Personality Dynamics: Why Communication and Respect Are Vital For The Health of Your Band

[Editors Note: This article was written by Patrick McGuire.]

 

Many serious bands happily sacrifice money, relationships and careers in the hopes that they’ll find an audience for their music. But while focusing on the musical parts of being in a band is important, the way the musicians who form a band respect and communicate with each other is just as vital for acts that hope to create, record and perform music over the long-term.

Bands break up for all sorts of reasons. Some musicians throw everything they have into music for a few years only to give it all up when they can’t find the success they’d hoped for, but others upend otherwise perfectly good projects because they simply can’t work with the other musicians in their band anymore. It’s become routine for bands with massive talent and untapped potential to call it quits because they fail to focus their efforts on communication and mutual respect.

What Bands Do and Don’t Do Well

When musicians set out to create new projects, they probably think about making music and not much else, and this makes sense. If the purpose of a band is to create music, it should exclusively focus on writing, recording and performing, right?

Bands obviously need to spend time developing their identity as musicians, but alongside non-musical relationship skills like communication, openness and respect. Musicians in newer bands with plenty of enthusiasm and energy tend to be great at writing lots of songs and playing shows, but they’re notoriously bad at making goals, being open about feelings and speaking up when they feel unheard or disrespected.

Blame it on the male-driven culture behind so many bands out there or the fact that making serious music requires musicians to frequently enter vulnerable territories they’re not usually comfortable in, but most bands are simply not great at being open with how they feel about things, and this is a big problem.

All Relationships Take Work. Why Would Your Band Be Any Different?

Whether you realize it or not, a band is a relationship unlike any other. Falling somewhere between a friendship, marriage and creative business partnership, the personality dynamic behind every band is completely unique. But like all other relationships, it takes effort and sacrifice to keep a band healthy and together.

The work that makes the other relationships in your life possible is similar to the work you’ll need to do to keep your band healthy and on track. Some bands, most famously Metallica, even go as far as to get professional counseling for their issues. Your band might not need therapy, but you will have to learn to speak openly and respectfully to each other if you want to stay together.

Opening the Lines of Communication

It can be awkward and unnatural for some musicians to open up and talk about their needs and feelings, but for bands to be successful, they have to be able to really talk and listen to each other. Communication in band settings is so vital because making music with other people is complicated on every level and there’s often so much at stake.

Bands routinely deal with everything from complicated finances and contracts to spending months together touring crammed together in a small van or car. Sure, at band practice once a week you’ll be able to stay quiet and let some things you’re not happy with slide, but when you’re on tour for two months promoting an album you’ve just put a couple thousand of your own dollars into, it might be a little harder to hold your tongue. Opening up the lines of communication now will keep you from saying things you might regret later.

Respect, Openness and Empathy

Musicians in successful bands find ways to respect and empathize with each other, even when it’s not easy to. Under ideal conditions, it doesn’t take a lot of work for some like-minded musicians to be kind and patient with one another, but like in any other relationship, people show their true colors in the face of real challenges.

Who you are when the van breaks down or when your band blows the show? It’s more important for that person to be kind, open and respectful to your other bandmates than the person you are when things are going swimmingly. Easier said than done, of course, but the effort here is the important thing.

Taking Stock of the Health of Your Band

It can be uncomfortable to address underlying issues in your band, but ignoring them will only make things worse. Setting aside time after rehearsals is a good way to make time for getting things off your chest, making plans and opening up a dialogue about what your band is doing and where you want to go.

Rather than waiting for disasters to appear and become unmanageable, getting in the habit of creating opportunities for respectful dialogue now will help your band stay together and make music for years to come.


Patrick McGuire is a writer, composer, and experienced touring musician based in Philadelphia.

Opening Band Etiquette

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rich Nardo. Rich is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.]

 

I’m currently reading Meet Me In The Bathroom; an excellent oral history of the rock and roll resurgence in NYC at the turn of the century, written by Lizzy Goodman. Aside from the havoc that existed then, as the swan song of the “glory days of the music industry” were playing out and my own nostalgia for the culture of New York City at that time, one thing has really stuck out to me in the book thus far; The Moldy Peaches.

