It’s about time to wrap upÂ another collection of songs, and along with it time to think about where and how to release it. My 2012 album went through CDBaby.com where it also got digital distribution to iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and numerous other outlets. This time around, I thought I’d ask where friends were actually getting music so I’d be better informed.
Clearly, this is not a scientific poll. It’s always good to ask questions, though. Here’s what I learned:
Sirius-XM, Spotify, Pandora and YouTube were clear winners. For independent artists like myself, this is a mixed bag. Spotify and YouTube are easy enough to get in; you just opt in. Satellite radio and Pandora are curated platforms, and as such we have to do a separate dance to gain their favor. For example, my album has been rejected twice from Pandora with no comment. I don’t know what I can do better or differently to get in there, but I’ll keep trying.
YouTube has emerged as the single largest source of music discovery. I don’t have a source for that, but it makes sense and it’s actionable info. I’ve been making lyric videos just to get the songs out there, and sooner or later I’ll figure out how to get some more elaborate videos online.
CDs are still viable, and I will likely continue pressing enough to have on hand at shows or as calling cards at industry events. However, USB keys seem to be filling that role of late. Like many of my colleagues, we’re going after the licensing/placement market and as such convenience is paramount when trying to get our music to the gatekeepers. CD wrappers are a big no-no.
I was interested to see how Apple Music fared, and so far I haven’t seen a huge impact. It’s early yet.
We’re also straddling a blurry, ever-moving line between findingÂ new listeners and generatingÂ revenue. “Sales” as we knew it ten or twenty years ago are a wispy ghost, and nearly not worth bothering about. In an environment where thousands of listens amounts to pennies in royalties, it’s worth more to gain new listeners than to make a few bucks on a single sale. Streaming is the new reality, and we’re all waiting to see if and how we resolve the problem of there being “no money in this billion-dollar industry.”
There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening out there, and enterprising artists are doing novel things to get attention. Vinyl is thriving for many artists. One thing that hasn’t changed at all is that there are millions of people out there who love music, who crave new music and want to help support those making it. It’s just been messy of late.
This poll was good for me to check in on myÂ game plan, and for now I think it will stay the same: Release through CDBaby to iTunes, Spotify, etc. with a side of Soundcloud (for music supervisors) and Bandcamp (for people who like to buy direct). Then there’s promotion, but that’s another story altogether.
Big thanks to everyone who participated in the poll, and as always, thank you for listening!