We are setting out to reach 1,000 streams on one song from a newly released album (below), in 1 month.
At Reload we offer support and advice to emerging artists in the music industry but we also film lots and lots of live music sessions. Artists apply through our website and we set up a shoot with them to film a live-take session of them performing their music in a live environment. The sessions are a great example of what individual artists can do and serve as a way to introduce the artist’s music to a new audience or to get a gig-promoter interested in what they do. The artists we shoot with use their sessions for all sorts of things but mostly to push their music and career further.
Over the past 5 years we’ve worked with around 300 artists. As part of that we picked out the year of 2016-17 and chose 19 of our favourite sessions from that period. Both covers and originals. We signed up to a distributor for independent music - Distrokid - who we believe to be the best option out there for independent musicians making multiple releases and uploaded our 19 songs to Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play, iTunes and more. It was a pretty simple process and very straightforward- phew! That was the first hurdle over.
Before we can talk about how we did, we should probably give a bit of context to this challenge. Okay so we want to put out an album with 19 songs - that wasn’t really the hard part. The hard part will be reaching our goal of 1,000 streams on any single song from the album. 1,000 streams might not sound like much of a challenge, but we want to see how someone (us) who has never uploaded music to Spotify can potentially reach 1,00 streams - will it take a month or more?
We have a following of 4,000 on Facebook and 3,600 on Twitter. That’s not huge - we accept that but surely if we get on average 2,000 people to click the link to our album we will have achieved our goal. It’s now just about making that happen. We also have an audience on YouTube, but for the purpose of this challenge we will not advertise our album on YouTube at all. We want to see what it’s like to be an emerging artist and share the things we learn along the way. Keeping our social outreach to just Twitter and Facebook (with not a huge following) mirrors the situation that many artists are in.
- Total Streams (for one song only): 118 - Two Ghosts
The album has gone live. We’re super excited as this is our first ever release on Spotify. I’m sure most artists who put their first song on a streaming website as just as excited.
So what have we been doing? Well as it’s a playlist we’ve built we have listened to a bunch of the songs ourselves and have chosen to focus on pushing specific songs. Some of our personal favourites are Cecil’s ‘Castle On The Hill’, Lisa Wright’s ‘Two Ghosts’ and Kadeem Tyrell’s cover of Beyonce & Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Freedom’. We had to limit it to 3 otherwise we would have listed all 19 tracks.
This week has been slow, but with reason. We don’t want to be shouting about the album too much and then fade out after days 10-15. We want to be promoting the album a good amount but steadily over a longer period of time. We have no idea if we’ll reach the goal within one month so we’re telling ourselves we’re in this for the long haul.
We currently use Buffer to programme our. Buffer allows you to programme social media posts in one sitting. This means we have been posting about the album systematically throughout the week. Retweets, saves and likes aren’t going too well. But we’re determined to make that change.
The artists featured on the album have been shouting about it too. Every little helps regardless of how big their social following might be, especially in this case as their fans should hopefully click the link, meaning our audiences ‘cross-pollinate’.
On top of this we also sent out a mass email to our email subscribers using, a free-to-use online template Mailchimp. The open-rate of the email was 17.3% and the click through rate was 1.2%, that’s close to the average for mail outs in general. Maybe our wording was incorrect. We’ll look at this more closely next time.
- Total Streams (for one song only): 170 - Castle On The Hill
Okay so now the real work begins - this week we sent out target tweets to people with audiences similar to ours but with larger audiences covering a wider reach hoping that the Spotify album will be of interest to their followers. For example ‘Ed Sheeran Fan Pages’ on Twitter, we messaged various global accounts, but no such luck. Just a few likes and that was it. Quite disappointing! But this method has worked for us in the past for some of our YouTube videos.
We also ran a trial with Streamify.me. The say they organically distributes your music to rack up listens and shares. We didn’t pay for this trial, but they estimated that they could provide 1,000 streams in a few days. Intrigued, we tried. Will it do anything for us? Who knows. The main reason we tried the trial was to help boost the listens so that Spotify’s system starts to put the song(s) in custom ‘discover’ playlists for other listeners. That's something we're really keen on achieving.