The Moldy Peaches were an outlandish, anti-folk outfit that came up in New York City during the 1990s. They also happened to be good friends with The Strokes. As the Strokes were on their way to becoming the biggest band in the world, they invited The Moldy Peaches to open several of their big hometown shows as well as on a few tours. The Strokes even went as far as to persuade Rough Trade Records to sign their friends.

While Kimya Dawson + Adam Green (the two artists behind The Moldy Peaches) now have sustainable careers based on their own talent, they owe a lot of their success to that early help from The Strokes. Which is why we are talking about “Opening Band Etiquette” in this post. If you’re one of the fortunate few acts that is given the opportunity to open for a more established band, it’s important to make the most of the situation. If you known how to finagle one turn of good fortune into another, you can find yourself building a career and headlining bigger rooms a lot quicker.  

Here are some tips on how to do so:

Headliner is King (or Queen)

Whether you’re the local opener for a touring band or actually on the road with someone, the headliner will set the tone. There will be certain things that they require pre-show and you should make sure to adhere to their wishes. The less their pre-show routine is interrupted by your own, the more likely they’ll be to invite you back, especially if your performance is awesome.

If you only have a few guest list spots, make do with that. Worried about getting an extra case of water? Forget it for now. When you’re drawing enough on your own to be the headliner than you can look for more guest list spots and extra water in your green room. For now enhance the headliner’s experience, it’ll pay off in the long run!

Stick to The Schedule; You’re Part of the Team

This point ties closely into the “Headliner is King or Queen” subject. However, it is the single most important thing you can prioritize in order to successfully stick to that rule and thus deserves it’s own separate mention. The headliner will create a schedule that works best for them. You will work your schedule around theirs. Most importantly, it’s imperative that you are on time for everything.

If you are running 15 minutes late to Soundcheck, that could push their own allotted time. Even a slight delay there could end up putting a rush on any press interviews they need to take care of before the show, potentially rob them of the chance to get away from the venue for dinner or disrupt another important aspect of their pre-show routine.

Do Your Own Promoting for the Show

The more tickets sold you are responsible for, the more value you will have to the headliner. Make sure you’re looking for your own press ahead of the show, promoting on social media and getting out on the street to flyer if it’s a local show. If you bring enough people, it’ll get you noticed. Not just by the headliner, but by the promoter as well.

Support the Headliner

Even though they’re probably further along in their career than the bands that are opening for them, a headliner is still out there touring to make new fans and create opportunities for themselves. Don’t forget to bring as much attention to them as possible. Whether it’s tagging them in your social media promotion ahead of the show or thanking them from stage and asking fans to visit their merch table, shoutouts will always be appreciated and often reciprocated.

Network! Network! Network!

One common thread you will see in every post about optimizing a situation is networking. It doesn’t matter what industry you work in, networking is key. Whether it’s introducing yourself to the headliner, getting to know the promoter for the event or hanging out at your merch table interacting with fans, the relationships you take away from any opportunity is what’s going to be your biggest asset moving forward.

The music industry is built largely on word-of-mouth. Do everything you can to build a network that wants to help spread the word about your band and you’re increasing your chances to succeed infinitely.

 

4 Music Theory Techniques To Help You Write a Great Chorus

[Editors Note: This article was written by Chelsea Ira of New Artist Model.]

 

I want you to think of some of your favorite songs. You know, those choruses you could sing over and over for hours and still not be sick of them.

How do you think those songwriters stumbled upon something so seemingly perfect?

Was it a bolt of inspiration out of the blue?

Or did it stem from their understanding of music and countless hours of practice?

More likely than not, it was a combination of the two. In songwriting, it’s important to find a balance between chasing inspiration and developing your skills. Too much or too little focus on either could leave you in a frustrating writer’s block.

But today I want to focus on the technical side of things. More specifically, I want to go through a few music theory techniques that you can use to spark killer chorus ideas and get your inspiration flowing.

