With the news that Soundcloud is laying off 40% of its workforce, the online music community has been sent into a panic. It’s not the first time either. Soundcloud’s problems over the past couple of years have been well documented: from it’s lack of ability to make a profit, to multiple potential acquisitions that have fallen through…not to mention the “Soundcloud Go” subscription service that irritates countless artists by filling their streams with ads and 30 second previews of tracks in front of their own uploads.
Let’s not beat around the bush: Soundcloud is likely screwed. It won’t be shutting down tomorrow, but it’s closure – or integration into another service’s portfolio – is looking like a real possibility for the future. For the beat community this makes things interesting. Much of the instrumental beat scene is founded and heavily dependant upon Soundcloud. Some labels & collectives exist almost exclusively on the platform. So where does that leave you? How are you going to navigate through the coming changes with your fan base intact?
In short the answer is to diversify. For those of us old enough to remember MySpace Music (or even mp3.com…just me?!), we’ve been here before. Platforms come and go every 5 years or so. The key is to maintain a fan base that is as independent from platforms as possible.
TIP 1 – EMAIL IS KING
The humble email newsletter is still the best way to reach your audience. Don’t believe me? Check the stats. 77% percent of consumers prefer to receive communications via email than any other online channel. That statistic alone should be reason enough to get an email newsletter up & running asap.
The single best thing about email for the indie artist however is that it’s platform agnostic. You can take your email contacts with you and can promote your releases on whichever platform you prefer.
Where to start? Mailchimp‘s Forever Free pricing tier is always a good starting point for artists looking to get their feet wet without having to worry too much about design or how their email will render on mobile.
TIP 2 – INVEST IN STABLE PLATFORMS
While Soundcloud is not unique in it’s financial woes, there are plenty of music platforms that are doing just fine and doing great work helping artists to reach thier fans.
Bandcamp is always top of my personal list. As a company they’ve been financially sound from the outset and continue to lead the way in helping independent artists release their music.
Setting up a Bandcamp account & releasing music is a pretty painless experience. They offer both free and paid tiers, with transparent revenue sharing on digital and physical goods. The real winner however is the ability to collect emails in exchange for free downloads. All these emails can then be fed into your mailing list, allowing you to keep your fans updated on your latest output. To further increase your reach, Bandcamp even sends an email alert to people who have previously downloaded your work every time you release a new project.
It also goes without saying that YouTube should also be on your list. As part of Google, and as one of the world’s most popular sites, you can be assured it ain’t going anywhere anytime soon. For beat heads, there’s also a thriving community of channels that actively promote new music from indie artists. From Chillhop and ThisIsMajestic, through to StaySee and MrSuicideSheep, there’s a host of channels to push new sounds assuming you fit in with their genres preferences. Hell, you could even start your own channel and start building a following on your own terms!
TIP 3 – STREAMING IS NOT THE ENEMY
Go ahead, attack me. There’s been a host of debates over the past few years about royalty rates for artists from streaming services. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but politics aside streaming services present a huge opportunity for independent artists.
For me personally, Spotify is the key service for artists. I’ve previously played with an Apple Music artist account but found it a pain if i’m completely honest. Spotify on the other hand – once you’ve gone through the approval process – is about as user friendly as it comes.
There are plenty of opportunities on Spotify to raise awareness about your music. Many of the key YouTube players also curate their own Spotify playlists which have large, loyal followings. And that’s without mentioning the official Spotify curated playlists which can drastically increase your listenership. I took my account from 3,000 to 120,000 monthly listeners in 2016 by promoting my music through a few key channels and keeping my profile regularly updated (you can read about that here).
Platforms come and go, it’s been this way since the beginnings of the internet. For artists the key is how you weather the changes. Ensuring that you stay connected with the people who listen to and support your music is more important than anything.
…now go out & create!