This article originally appeared on Dozmia.
You've recorded your album and uploaded it to music streaming platforms, but the only plays you're getting are from direct links you share on social media and people who already know about your release. Ideally, the streaming services would expose your music to everyone who may be interested in it.
Unfortunately, it isn't that simple.
Music streaming services do want their users to discover new music, because then those users are likely to come back. Many of the algorithms used by music streaming services weigh music recommendations by multiple popularity variables, which can make it hard for new, unknown artists to get discovered.
So, how can you set yourself up for success on music services?
1. Understand how music recommendation algorithms work
Music streaming services utilize complex algorithms to recommend music to their users. The most common algorithms use what's known as collaborative filtering.
Here's an example of how it works:
- Users A, B, and C listen to many of the same songs.
- User A and B listen to a new song.
- Because user C has similar music taste to users A and B, the new song is then recommended to user C.
That's a basic overview of how the algorithm works. Obviously, in real world situations, the algorithms are much more complex. Many streaming services also feature multiple styles of recommendations, including some of the following:
- Recommended playlists
- Radio style streaming
- Related artists
- Recommended artists/albums
Each type of recommendation may feature a unique algorithm, accounting many different elements of user activity across the platform. Here are some things streaming algorithms take into consideration:
- What songs the user has saved
- A user's most-played songs
- Playlists made by the streaming service's internal team
- Popular playlists featuring music in the user's niche
These algorithms can get much more complex than what I've covered here, but it's important to understand that nearly every music algorithm uses data points that aren't related to the quality of the music. If you think about how the streaming service can mathematically show new music to their users, you're headed in the right direction of coming to a deeper understanding of how they work.
2. Make great music
While music recommendation algorithms don't look directly at the quality of the music, people do. In addition to algorithmic recommendations, many current streaming services create playlists by hand, with real people listening to the music and adding it to playlists with thousands of followers.
If you want a shot at getting into a playlist with thousands of followers, create emotionally compelling music and have high-quality recordings.
The quality of your music can also help your chances of algorithmic recommendations. If your music is great, people will listen to it again and again. This generates data that can be seen and used by the recommendation systems. If the streaming service's internal database shows most users listening to your song once and never again, the recommendation system will likely identify your song as low quality when compared to others.
3. Have great album art
I can't stress the importance of great album art enough. Many types of recommendations in music streaming services show new music to users in situations where the album art is prominently featured.
The album art is the first thing many users will see, and if it isn't compelling, they won't click on it, and they'll never hear your music. Make your artwork a strong reflection of your music, not of you. You should spend just as much time perfecting your artwork as you do recording and producing a song.
If you don't have the money to hire a designer, or want to do it yourself without learning how to use Photoshop, you can use Canva to put together nice album art. Alternatively, if you're interested in learning Photoshop, check out this guide.
Here are some guidelines for creating awesome artwork:
Don't include social media URLs
Social media sites come and go. Remember Myspace? Everyone would print Myspace logos on their album art, and now those albums look dated. If Facebook or Instagram become yesterday's news, linking to these platforms on your artwork will make your album look dated.
Minimalism is in
Minimalism is often used to describe designs that are stripped of superfluous elements, colors, shapes, and textures. It's the way most software designs are going, but it can be applied to album art, too, if it's reflective of the album's musical contents.
Check out Monument Valley, a stunning mobile game, for a better idea of what minimalism is.
Make it high resolution
Resolution on technology such as smartphones and TVs is getting better, and upscaling only goes so far in improving image quality. If you want to future-proof your digital artwork, make sure it's at least 3000 x 3000 pixels so it looks great even on 4K TVs for those who listen in their living rooms.
Remember, it's not a profile picture
Faces can bring more attention to your album art when used in a creative way that's reflective of your music, but don't use a selfie in place of album art. This can give off the impression of low-quality music.
4. Get placement in well-followed, niche playlists
In today's environment, getting placement in playlists related to your style of music can be as valuable as getting played on the radio. On music services that have more social elements, this can result in new fans almost instantly, and provide a huge boost to your career as a musician.
Here's how to go about getting on the right playlists.
Step 1: find the playlists
Finding popular playlists can be as easy as searching for an artist on your favorite streaming service and checking the playlists section, but oftentimes, these playlists are intended to be filled with that artist's music almost exclusively.
In addition to this approach, think about when and where people would listen to your style of music. Would they listen at the beach? While working out? On a road trip? Understanding your audience can help you find playlists that make sense for your music.
Step 2: find the owner of the playlist
Once you've found a playlist you think your music would be a perfect fit for, the next step is to see who made the playlist.
If the playlist is made by the music services staff, don't bother with it. They likely have every label in the world talking to them on a daily basis about new releases they should add, and it's unlikely you'll be able to find the contact information of the person in charge of that playlist. Instead, focus on playlists made by the users of the service: brands, political figures, bloggers, etc.
After you find the owner of the playlist, you can find even more playlists that may contain music similar to yours by looking at which playlists he or she follows. Continuing to explore these paths of playlists can reveal lots of hidden opportunity for you.
Step 3: message the user on social media
If the playlist is a perfect match for one of your songs, it's time to find a way to contact the user by reaching out on social media. Most social music services have users' full names, so you can use this to find him or her on Facebook.
Here's a script similar to the one I use when reaching out to blogs for Dozmia:
I found your playlist [Playlist Name] on [Music Service]. Awesome stuff!
[My band/We/I] just released a new song that I think would make a great fit for your playlist's listeners. You can check it out here: [URL to song in streaming service]
Looking forward to hearing what you think.
Either way, keep up the awesome work!
When using scripts similar to the one above to contact bloggers, I've gotten about a 10 percent response rate. Play around with the message to see what results in the best conversion rate for you.
Getting featured in playlists can improve metrics across the board inside a given streaming platform, which can result in more organic growth of your fanbase through their algorithmic recommendations.
What are your strategies for promoting your music on streaming services? Let us know in the comments below!
Nick Rubright is the founder and CEO of Dozmia, a music streaming service currently available on iOS. He has a passion for helping musicians understand various marketing concepts, and creating the perfect playlist.