The music industry is fast growing. And as artists, we have to know what tools we should make use of and how we could attract more listeners and fans to our brands. Join Bree Noble and Mike Warner as they delve into the streaming tools that musicians can use in their profession.
Mike is a producer, podcaster, and the author of Work Hard Playlist Hard: The DIY Playlist Guide For Artists And Curators. In this episode, he shares his personal and professional experiences in the music industry and the importance of utilizing the free streaming tools for artists so we could expand our presence and figure out the ultimate ways to get our fans involved.
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Powerful Streaming Tools For The Ultimate DIY Playlist For Artists And Curators With Mike Warner
I’m excited to be here with my friend, Mike Warner. We were saying like, “We got to get on a show interview to catch up,” because we’ve been needing to catch up for a while. Sometimes you need to have something on your calendar to catch up with each other. What I’m excited about catching up with him about is his book, Work Hard Playlist Hard. I recommend it to all my students and he’s coming out with the new edition. I’m excited to talk to him about that. Before we get into that, Mike, I would love for you to tell them a little bit about your background in music, in the industry, streaming and all of that.
Thank you, Bree. I’m happy we got to catch up. On the record, as we were saying before, anything could happen here. Let me think of the shortest version possible. I always tell this a different way and it gets very long-winded. The old cliché, I’m a music lover from a young age. I never picked up an instrument. I could never play an instrument to save my life. I loved music. I ended up getting into deejaying as soon as I was legally allowed to enter a nightclub in Australia. After a few years of playing most venues in my hometown, I got into music production so I could start performing outside of my hometown.
Fast forwarding from that, I’ve worked on multiple projects. I’ve hosted podcasts and local radio show. I went down the independent route with my music project, Date Night. When that happened, we released our debut album. We distributed that music independently. We did all of the work, made all of the mistakes, had some wins. The process was documented and it ended up becoming part of the book, Work Hard Playlist Hard, which is part of the reason why we’re here.
What year did the first version of the book come out?
Originally, it came out in 2018 and it was just a PDF document online. When I got serious and put it in paperback, hardcover, all of that, it was 2019.
I had you at my Summit in 2019. I remember when it was not even in book form. The biggest thing that I want to know is why a second edition? I know things in the music industry changed all the time but it seems like a lot of things have changed in the streaming world. Why did you feel like now is a good time to update the book?
It’s not like I sat down one day and went, “I’m going to write a second edition and be done in a week.” I’ve been writing this ever since the first edition came out. I’ve been updating things over time. I’ll get feedback from someone or someone will ask me a question that wasn’t in the books. I’ve been building it. To be honest, it got to the point where a good friend of mine said, “It’s never going to be done.” You need to set a date and say, “On this date, it’s coming out as current and up-to-date as it can be. That’s it. Otherwise, you’re going to keep updating, adding to this. It’s going to be this beast but no one would ever get to see it.” It’s like music. If someone works on a song for one year or more, and they’re never at the point where they feel it’s ready to be released. It probably was six months earlier. People were waiting to hear it.
It’s writing and rewriting or mixing and mixing again. Your friend is very smart because you do have to finally be like, “I’m doing this and I’m setting a deadline.” You were basing it on questions you were getting from the book or things that needed to be updated. What do you think is the biggest thing that has changed in the streaming world between 2018 and now?
This is going to sound strange given the title of the book but the Work Hard Playlist Hard has become very saturated. That doesn’t always necessarily mean that it’s bad but it does mean that back when I wrote the book originally, there were fewer playlists but fewer people were trying to get on them. Playlist is a buzzword and it’s, “How can I get on a playlist? Where are the playlists?” People talk about playlists more than anything else. I’ve tried to reset it a little when I have conversations with artists and say, “Playlists are great. You will get on them eventually but that can’t be your plan. There’s a bunch of other things that you can do with your music.”
