I recently thought long and hard about why new music promotion online is now so hard, limited everywhere, and costly these days. It feels like each new song we promote needs to have a ton of promotional steps applied to it and even a fluffy statement to encourage each user to click on the link just to preview music on YouTube, Spotify, Twitter, and pretty much any other place it is posted for free by us. I'm not complaining mind you, I'm being analytical, and I love the process of understanding social dynamics for business and industry... Bear with me...
As creatives, we don't get to perform as much as we used to because of pandemic conditions, and many normal art-based income streams have dried up and shrunken without our ability to control them, but there should be no reason why opportunity is limited on the Internet for musicians and other artists to spread their work, especially just for public awareness in the process of finding people that would like it. Lately there has been a stranglehold on the ability for musicians and other artists to do just that on social media and many music platforms, most of the time without anyone even knowing it is happening.
I'm thankful for certain places online like Reddit that regularly host open and free places for Independent artists to promote new work, because there are some great indie musicians and other artists that can't seem to fairly get past the cloud of money and major label promotion. Unfortunately as we've seen platforms mature, algorithms also have been working to limit choices presented everywhere to us online, and they often present the most profitable options for the platforms, rather than what's best suited to individuals, and it's led to an invisible paywall for the great music and other art that you don't see at all.
Many of the (high visibility) music playlists you view on sites now are curated by algorithms not by musicians... Music and videos you see on playlists are often picked based on an artists current popularity (their ability to pull attention towards the playlist), the artists negotiation (they asked to be included on the playlist and were accepted), or based on the artist's outright payment for inclusion into playlists. Also, many playlists (including columns for what's trending on many sites) are really paid (ad) promotion columns. It's important to know this in order to determine how information is presented to you, and what the threshold for approval may be. Playlists currently have the entire music industry under siege to the point that if you're on the right playlist, you can receive a million listens to your newly released song, and if you're not in a playlist, you'll be lucky to get 200 listens. This is a very bad state to be in as an Independent/unknown musician, because not only do you have to make great music, now you have to be a social media marketer, you have to also come into the game with lots of money to pay for promotion just to get past the physical barriers to reach listeners too.
Because of all the paid playlist and ad hype happening in the music industry right now, many artists burn out, are overwhelmed, and distracted from investing proper time into their music first and foremost... Many musicians turn to creating cheap and quick songs, to stealing art and content, and to pushing out multiple releases quickly, which rarely proves to be valuable results in the long term beyond a few likes and views. This is why for my online releases, I dedicate a lot of my effort to automating our online updates, so that every time we have a new release or promo content I don't have to update our web site and all of our individual social media accounts each time.
As a label, we (personally)have over many years chosen to not pay for ads and promotional schemes, social media followers, likes, etc. because I think it only creates an artificial "visibility barrier" for Independent music to be heard. If just previewing new music requires me to register a new tracking/user account, especially when the music makers are not getting properly compensated (while the platform is profiting greatly off of ad revenue), then something is really wrong with the entire business model overall.
We still make great connections with artists and listeners online despite the (fast shrinking) even playing (music promotion) field that once was available on the Internet for promoting music. Music listens, exposure, and even the ability to build a following are disappearing for most people trying to promote music from what I can see, a lot of people have been posting about shrinking social media reach everywhere now more than ever with no idea of how to counter the rising decline of independent music and art valuation.
A big part of what is limiting individual content makers in breakthroughs is that pay-walled and algorithmically-based music and video playlists are locked down by both platforms their creators now more than ever. Being listed on a prominent music or art "modern playlist" now is only accessible to influential and/or wealthy artists that pay to get onto them, or to people that follow numerous (and frequently changing) steps within a process to gain favorability that can't be recreated easily.
This overall complication to the promotional model will prove to be devastating to Independent musicians if we don't keep promotional communities going independent of big-industry and big-money interests. The majority of the most prominent online (social media) platforms are run by people who are focused on profit and run by many people that don't create art. Now, similar to just before Myspace crashed hard, as independent musicians, we get endless advice and spam encouraging us to pay or beg for placement on playlists, which appear to be the only place to get past the visibility for your new work, and that's a major problem, especially for promoting a tune that might not even pay the investment back. There needs to be a major push-back from the independent community on this model of music promotion or it will all become crippling to finding good music and to even being heard without paying more and more every year.
The more non-creative and for-profit "playlist" creators and providers profit off of gateway roles in music/art promotion, the worse the barrier just being an artist and sharing your work online will become.
Services like SoundCloud and Spotify let music be heard for free after registering an account, but now somehow listeners now see listening to undiscovered music as "doing a favor" for many musicians, especially when they are friends and family. Music is getting devalued to the point of being worthless until it involves major endorsements by influencers or a huge audience... Parts of that are good i filtering out what is indeed quality, but the best musicians and artists of our past would have never been discovered if those influencers didn't actively go out and find new and good music, and if artists had to pay them to be able to even play a gig. The current model enables playlist curators to sit back and simply "pick from" artists that request and pay for inclusion as a qualifier, often with little attention to the content... Anything that is paid for or popular is what gets featured now.
These new and artificial promotional barriers (AKA payola) should not be supported by anyone with a sense of integrity and responsibility to art, music, and fairness overall. If they are funded and supported by independent musicians and artists, they will only be enabled to grow, imposing even more control on how music is accessed, and requiring large investments that lock down the entire industry for everyone who can't afford the huge entry costs and it will ruin lives and music overall for artists if they are required to take out loans or be leveraged by major labels as a gamble based on their future success.
Now for a real and original music promotion tip, this can also potentially be used by business or anyone else trying to break the barriers placed upon them by larger industry -
Citing all of the issues of modern music promotion, and while running a music label of my own, we regularly work on original ways of sharing our work online. In creating new ways of promoting our work, I decided to take advantage of the ability for people to create "subreddits" on Reddit.Com, which kind of reminds me of the good parts of music culture that Myspace had in its prime.
Links can be posted on a subreddit, and comments can be made on each post, and everything can be seen in once place within a subreddit, which is good for visibility. There are also moderation tools which are great, and we can post the entire subreddit anywhere without having to spam individual content links. The best part about it is that it doesn't require development work to be set up, and your branding can be integrated fairly easily.
There are real ways of creating fairness, and facts towards success that count, they often won't be found easily because people are even making fake advice content just for the revenue that views on it creates.
I recommend that individual [especially professional] artists start working on this promo method and supporting each other, if they haven't already, and that we change the costly trend of paid promo just to have our music heard. I'm sharing this because i care. If you use this advice, please stop by our sub, find something you like there and upvote, comment or share it... Community is key... I'd much rather receive a link with all of your new music in one link rather than just one soundcloud or youtube link [or a minimally maintained web site]. It also allows me to more easily comment or show support for your work without having to register yet another new user account...
Here's the link to our NEW SUBREDDIT: https://www.reddit.com/r/ruffandtuff/
We also integrated the link into our web site: http://www.RuffAndTuffRecordings.Com
We also regularly post daily content and communicate ideas on our Twitter account: https://twitter.com/ruffandtuff
I hope music marketing agencies, listeners, and playlisters see this as a new opportunity to change their "playlist-profit-only" focus into a more valuable service model of advanced promotion of specific music genres, culture, presentation, artist development, interviews, and visual events rather than just sitting back and supporting/creating just basic playlist and ad services, there is still plenty of room for professional music marketing that can help indie musicians at a much higher level than what is currently available.
An open letter to the music and art industry concerning paid and playlist content promotion [Guest Post]
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