very obvious fact: All of the above assumes you are already creating fantastic new music! The better the tracks, the more success you will have – it’s as simple as that. Make your music the best you can and avoid putting works in progress up on your page. Wait until it is finished, polished and you are completely happy with it.
As I mentioned above, I increased my weekly plays from under ten to 100+ using these techniques/methods. So I am sure that if you put in the effort, you can also gain maximum benefits from the site. It will require patience but the rewards are well worth it.
I am sure that some of you have other ideas and other experiences, so please share them with me and other readers using the Comments. Thanks!
Above all, enjoy SoundCloud for all the superb new music you can find there. And be sure to come and say hello.