For me, what’s changed is the way that people are sharing music. They’re talking about it. They’re connecting with their audience, whether it’s live streaming on Twitch, posting short clips on TikTok, or all of these things may not have existed when the first book was out, or they’ve gotten a lot bigger during this time. It’s not just COVID and the fact that a lot of people have been spending more time at home, even before that TikTok was taking off like crazy. It’s been interesting because one thing that I’ve noticed and I don’t mention COVID more than maybe once in the book because I feel that everything that has happened was already happening in some way. We were already using these new apps. We’re already communicating in these different ways, and using these new tools that were created.
For me, it was hard to try to help people with where to focus their time and energy now without overwhelming them. Not everyone will be comfortable with the same platforms or live streaming on camera four hours a day and connecting directly with their fans. Not everyone is comfortable trying to create videos to share, then you release. For me, I wanted to find what are you comfortable with? What is the best way that you connect with your audience? You find that audience that maybe you haven’t connected with previously.
That’s good because I have looked at the book and my thoughts were, “My Lord, there are many streaming tools here that I didn’t even know about that will help musicians,” like platforms I’ve never heard of. There’s the TikTok, Twitches and things that I’ve heard of that I haven’t delved deep into myself. I even have to admit like one day, you were doing something on Twitch and I got a notification. I’m like, “I’m going to go watch this. I’ve never been on Twitch.” I downloaded the app and apparently, I had already paid an account but I didn’t remember my password.If your music doesn't fit with others, spare them your advertising email. Click To Tweet
I’m like, “I can’t get to this because I don’t know my password. It’s always a little frustrating because there are many platforms. People are showing up in different places. I was like, “If I can’t watch Mike on Twitch, I’ll go watch him somewhere else later.” There are plenty of people that are always hanging out on Twitch that are going to watch you. My biggest question from looking at the book is how can someone go, read that book, get all those resources and not get so overwhelmed or think they have to be in all of those places?
How do you recommend they get started doing something in there? Not always feeling that FOMO of like, “I should be doing Twitch, this and that.” We usually do with like, “I should be on YouTube and Facebook.” It starts to get overwhelming to artists and even in general business owners. It makes you feel like you want to give up because you know you can’t be everywhere but you feel like you should be. Where is the best place for them to start and then start adding these other ones?
I want to say straight up there is no expectation that an artist is going to be heavily active on multiple platforms, especially if we’re talking social media. You may set up an account on all of the major social media apps and check-in from time to time, but there’s most likely going to be one where you go, “This is more me. I’m more comfortable. Instagram is great because I like to post pictures. I like to tell a story in the caption. YouTube is great because I’d rather turn the camera on, do almost a vlog and share my process with people.” You’re going to find one that works best for you. That’s where you will put in more of your energy. Outside of that and I know you mentioned how overwhelming it is in the book, what I’m talking about in the book is there are multiple platforms where people can find your music and listen.
We know Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, some of the biggest, common and most well-known ones. Outside of that, there are platforms in other countries that are as successful, if not have more subscribers and listeners. You’ve got JioSaavn in India, Anghami in the Middle East, Deezer, which is in a lot of countries but is big in France. On all of these platforms, artists don’t need to create an account, subscribe and listen. They just need to know that they exist and have a presence on there.
When I say that there will be some work, I’m talking, get access, claim your artist profile, add some information on there, and then you may not touch it again for a while. The book is not intending to give you ongoing work and make being an artist a full-time job, which for most, it already is. It is saying, “Here are some things that you can do. It’s going to take a little bit of your time but here are the benefits from doing that.” Plus, if somebody is listening to your music in India, they don’t listen on Spotify and listen on JioSaavn. You have a profile and a way of welcoming them when they first discover your music. They have ways of connecting with you because they can find your social media easier. You can do creative things such as Shorties.
Shorties are short-form videos, similar to Spotify had Canvas. You’ve got all of these cool little things that you can do that you may have already created for one platform. You could simply go and upload it there as well. Nobody is saying, “Go and do an exclusive photoshoot and upload it for Anghami or Deezer.” We’re saying what you already have. Those photos, bio, social media links, maybe some short videos. You can go and take that, upload it to all of these platforms directly and have a home on them. If people find you, they can continue to stay in contact with you and find out a little more about you.