Of course, these are only ideas to get you started. If inspiration strikes, follow your creativity and even break some music theory rules!

1. Simplify Things Down to a Motif

As songwriters we can sometimes get caught up in the big elaborate vision we have for a chorus. This top-down approach to songwriting can certainly work, but it’s very easy for the essence of the hook to get lost amidst everything else. And then you’ll end up with a non-descript chorus that falls flat compared to the initial vision you heard in your head.

In other words, the hook gets lost in translation.

An easy way to get past this is to simplify your idea, narrowing it down to one or two motifs – then build up from there.

In music theory, a motif is a short musical idea that is used to build phrases, melodies, riffs, and grooves. Typically, motifs are very short and simple. Think of them like small little Lego blocks that can be stuck together in multiple different ways to create larger things.

I can’t emphasize simple enough when it comes to motifs. Often it’s the songs that use the simplest motifs that really stick in our heads.

Blues songs are one of the easiest places to see motifs at work. Take a listen to Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and you’ll hear a motif in the first line of the lyrics, starting on A, going up to B♭ and C, and then back down to F. That motif is repeated with subtle variations and is answered by a second motif.

Another example is Beethoven’s 5th Symphony. I know – it’s not exactly modern music. But, it’s a great example of just how powerful simple motifs can be. Almost everything in the song is created and derived from that iconic four-note motif. If that’s not inspiring, I don’t know what is.

Next time you’re stuck on a chorus, try simplifying things down and really think about the motifs you’re using. Try making small changes or variations to those motifs and stringing them together in different orders. Starting from the core of your hook and working out from there will give your choruses a very strong and cohesive sound.

2. Play With Sequences

Expectation and anticipation is something every great chorus harnesses. You want the listener to be expecting and waiting for that hook to come around – the hook and the sections leading up to it should almost act like a magnet that draws the ear to the most important part of your song.

In music theory, one technique you can use to create expectation for your hook is a sequence. A sequence is a musical idea that is transposed and repeated to create a pattern.

A motivic sequence is made up of a motif that is transposed and repeated using specific interval pattern. (For example you could move the motif down by a 4th and up by a 2nd.)

A harmonic sequence is made up of a set of chords that follow a particular interval pattern.

Our ears latch onto musical patterns by nature, so as soon as you establish a sequence your listener will catch on and begin anticipating where the music will go next.

In songwriting, you can use this to really build things up before or during your chorus and draw the ear into your hook.

Alternatively, you could also create expectation with a sequence and not follow through by playing something completely unexpected to create tension.

3. Pull From the Notes in Your Chord Progression

The notes in a chord will always be the strongest, so they can be a great starting point when you’re writing a strong melody for a chorus.

You see this all the time in popular songs. The hook will pull out one or two notes from the chord(s) underneath it, or even outline all the notes in the chord. Using your melodies to drive home the key notes in your chord progressions can create an overall more cohesive sound and a much stronger composition.

Of course, you don’t need to only use notes from your chords. Try using them as a sort of outline for your hook.

If you write melody first, try going back and creating a chord progression that incorporates some of those main melody notes. If you write chords first, try pulling out key notes to create an outline for your melody.

If you want to expand on this idea even more, try looking into modes. If you’re playing in they key of C Major, use the G Mixolydian mode to create the melody line over the G Major chord and the F Lydian mode to create the melody line over the F Major chord. This just allows you to pull out those strong notes that will really get your hook to stand out.

4. Harness the Power of Repetition and Subtle Variations

Repetition is often the thing that really drives a strong hook home.

Think about songs like “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. The chorus is simple and it’s played over and over (and over) again. But despite all that repetition, it’s pretty tough to get sick of that song.

Why?

If you take a closer listen, you’ll notice that there are subtle variations in each chorus. Different instruments are added into the mix and small compositional changes help keep things fresh.

Once you have a great hook or chorus, experiment with it, see all the different ways you can subtly manipulate it, and use those variations in your song to really get that hook in your listeners’ heads.


