Independent Music DIY #5: Setting a Sales Goal in a 1 Trillion streams industry

“In March of this year, Luminate’s data revealed that the global music industry surpassed ONE TRILLION streams at the fastest pace yet from the start of a calendar year — taking only three months.”

Luminate Midyear Music Report 2023 

From a barrier perspective, at this point the digital music world is designed only to do one thing: get people to stay on the platform and engage with content or stream music continuously. All features are designed towards that goal. I understand that from a technology and economics perspective. It is most beneficial for platforms when people spend more time on the platform. The platforms are not there to enable artists or musicians – they are there to increase everyone’s dependence on the platform. Which is why they don’t enable direct sales.

We figured the first step to achieving our goal in such an environment, was to define a realistic and measurable goal.

In an age where artists have hundreds of thousands of followers, we set what may see like modest goals but they were difficult enough from where we were:

  1. 100 monthly listeners before album launch.
  2. 10,000 streams
  3. 25 album pre-orders

To the best of my knowledge, there is no direct way to gain monthly listeners on DSPs. All of them enable you to promote music once it is released. Spotify does not offer direct marketing options to small artists in India (they have rolled out direct advertising services to select countries, I have emailed them with no response yet; there will probably be a price barrier and a follower threshold). You can pitch your music to editorial playlists (we never got playlisted through direct pitching). They have a third-party service for a promotion tool (Canvas) which has less than zero appeal in terms of design options. Amazon Music lets you post video intros to promote upcoming releases.

Apple Music has 1 great tool for artists – pre-order. The pre-order is a direct way to increase sales. But, the pre-order is available only on iTunes Store, you can’t preorder from Apple Music because that is a streaming platform which means it only has music that has been released. 

From my experience, promotion on social media does not lead to sales or increase in listeners. It may lead to likes on social media posts, increase in social media followers, and the hope that somehow all this leads to visibility of your musician profile and songs on DSPs, which in turn leads to follows, streams, downloads.

I appreciate YouTube since it allows you to advertise and promote your music direct to its users which means any marketing budget spent on YouTube will directly increase your song’s reach and/or increase chances of gaining subscribers. That’s value for money. From my experience, the return on investment for marketing-spend in relation to end-goals:

  1. YouTube (audience build)
  2. SubmitHub (media reach)
  3. Instagram (Engagement, Instagram followers, website traffic)
  4. Facebook (Engagement, FB followers, website traffic)
  5. Press Release services

I have tried ad-spends on LinkedIn several times and don’t recommend it at all.

The pre-release budget distribution for us thus looked like:

  1. Pre-order on iTunes – direct sales (50% of budget; 70% of direct sales engagement effort)
  2. Promotions on Instagram (20% of budget)
  3. Promotions on Facebook (10% of budget)
  4. Curator/Playlist pitches on SubmitHub (10% of budget)
  5. Press Release services (5% of budget)
  6. LinkedIn promotions for professional page (5% of budget)

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