Whenever I discover an artist, the first thing that I do is click their profile. I want to find out more about them. Where are they based? What have they done before? Who have they collaborated with? I will click onto their social media and see their posts. I’ll give them a follow because I like their music. I’d like to know more about them as a person as well and connect with them on that level. That was the reason for going into it. Letting artists know social media is important. I am not someone that’s going to tell you all the things that you should do on social media because it’s different for each artist. I will say that there should be one platform that you should focus your energy on, and it should be a platform that complements you. You feel that it’s worth spending the most time contributing to, photos, Instagram, video, YouTube, live streaming, having a conversation, Twitch.
I’m thinking based upon all these opportunities that you’re giving them in the book to expand their reach onto different platforms that they’re probably not using. It seems like one way to go about this would be to get all your stuff together for your top platform now. Let’s say Spotify. You get everything you need, stuff for Canvas, bio all in order, whatever pictures you want to use, decide which things you want to highlight, all of that. You do it on one platform. I’m all about outsourcing. You bring somebody in to help you, a college student that needs some extra money and you say, “I already have everything in this folder that I put on Spotify. Use this book, claim all my artist accounts on all these other places and update all this stuff.” It’s not different. Your bio and social media don’t change, all of that stuff and at least then you’ll have a presence on those other places. Do you think that makes sense to do it that way?
Absolutely. If you don’t have the time and you see the value in this, then spend a little money and have someone else do it. You hit it on the head right there. The bio and photos are done. They don’t need to create anything. They need to simply upload it, make sure it’s there and help you to get that presence. You can definitely outsource.
I was amazed at how many other platforms there are out there. I know that a lot of them have tools for artists beyond like, “Put your bio up here. Here are some pictures and spots.” Do you want to talk about some of those? I know Pandora has special tools for artists. I remember hearing about some cool “You can do it” voice messages to your fans and cool stuff like that.
For anyone that’s outside of the US, Pandora is only available in the US at this time. It has been available in other countries previously but anyone anywhere in the world can claim their presence on Pandora and record voice messages that will play before or after your song that could be promoting almost anything you would like.
It’s like having your own commercial. That’s so cool.
This artist will say, “I’m doing a live stream next week on this platform that’s not Pandora. Here’s a link.” You tap the button on your screen and it will take you directly to that. They can sell tickets to a concert. They can sell merchandise. They could take you to their own playlist they created on Pandora or another song. They’re relaxed with it and it doesn’t cost you anything. If somebody is about to listen to your song or they listened, that message will play. It’s free. Most importantly, you are not paying to do this. It can be like an ad for yourself.
In my Rock Your Next Release course, I do recommend they set up their Spotify for artists and AMP account for artists on Pandora. What are some of the other ones you think you would prioritize out of all the other options?
I know I’m going to leave some out here but as far as ones that I’ve had conversations with, Amazon Music for Artists is available. Amazon also owns Twitch, which not everyone knows. There are some cool integrations you can do between the two. You mentioned when I went live on Twitch. One thing that can happen is an artist can go live on Twitch and someone may have never logged on Twitch before but they’re following that artist on Amazon Music. It will also go live within Amazon Music at the same time. All followers of that artist will get a notification saying, “This artist is live right now. Would you like to watch?”
They can watch it directly on that artist profile within Amazon music without even needing to go into Twitch. Amazon will showcase artists while they’re live within the Amazon Music app as well. It’s a simple link that you click to connect the two. I say to that artist, “You may not have any followers on Twitch, but if people are following you on Amazon Music, connect the two, click the link and the next time you go live, they’ll get notified.
What other ones would you then prioritize next?
One more thing with Amazon as well as they have an integration with merch when you’re live streaming or on your artist profile. On Twitch, it would show at the bottom of your stream and you could say, “The t-shirt I’m wearing right now. If you would like to buy it, you can click the button below and you can buy it directly.” If they go to the artist profile in Amazon Music, all of the merch will be there as well. Being Amazon, you’re already logged in with your Amazon account. You click a button. You buy it. It arrives on your doorstep before you can walk to the front door. It’s scary but it’s cool. That’s enough about Amazon. Let’s move on to the other ones as well.