It goes without saying that if you want to write hooks and choruses like the greats, you should study their work. Make a habit to try to really dissect some of the choruses from your favorite songs to see what’s going on.

We gave you a few examples in this article, but if you want more, you can download the ebook Inside the Hits: The Secrets Behind 10 Hit Songs for free here. In that book you’ll see what’s going on from a music theory perspective behind 10 big hits by artists like Rihanna, The Police, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson, Jay-Z, Johnny Cash, and more.

4 Major Live Music Trends Changing The Industry This Year

[Editors Note: This blog was written by Rachel Grate and originally appeared on the Eventbrite Blog.]

 

We’re just one month into 2017 (ed. – this was originally published in February of 2017), and it’s already proven to be a year of big changes — and the live music industry is no exception to the rule.

To stay on top of your game in a shifting landscape, you need a firm grip on the music trends that will shift the landscape in 2017. But don’t take it from us — take it from the nineteen industry pros we interviewed, including Newport Folk Festival, Afropunk, National Sawdust, and more.

Here’s how tastemakers predict the live music industry will change in 2017 — and how you can use those trends to protect your business.

1. Activism will revive the live music community

“Music has recently been more about escapism than activism,” says Jay Sweet, festival director and talent buyer for the Newport Festivals Foundation. But with major political changes coming in 2017, fans may be looking to their favorite artists to take a stance. “I’m excited because I think this could be the year where musicians could… try to affect positive change through music,” Sweet says.

Matthew Morgan, the co-founder of Afropunk, believes fans will look to live music as an opportunity to make sense of the world around them. “We’re in line for some really great art over the next four years, [and] what we’re doing is going to be even more important,” Morgan says. “So many people are looking for things that are positive, that give them something meaningful in their lives.”

“We’re in line for some really great art over the next 4 years.” — Matthew Morgan of @afropunk

In this quest for self-expression, fans and artists will use live performances as an opportunity to build community around shared causes. “Festivals are a place for people to congregate safely — a place to share a common, collective experience,” Sweet says. It will be up to independent promoters and producers to create these safe spaces for activism.

2. Immersive theater will influence live music performances

From popular events like The Speakeasy in San Francisco to the topic of breakout HBO show Westworld, immersive theater made a big splash in 2016. These shows make audience members a part of the performance, and this year, we’ll see their influence begin to make live music performances more multidimensional.

“The world of immersive theater is about to explode,” says Nick Panama, the founder of Cantora. “We’ll be seeing a lot more experiential storytelling, and its influence on live music.”

Panama predicts live shows will expand the storytelling from the music itself to other senses. Instead of relying solely on audio cues or a screen behind them to tell a story, performers will begin to activate the entire room or stadium with immersive sensory details. Using a variety of new technologies, fans will become part of an alternate reality for the duration of the show.

3. Venues will band together to establish more sustainable economics

With rising rent prices in cities across the country, venues are facing a serious financial challenge in 2017.

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on, or they’ll move,” says Brendon Anthony, the director of the Texas Music Office. “We’re not going to see our favorite venues in the same place unless they own the land. The venues that are iconic and last [will] need to control their rent.”

“Venues will either buy the land they sit on or they’ll move.”@Brendon_Anthony of @txmusicoffice

But venues may not be able to crack the code to sustainability on their own. Venues will have the most success if they band together to protect their businesses.

“There are real ways venues can work together to make their margins a bit easier to handle,” Anthony says. In Texas and other states, for instance, venues, bars, and restaurants are all taxed in the same way, even though venues have to put more of their money back into infrastructure. There could be a way for venues to reduce their tax rate, “but for that to happen, venues would have to define what being a venue means, and then go to work to lobby as a group for the change.”

Fighting for this recognition won’t be easy, but it’s the best way for rooms to protect their business. Venues in the UK have already seen success with this strategy, led by the Music Venue Trust and their annual Venues Day, aimed at raising awareness and advocating for venue rights. Venues in the states will need to follow suit, banding together to protect the future of live music in their respective cities.