Finally we went through some old blog posts and added the embedded link to our new playlist on Spotify. We made sure the blog posts were relevant so that the content matches. This is a long-term strategy and we’re not expecting to see results straight away.
- Total Streams (for one song only): 860 - Castle On The Hill
This week we have not been as ‘on it’ as the previous weeks. The free organic trial of listens seems to have gone well, except that the views come from only the U.S - it’s not a problem as such but we’re prefer a more varied distribution of the song(s). It has taken a few days to get this up and running so we haven’t seen 1,000 streams as of yet.
Not much else to report for week 3. Promoting the album seems to feel a bit like a broken record. It’s hard to convey enthusiasm on social media when you’ve posted about the project multiple times already. Not a good week, but not a bad week either. This week feels a bit disheartening, but we also know that consistency is very important so we’re already considering our options for our next release - maybe a single or an album.
- Total Streams (for one song only): 1,100 - Castle On The Hill
This final week we have been absent in terms of promotion. We didn’t promote the songs at all. But on the good side of things we reached 1,000+ plays on a single song. However as we’ve put all our time and effort on one song we’ve seriously neglected the other songs on the playlist with some of them only receiving 10 plays! That’s bad!! The aim with this project was to see how long it took to get to 1,000 streams so that the music spreads and using Spotify’s algorithm the song(s) make their way into auto-generated playlists - thus getting spread more.
The streaming numbers aren’t great, but then again this is our first ever Spotify release. Maybe with consistency they’ll be better each time? At least we've reached out target, even though the stats are very unbalanced!
There are a few lessons to be taken away from this experiment. Firstly, it's a lot harder than it seems. I am surprised by the imbalance of the statistics, some songs have 20 streams, where as the one we focused on has 1000+, but that is due to the free organic trial on Streamify.me.
Secondly, we've learned that it's really a long-haul project. It's hard to continue to promote the music to the same audience online day after day. It makes us sound repetitive and quite boring. Would we get more fans if we were playing regular gigs and engaging in person with people - directly? Probably so. But that wasn't an option for us.
Finally, we think - as crazy as it sounds - that putting out more music would help us reach more people. By keeping consistent with our releases we're continually promoting fresh material, and by doing that audiences can potentially link back to older music we've already posted.
As mentioned earlier in this article, we know putting your music online available to stream is a long-term project. It would be foolish to start with a small audience and expect thousands of streams in the first few weeks - without putting in some real time to spread the brand across different platforms. If we were a single artist, I think we'd focus on doing multiple things in one go, so that they compliment one another rather than working on separate elements, for example - only focusing on accumulating streams. Creating an ecosystem, setting up gigs, recordings, social media posts etc - for an artist, could prove to be more beneficial to gathering pace with their career.
Our next move will be to incorporate more released music as part of our general content output, creating and generating more audio for people stream rather than one big release. Maybe this approach will be more fruitful in the long term!
As mentioned above, we have used a variety of tools to push our songs as much as possible. Blow are further details.
Buffer - Buffer is a social media programming tool. It allows you to type out your posts on Facebook and Twitter and time them for a release in the future. Great for planning a week of promotion.
Mailchimp - Mailchimp is a free mail-out platform, ideal for keeping your fans or email subscribers updated with new, products and events.
Streamify.me - We used Streamify's free service to see if we could increase streams and help get the song recognised by Spotify's 'discover' algorithm which fees users new music. While the numbers were there, we didn't notice an increase in the song's activity. If all you want are streams and a number count, then this might be for you but be aware that as with YouTube, numbers aren't the be all and end all!
Hopefully these tools will help you launch your music on streaming services, but the important thing to remember is that initially while you're building your audience, it's a long-haul project. Don't get too disheartened with lack of progress early on and focus on building your brand on all fronts - don't get fixated with the streams!