Apple Music for artists they’ve started to step it up in 2021. I’ve noticed it seems like they’re putting a very heavy focus on building out their artists’ tools. Apple Music for artists will show you what playlists you’ve been added to stream counts and how many listeners you have. There’s a cool interactive map where you can zoom in to cities, counties or suburbs depending on what you’re looking at around the world. You can see how many people are listening in that exact location. How many streams and of which songs? Let’s say you were playing in a small venue of 100, 200 people max. You want to see, “What is the song that is most listened to in this specific location?” You can find that out.
When you’re performing, if the crowd isn’t getting into it yet, why don’t you play the song that’s the most popular there so they recognize it and get their attention? On the flip side, if you’ve got a crowd and you’re rocking it, save that to last and make that your encore. I’ve seen artists use it for that exact reason and the same with trying to land some radio programming. They say, “We’ve got 4,000 people in this location listened to this song in the last month. We think it’s worth giving it a shot on radio as well.”
That’s crazy analytics.
It’s mind-blowing. People would say it’s scary but it’s not like it’s telling you the person’s name, date of birth, email address or anything. It’s saying there is a person that pays for Apple Music because there’s no such thing as free accounts, is paying for their subscription and is listening to your music in this location which is cool. Outside of that, Apple also has Shazam. Some people don’t know it but even before Apple acquired Shazam, they were still using the Shazam technology.
Anytime someone would say, “Name of person in my phone.” We’ll call it S, “S, what song is this?” It would say, “Listening,” and it would return the result. That was coming from Shazam even before Shazam was acquired by Apple. People didn’t have to download the app, create an account and they were contributing to the number of Shazams which was contributing to the charts with some radio stations around the world have the Shazam top 50 and things like that.
There’s one cool personal story about Shazam and this was before it was acquired by Apple Music. There was a separate website called Shazam for Artists. I went in there one day and realized that there was a nice number of Shazams on a specific song in Japan. I dug a little deeper and then realized there is a background music service called Mood Media. They program music for retail stores, restaurants, hotels all around the world. I did a little research and ask them some of the stores that they’ve programmed their music in.As we move forward, people spend less time staring at their screens while listening to music. Click To Tweet
We looked at the map and we realized, “This was in the Nike store in Japan,” which is a multilevel store. Surely enough, it was maybe six weeks later, someone we collaborated with on that song sent me a video and goes, “You wouldn’t believe this. The Nike store in Japan, do you know that song where I recorded bass guitar for you guys? It’s playing right now.” We got to find out as a result of Shazam and then a little extra research. Surely enough, someone recognizing it when they were in the store as well.
It is amazing to hear your song or someone that you know in a store like that. The fact that people were trying to figure out what that song was proves that the song has traction.
It’s almost the biggest compliment because 9 times out of 10, it’s going to be, “I know this song but I want to remind myself for later. I like this and I want to put it in my playlist when I get home.” There may be the occasional, “I don’t know what this is but I don’t want to hear it again. What is this?” For the most part, I would take it as a positive.
I forget that’s even a thing like if I could do that. I was in the bank and I was like, “What is the song? I know this song but I can’t figure it out.” I came home and typing the lyrics into Google. It’s old school when I could have just done that.
It’s always awkward to explain, especially on a podcast set up, because I know if I set my phone’s going to go crazy. The nice lady whose name begins with S is also on the computer and everywhere else. I had to disconnect Alexa before we started.
I have one but it’s not hooked up yet because we got the new versions. I remember during the interviews for the Summit, I had that happen one time where I was talking about how you can use Spotify with Alexa. I like said something and it went off. We both started cracking up but it’s the world we live in now.