4. Brands will become even more intertwined with artists

Sponsors spend $1.4 billion on the music industry in the United States each year, and that number is only going up. Instead of investing in large activations or stages at festivals, our experts predict that brands will focus more on building relationships with specific artists in the next year.

Mark Monahan, the festival director of Ottawa Bluesfest, has seen this shift firsthand. “In the last few years, most sponsors want to activate around artists,” Monahan says. “Five years ago in the festivals space, that was a nonstarter. Artists are recognizing the role sponsors play in helping to fund festivals, and are more willing to participate in auxiliary activities.”

Currently, most of these artist activations look like meet and greets, or small, private shows with festival headliners. But these activations will need to evolve and become more natural to succeed in 2017. It is likely we’ll see more activations like last year’s Lady Gaga’s Dive Bar Tour, sponsored by Bud Light. The series focused on one of the most important roles a brand can play for an artist: delighting fans by bringing them in more direct contact with their idols.

But this integrated relationship between artists and brands could be in conflict with another trend — that artists are more openly expressing their political beliefs.

“I’m hesitant about what the branded content space is going to look like in the next year,” Gaston says. “If artists get more politically involved, will that impact how brands interact with artists? It’s going to be really tricky if that spending shifts, especially since brand dollars have become more important to the bottom line for both artists and labels.”

How To Prevent Psyching Yourself Out Before a Show

[Editors Note: This article was written by Anthony Cerullo and originally appeared on the Sonicbids Blog.]

It’s a quiet Thursday night, and you’ve just gotten home from a long day of giving music lessons. Now that the distractions of the day have dissipated, it’s just you and your thoughts. Yes, those pesky thoughts that bounce off the empty walls in your room, teasing you with every chance they get.

This time, they’re focused on the big gig tomorrow night. It’s at a high-profile venue and a large turnout is expected. The opportunity is substantial, but instead of excitement, your brain focuses on the stress. Memories of last week’s show haunt you as every wrong note, missed cue, and voice crack dance around your brain.

You try to block out these negative feelings by thinking of rainbows and unicorns, but even that’s helpless. Sleep becomes a wasted attempt as the sensation of public humiliation before a large audience is all but a burning reality. Worst-case scenarios continue to repeat themselves throughout the night and even the next day leading up to the show.

Some may think feelings like this are nothing more than a little anxiety, but psyching yourself out can have a major impact on a performance. If the bulk of your time leading up to a show is filled with negative thoughts, that will likely lead to a poor performance.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. A solution exists for even the most anxiety-plagued musicians around.

Seeing is believing

Say what you will about visualization, but there’s some truth to it. That’s not to say that just by thinking about a boat, you’re going to get it, but thinking positively can certainly help with a musical performance.

If you still are skeptical about this, though, introduce yourself to Michael F. Scheier and Charles S. Carver. These two men brought the science of optimism to the forefront in 1985. Before that, this type of thinking was nothing but theory, but now researchers have embraced the research and have confirmed the powers of positive thinking.

Just like intense negative thinking can lead to a dramatic decrease in quality of your playing, the same is true for the opposite. By reinforcing positive thinking, an actual increase in performance quality is possible. That’s right – simply imagining how you’re going to play will translate into reality. It sounds crazy, but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

For example, think about when you practice an instrument. You’ve probably heard the term “muscle memory.” By practicing the correct patterns repeatedly, it’s as if your fingers remember the movements easily. Eventually, by practicing these good habits, they become more natural until you’re hardly thinking about the notes in a given scale. Now, think about when you practice a pattern incorrectly. Poor habits are developed which are much harder to get rid of.

Well, it turns out this same occurrence can be found in our mentality. By reinforcing your brain with positive thoughts, it becomes a more natural feeling until positivity practically bleeds from your pores.

Again, this may seem like some mumbo-jumbo made up by some two-bit psychologist, but there’s truth to it. A few years ago, psychologists at Purdue University tested this theory out among professional golfers. Their conclusion showed that with positive thinking, golfers’ performance actually increased. If it can work for them, it can work for you.

