When it comes to all my music needs, there’s no other site (besides Facebook) that I use more than SoundCloud. It’s great for posting music and/or podcasts, and it’s interface is fairly simple to use. While it is definitely far from perfect, it has been a bit of an evolving platform over the years, and recently with it’s new SoundCloud Premier (that now offers distribution and monetization for artists), there hasn’t been a better time to get on bored.
So from time to time, I get emails from other artists and promotional pages via my Dead Language Soundcloud page, which I’ve included a contact email address on. Recently I received an email from NextGen Promotions, requesting that I take some time to check out their agency and consider using them to further promote my SoundCloud page. Now I’ve never used or had any interest in ever using such things. The idea, coming from someone who likes to hold their DIY ethics to high standards, always seemed a bit….. sacrilegious and fake (more on that later). But honestly, I didn’t know enough about what exactly such a thing entailed, so I decided to at least peak around on the site for more information.
The site is pretty straightforward in explaining what the agency does – you give them money, and they promote your track or playlist for likes, reposts, and more general traffic to your page. It offers a range of surprisingly affordable packages, starting at $5 for your track and $10 for your playlist promotion. They offer various packages that obviously offer more shares, reposts and guaranteed followers the more you pay in.
So I’m pretty poor and weird, so of course I bought the $5 Bronze Track Promotion package. I chose a song called “MK Ultra Violence” that I released 4 years ago that I felt confident in introducing to new listeners. I can’t quite tell you what I was expecting exactly because I’ve never payed for promotion in this way. I tend to dig and embrace the DIY aesthetic because it has always felt genuine and organic. I do remember thinking that the moment I begin to pay others for attention is probably the day my art will die…. I know, it’s a bit ridiculous and sounds like the empty ravings of an angst teenager, but I questioned the actual legitimacy of the entire thing. Would this bring reoccurring visitors/listeners to my page? Or bot accounts? Would this help me build a larger audience or simply buff my numbers briefly so I can show off how “internet famous” I am? The Bronze Package promises perks like 750+ plays and 50+ likes for your track, but did it deliver?
The above image is the final result to date – I’ve also included two other tracks to give you an idea of the type of attention I usually get with really no promotion beyond playing shows and word of mouth. Most of my tracks on Soundcloud have not broken the 100+ plays mark, although from time to time a track like “The Young and the Reckless” gets an odd amount of attention, but even with that track it took 5 years to get to that point of 444 plays. And even with all those plays, it still has single digit number of likes.
Within a day I immediately I saw the effect of The Bronze Package at work on the track “MK Ultra Violence” – my number of page visits per day dramatically rose and I was getting hundreds of listens a day. As promised, my track was reposted several times and the likes were pouring in. For the first time I felt like people were giving a shit about my art! And all it took was $5!
…. But that was a bit of an illusion.
As the package promised, this all lasted about 3 days, and slowly petered out by the middle of the 4th. I got 30 likes and 2 comments (although only one is visible even to me, which is strange). All that attention left almost quicker than it showed up, and before I knew it, my stats were back to normal.
Now I will not completely say that this tool is useless. If you are someone who finds pride in your internet stats and numbers THIS IS THE TOOL FOR YOU. But I’ve also met people, in the real world, that get swept up in the ILLUSION of success digital number bring. One example happened a bit more than a year ago when a friend brought me on to play his music live with him, giving a more instrumental feel instead of the backtrack he was used to. The night before our first show, I remember as we shared a joint together, he said “I’m going to share this on my Instagram; I have like over 1,000 followers.” He was absolutely convinced that his numbers online was indicative of whether or not we could bring out people to our show. Long story short – no one showed. Not for us anyway.
Obviously I am not arguing that social media platforms and other outlets on the internet cannot be effective tools to promote your art and build an audience, BUT I am arguing that there are varying ways to do so and they can garner varying results. In this case, these ‘results’ are simply heightened numbers. This can be helpful in many ways such as whenever you send out links to your social media for reviews or even to book shows, those numbers can look great, but they can also be misleading if gained this way. For example, 1,000 plays on a song and a ton of followers looks great to, say, someone that books shows for a venue, but that’s because it gives the illusion of a genuine fan base. So of course they would be disappointed when they book you and no one shows up to see you play.
If you already have a strong base that you can get to shows then this can help compliment that even more, but for someone like me, it only serves to come back and bite you in the ass. I’m sure there are effect ways to use this tool, but it’s important to keep in perspective what you gain/lose from taking this route to gain “followers”.
As a final note, while I still love “MK Ultra Violence” and that 1,000+ plays number still titillates my ego, the more organic numbers gained from other tracks is more endearing and, dare I say, real, despite the fact that it may take far longer to achieve them. I find pride in the fact that some of my favorite tracks such as “Northern Lights” or “Shameless” has fairly decent numbers, gained from pretty much no promotion and without the need to buy it.