One thing I encourage everyone to do, whether you have a podcast, music or both, a lot of people will say, “If you have an Amazon account, go on type in my name, search for me and click follow. Go and click this link and make sure you follow.” All they need to do the next time you’re near your Amazon device, say, “Alexa, follow artist’s name on Amazon Music.” It’s as simple as that and then they’re following you. I found a lot more people, by simply saying that they want to try it. It’s way more fun than clicking the link and staring at their screen. If they’ve got a voice assistant in their headphones while they’re out for a walk, they can verbalize that and say, “Follow this artist.” I feel like as we move forward, people are spending less time staring at their screens while they listen to music. It makes sense to say, “Here’s a verbal command that you can say so that you don’t miss any of my music moving forward or you get reminded every time there’s a new episode of the podcast.”
I just learned something new because I listened to music in the kitchen all the time when I’m cooking. If I’m listening to a playlist and I’m always having to be like, “Walk over there and see who the name of the artist is,” I should ask her, “Who’s this artist?” Then be like, “Follow.” I didn’t even know you could do that.
If it’s Apple, it’s, “S, what song is this?” They’ll tell you, or “S, add this song to my playlist or my library.” It’s as easy as that. There’s a lot of cool stuff that you can do with your voice nowadays.
A lot of it, for artists, needs to be around educating fans about this. You could make a fun video about how you follow people using Alexa or by doing a video of you following yourself or whatever. They need direction because they don’t know. A lot of artists are like, “Nobody follows me on Spotify.” I’m like, “Did you tell them how to do it? Did you give them a little video that shows them what to click?” That’s where the barrier happens.
Spotify is a fun one. Apple has this as well. QR codes. We’ve seen all kinds of fun with that. There was one and correct me if I’m wrong. It may have been in Hong Kong. It was over the city. It was a few hundred drones that were flying and they created the QR code that was shown above the city. Everyone stopped, looked up and what’s the first thing you do when you see something like that? You pull out your phone to take a picture. The camera would immediately scan the QR code and then they would tap the link. Now you’ve got their attention.
I’m not saying every artist can afford an army of drones to fly around in the sky, but those QR codes, you can have that on your phone. If you’re talking to someone and they go, “Where can I find your music?” You can go, “Open up the camera on your phone, point it at this.” They go, “Perfect. Done.” I’ve seen people print them on flyers, put them on their website, post them in stories or however you want to do it but it’s a much more fun way to follow someone, and it’s a lot quicker.
The younger people are used to it. My kids are used to QR codes at school.
It’s a barcode but it’s newer. It’s cool. Eventually, someone will say, “QR code is 2020.”
There are some other things that we don’t know about yet. I know that the focus of this book is more expanding beyond playlists and opening artists’ minds to all the other ways that they can get people connected with them and more people can hear their music. Let’s talk about the playlist. What has changed with the playlist since your first book? What are your recommendations with artists and playlists? Have they changed since then?
When I wrote the first edition, there was a small number of types of playlists. It was very much editorial, in which people that work at the streaming platform sit down and their job are to curate music, listen to music and put it in those playlists. There was third-party or independent, which is anyone that has a subscription with that streaming platform creates a playlist themselves and shares it publicly so that anyone can go and listen to that playlist. Some people would do that and get thousands if not millions of people following their playlist. Since then, we’ve started to see all kinds of different playlists in addition, such as a personalized editorial playlist. Some people, if they want to be more technical, they call them algo playlists as well. It’s short for algorithm.
Personalized editorial playlist, if we’re talking about Spotify, their playlist will still have a public follower account. They will show as created by Spotify. What happens is the playlist will serve a completely different set of music based on the listener. For anyone that’s playing along, if you were to go into Spotify and look at a playlist called Weekend Hangouts, it looks like an editorial playlist. You can follow it. I can follow it. If we opened up our phones at the same time and looked at the playlist, we’d have completely different music in there. The way that it works is Spotify will have a pool of up to roughly 600 songs that work within that playlist. It’s not genre-based. It’s mood. It can be a mix of dance music, country music, pop, hip-hop or rock. What it does is it takes those songs, it looks at what you listened to and your listening habits, who you follow, and it serves 100 songs that it feels would be best suited for you from that list for a weekend listening session.