What not to do

Now that you have some idea of how to think positively, it’s important to know what not to do.

When you have negative images in your head, it’s not just a matter of blocking them out. In fact, blocking them out actually makes the situation worse. You may think you’re thinking about them less, but suppressing negative thoughts mean you’re only increasing the chances of them invading your head once again.

For example, for the next minute, try not to think of a metallic purple magic school bus. So, how long did that take before you thought of it? Using that logic, you have to reinforce the ideas that you actually want, not what you don’t want.

When you’re thinking about an upcoming performance, it’s important to think about specific words you want to use. Avoid words like “don’t” (e.g., “Don’t play the chorus too fast this time”). Instead, say something like “Be mindful of the tempo during the gig.” That way, you aren’t just focusing on the thing you want to avoid and therefore making it more likely to occur.

Put a stop to that evil voice in your head

We all know that evil voice – its sole job is to pollute your mind with negative images, but it’s really up to you whether you want to put up with it. You’re going to see images, both good and bad, no matter what the situation is, so you may as well make them positive ones.

When a thought pops up in your head, ask yourself if this is a constructive thought or a negative one. If it’s a negative one, then simply redirect your focus to something that will help you become more successful.

The thing is that negative thoughts tend to be more natural. We can thank our survival instincts for that one. According to Clifford Nass, a professor of communication at Stanford University, negative thoughts are processed more thoroughly than positive ones. As a result, we tend to contemplate unpleasant events with stronger words than we do with pleasant events.

Because of this, we have to try a lot harder to direct our focus to positivity. Over time, your ability to focus on good images will become better conditioned, not unlike practicing an instrument. Eventually, you won’t have to try so hard to think positively, and you’ll have more control over your mind during important moments like that big gig coming up tomorrow night.

The Truth About Soundcloud Reposts (and Paid Promotion)

[Editors NoteThe following guest post comes from Budi Voogt, founder of Heroic, a label group and management agency, and author of the The SoundCloud Bible, now in its third edition.]

Ever wondered what a repost is worth? The repost feature changed SoundCloud forever. By getting others to ‘repost’ your track, it’s published to the streams of all their followers. Technically, a repost by an influential account could lead to significant exposure.

You may have seen the ads on SoundCloud before: “$50 for a repost, will blast to 150K followers”. It’s an increasingly common phenomenon, and an appealing offer for most smaller artists.

Yet if you’ve secured reposts with large SoundCloud channels, either by trading (exchanging reposts with equally sized accounts) or via paid promotion, you’ve probably noticed that the resulting plays don’t match the expectations.

You’d expect a channel with 10 times more followers than you to reach 10 times as many people with a repost. Reality however, paints us a different picture.

We set out to investigate this issue and paired up with a reader, Tim (Moomimurr), to look at the data. The goal was to establish the value of a repost, by analyzing the play-to-follower (how many followers actually listen to a repost) ratios of different channels and defining the variables that affect this ratio.

The repost bubble

SoundCloud has become a thriving ecosystem that hosts not just artists, but also record labels, artist collectives, promotional channels and networks. We covered these in our SoundCloud marketing & repost trading guide.

For beginning artists, the SoundCloud scene and ‘repost trading game’ may be hard to penetrate. Big channels prefer trading with big channels. At the same time, the offering of paid promotion is increasing, making it easy for artists to resort to paying for their reposts.

It’s a trend we’re seeing with record labels too. As the importance of SoundCloud expands beyond electronic music, labels of all sizes are catching on to the importance of having their SoundCloud plays on point. Their marketing efforts are now also directed to SoundCloud, including repost trading and sometimes paid campaigns.

While the research methodology of this article was initially intended to address just paid repost marketing, the findings apply to reposting in general. We were shocked by the results, even as they affirmed the belief that we had already formed by intuition — that the value of reposts was being diluted.

It turns out that followers are not the best indicator for how many plays you can expect to get from a repost.