With my music project, we were added to Weekend Hangouts. We’re still in there for some people. The number of listeners that we’ve received from that is far higher than larger editorial playlists that aren’t personalized. What that says to me is, “Not everyone is seeing us but the right people are, and they are clearly listening for more than 30 seconds, which counts as a stream.” They’re enjoying it. That’s been cool. They rolled out after Spotify opened up the flood gates and said, “Everyone can submit music to them using that form.” It got to the point where there were many submissions that they were trying to find a way to support all of this great music that they were finding. They created these personalized editorial playlists in addition to creating more playlists so that more music could find a home.
I’m assuming that you get more plays too because they’re not refreshing the playlist as often because they don’t have to. They have a big pool of songs and it’s going to be more personalized. I didn’t know that that was a thing with that playlist. I love that.
I love it too. Personalized editorial playlists and there won’t be a big neon sign saying, “This is personalized.” For some reason you go, “I am liking this playlist. They seem to know me pretty well.” That could be why. They know too much.
Do you feel that going after private playlist curators is still a good option for artists?
I want to be very careful how I say this because it shouldn’t be the plan or, “This is our marketing plan. We have a song coming out. We’re going to send emails to all of these curators and hope for the best.” It should be a very small part of your focus. Honestly, I’ve been shocked at the number of times that people have come to me. They’ve sent emails out to all of these independent curators but they haven’t even filled out the Spotify submission form itself. They uploaded the release and decided to set it to go live two days later which as we know and continue to preach, you need lead time. People want to hear the song before it’s out so that all the work happens before the song comes out. I’m not saying you don’t do that outreach but that should not be the highest priority by any means.
That should be you’ve got time, followed all the other steps, done everything else, checked all the boxes and send some emails out to them as well. If something happens from that, great, but I wouldn’t be banking on that. The other reason for that is it’s become a lot more common now. There are books full of contact details that are being sold. There are mailing lists that say, “A lot of these curators, if their email address is now public somewhere, they are getting overloaded.” For a lot of them, if they’re truly independent, they’re not necessarily making money doing this. They have a day job or have other things they do. It used to be fun for them. Now they’re getting thousands of emails every day and they feel like they’re letting people down.
Definitely, still do it. Be careful and do a little research first. Don’t do a cold blast out to everyone. Make it a little more personalized and focused because there are a number of times I see friends that curate a playlist that say, “Out of all of the emails I get, maybe 10% are relevant to me. The rest are completely different genres and as if these people haven’t ever looked at my playlist.” That does go a long way, get noticed and they will remember you if they see your name continue to pop up in their inbox. Keep that in mind. There is a person on the other end that likes to listen to a certain type of music. If your music doesn’t fit with that, maybe spare them that email.Keep as much of you as you can under one artist's name, or it's going to become a nightmare for you to manage. Click To Tweet
Is there any aspect of getting in front of new people that we can control as artists? We can’t control whether they choose us for editorial playlists or if curators want to add our music. What can we control or are we left up to the fates?
Let’s assume that you’ve checked all the boxes. You submitted the form to Spotify editorial and gave them sufficient lead time. There are a few little things that I’ve included in the book as well and this is not bait about the book, but I just don’t remember at the top of my head. Amazon Music has a general email address where you can send some pictures right now because they don’t have a submission process. Pandora has a submission form in-app where you can submit any release as long as it was released within the last twelve months. It doesn’t have to be an upcoming release. Some people will put that song out and then they’ll go and do that once it’s live in Pandora. There are other platforms as well. Beyond that, what else can you do?
Can you influence who the algorithm associates you with so fans also like that stuff?
It is a bit of a gray area. They’re never going to tell you exactly what contributes to it because people would try manipulating and gaming the system. Everyone would like to be associated with the biggest artists in that genre. We get that. One thing I have noticed is any time an artist, either they are a brand-new artist or start a new project under a new name, it seems as though the first 1,000 listeners determine where that artist initially gets placed. When you fill out the submission forms, you can say this genre, instrument, focal and plug in all of that information. It looks as though the first listeners will be the ones that will initially populate that fans-also like or related artists.