The value of a repost is directly linked to the nature and behavior of the reposting SoundCloud channel. How often they upload, repost and who their audience comprises of are all impacting factors.

As the SoundCloud trading atmosphere is like the Wild West, these findings can help you better choose your repost partners, as well as better estimate the value of a paid promotional offer.

Methodology

For this research, we paired up with someone with experience in statistics and coding, as we needed to mine data from the SoundCloud API.

Enter Tim.

By day Tim works for a notable management consulting firm, where he crunches data to find where businesses can improve efficiency and save money. By night, he’s something that you can likely relate to: a music producer.

Tim reached out to us following a statement by Budi, who said that there isn’t a reason to pay for reposts as the market is “completely non-transparent” and that reposts can be acquired by networking with influencers. Tim took it upon himself to analyze the data and to estimate the real efficiency of paid SoundCloud promotion.

The research question that Tim set out to answer is one that many SoundClouders may have asked themselves at some point: “How efficient is paid SoundCloud promotion?”. The answer to this question would also have implications for traditional (non-paid) reposts, as the mechanics are identical in nature.

To answer this question, we had to pull a huge amount of data on individual tracks. Not just total plays and hearts, but detailed information such as plays gained from reposts, who reposted what tracks, and how many followers those channels had.

We were able to extract this from SoundCloud’s API, which is short for Application Programming Interface. This is what applications and websites such as Hype Machine and Artist Union use to access upload information and incorporate embeds from.

Tim wrote a script that crunched the numbers on 8.000 tracks reposted by a selection of SoundCloud (promotional) channels; stats like who reposted what track, how many followers the reposted channels had, how often the channel reposted, while also collecting the stated prices for reposts to include into his analysis.

To avoid outliers messing up the data, such as a #1 Hype Machine charting position or a track with several strong YouTube uploads (that would draw traffic back to the SoundCloud upload), we picked tracks with minimal outside exposure. We limited the age to less than two months old, as we assumed that after that period, the track would be at the end of its promotional cycle and any additional plays would be unlikely to result from active repost promotion.

The average price charged for a repost was about $0,30 per thousand followers. For example, a 50K follower channel might charge $15 for a repost. This is a realistic market price from what we’ve seen offered.

How we established the contribution of a repost by a specific SoundCloud channel to an upload, is best explained as follows. Let’s say channel X reposts one of your tracks, netting you 50 plays. Then, channels X and Y repost another track, leading to 150 plays and another track reposted by channels X and Z earned 250 plays. With some simple algebra you can find each channel’s direct contribution.

Results

The findings are shocking.

SoundCloud Reposts White Paper - 2

The average repost only generates plays equal to 3-4% of that channel’s following.

In other words, if a 100.000 follower channel reposted your track, it would probably only generate 3.000 – 4.000 plays. You, like us, had likely expected this number to be much higher.

At the 100.000 follower scale, 3-4% is not that bad, but in realizing that the majority of SoundCloud users have less than 1.000 followers, it becomes questionable whether all that time spent repost-trading is actually put to good use.

The bulk of channels had scarily low play-to-follower ratios, between 1-5%. Some were even as low as 1%, whereas a small portion of channels ranged between 10-18%.

Most of the low-ratio accounts were the repost channels, who reposted frequently throughout the day and had few original uploads on their account. By contrast, the high-ratio accounts were the labels and artists, who reposted significantly less and uploaded more often.

SoundCloud Reposts White Paper - 3

These varying play-to-follower ratios support our initial fear; that the value of reposts is diminishing.

A repost by a highly engaged 50.000 follower channel may do more for you than one from a poorly engaged 100.000 channel. The difference is significant, and reinforces the notion that you need to be careful in who you team up with.

The secret behiind strong reposts

So why do labels and artists have higher engagement ratios?

Labels and artists tend to curate more when it comes to reposts and uploads, favouring quality over quantity, allowing them to develop dedicated superfans. The opposite is true of promotional channels, who prioritize quantity over quality in a pursuit for more followers and scaling their networks.

The trend on SoundCloud, particularly with promotional channels, is to pair consistent reposts with like-to-download gate inclusion in order to accelerate follower growth. A channel might incorporate another channel in the download gate of their track, which then gives them an incentive to consistently repost that upload. That other channel might then do the same, and receive consistent uploads as well.

The result is a perpetuating cycle, where the increase in followers leads to more exposure (but not per se more plays). Also it creates an overlap of followers, which is common with SoundCloud networks that grow through daily repost and mutual gate-inclusion.

From a fan’s perspective the lack of engagement makes sense. If multiple channels repost the same song each day, you’re unlikely to click it. Eventually they end up ignoring the channels, or unfollowing them.

That’s not to say that all repost networks have poor engagement rates. The outliers are the ones that repost less frequently and upload more, acting more like labels.

The highest ratios are found with artist channels, who not only repost less often and upload more than promotional channels, but also exhume a personality that fans can connect with. It’s easier to love an artist than a repost channel or label, as there’s little personality you can connect with there.

The more a channel reposted per day, the less engaged their audience. Repost frequency had the strongest correlation to a channel’s play-to-follower ratio.

SoundCloud Reposts White Paper - 4

The graph illustrates it beautifully. Most channels that reposted fewer than 4 times maintained play-to-follower ratios as high as 15%. Audience engagement falls significantly at 5 daily reposts and beyond, with the bulk of the analyzed channels reposting between 6 and 17 times a day.

One can argue that artists are most cautious about what they repost, as they want to make sure they only repost material that resonates with their audience and is as good (or better) than what they’d make and upload themselves. They see the value in saving their audience and are rewarded by out-of-the-ordinary response whenever they do upload or repost something.

Improving your channel’s engagement

The biggest take-away is that you need to be careful not to exhaust your audience.

Both the frequency with which you repost (and upload), the quality of the material you repost and the degree with which it aligns with your audience’s tastes, impact your audience’s engagement.

There’s a significant tipping point in engagement with reposts exceeding four a day, which everyone should take to heart as their daily limit.

Reposting more often to overcompensate for the lack of plays is actually counter-productive and decreases engagement further. There’s a lot more to be said for reposting 4 times a day consistently and optimizing for ideal repost (or upload) times, leaving ample time in between each repost.

One way to do this is by using SoundCloud repost scheduling tools, which we cover in-depth in the new edition of The SoundCloud Bible.

In respect to the paid-promotion market on SoundCloud, the average price charged by promotional channels isn’t far off from the results you can expect to get from their poorly engaged audiences.

SoundCloud Reposts White Paper - 5

As mentioned, the average price charged for a repost was $0,30 per thousand followers, whereas we found that the average cost per play was $0,013 USD.

An average repost channel with 50.000 followers might thus charge $15 USD for a repost, which at a 3% engagement ratio would lead to 1.500 plays. The average value of those plays is $19,50, meaning that you’d technically get more than you paid for.

The trick then, in maximizing results from paid promotion, is analyzing which channels have higher play-to-follower ratios, by looking at the frequency with which they repost and the quality of that music. Another optimization strategy could be to demand your paid repost is scheduled at that channel’s optimum engagement time, which is usually when the bulk of their audience has arrived at the office or school. For most electronic music promoters, the lion’s share of their audience is in the West Coast of the USA, for whom 10:00 AM PST would be perfect.

Now, truthfully, we have yet to experiment with paid SoundCloud promotion over at Heroic. We may attempt it at some point, just to see whether we could get a positive ROI, but as of now, we’re blessed to be working with a network of influential partners.

If you’re an artist with money to spend, it may be worth considering as a way to get your tracks early traction. Just make sure you scan your partners as carefully as you now (having read this article) will do for repost trades.

And don’t believe in the buy-in fallacy. Paying to getting your music heard is notrequired to succeed in today’s industry.


Want to learn more about SoundCloud? Check out The SoundCloud Bible. The Third Edition has just come out and includes over 400 pages on growing your audience, SoundCloud trading, copyright and monetizing your music on SoundCloud, YouTube and elsewhere.