That may be true because I’ve experienced that with my own artist account in that playlist that I got on a long time ago with like my Christmas music. People that were on those playlists with me are still in my “Fans also like.” Who in the world are these people? These other indi artists that I don’t know.
It doesn’t mean that you are permanently attached to them but it may take some time for them to change and refresh. This sounds weird when you tell someone this but I had a friend that makes upbeat dance music and decided, “I’ve been making this chill Lo-fi music that’s great for studying and relaxing too. I’m going to tell everyone about it.” I said, “No. Those people that listened to your upbeat dance music all day, every day. Eventually, you want them to hear this new project but if they’re the first people that listen, all of a sudden, you’re going to be associated with all of these other artists. They’re probably listening to dance music, then going and listening to your song, and then going back to dance music. It’s going to be a slow-grow but whoever listens first is going to be very important that they listen to that genre of music mostly. Otherwise, you’re going to see some weird results and surely enough, they followed that and got placed alongside artists that are a good fit.”
How did they do that? They didn’t tell their fans about it.
As weird as that sounds. I said, “This is going to sound weird but it’s your first song, a brand new project.” For now, I wouldn’t tell them, “Let it sit for a little bit first, find its home, find the right audience and go and tell them.” That works well.
Were they using a different artist or name?
It was traded as a completely new artist. It’s weird advice and not everyone likes it. I say, “I’m not here to make you happy. I’m here to help you.”
Possible advice is different for streaming versus other things. I always try to tell them, “Keep as much as you can under one artist’s name or it’s going to become a nightmare for you to manage if you have all these social media accounts for different projects.” What you said makes sense for streaming.
To add to that, there was a friend who started a children’s music project. Children’s music is completely different in everything. The way it’s distributed and the ears that were reached. On Pandora specifically, children’s is a type of artist, the same way that the hip hop, pop or country. They also have a holiday where they’ll have the artists and then they will create a brand-new profile for that artist where all of their holiday music goes under that. If you release a Christmas album, it won’t be pushing that Christmas album to people that like your other music. It won’t be pushing it to them all year round, Hanukkah or any other holiday for that matter. It’s interesting seeing that. What Pandora has also done to try and deliver the right music to people is they go and let’s say you release a pop album, then you go ahead and release a country album.
You could have two different artists’ profiles. You’ve got your country music fans that you getting that delivered to them then you’ve got your pop music fans getting that music delivered. It’s pretty wild. It’s one of the things about Pandora where I feel they’ve been around a long time. They have many different pieces of information that are attached to a song that they’re good at giving you this continuous feed of music that feels similar to the previous song, it works well and you don’t get anything far off. Whereas with the other platforms, sometimes it will go, “You like this artist. By the way, they did something completely different several years ago. It may shock you, but here it is.”
The way that Pandora was developed as a platform is more about mood and genre than it is about the artists. It’s all fitting together and making sense because I feel like when Pandora first came out, everybody used it as music in the dentist’s office. You wouldn’t want suddenly some techno song to come on when you were listening to adult contemporary. To them, the most important thing is that you keep the mood level.
Pandora at first was just radio. It was somewhat interactive. You could skip the song if you didn’t like it or thumbs down and it would learn as well. They grew from that. They have their premium offering where you can listen to any song on demand. They have playlists in addition to the stations. The people that have been using Pandora for years still get their 24-hour feed of music that keeps going. They fine-tune it. They’re happy because they don’t want to think beyond that. They go, “I want music. I know what I want. I want Pandora to keep delivering it.” There’s the other side now which is, “I’m going on here to discover some new music and start clicking around. I’m going to look at playlists.”
The Pandora, when it first came out, the best thing that it was made for was that radio feature where it could be like, “I want to listen to Sara Bareilles’ radio.” It would pick all these people that were similar to her because you liked her. I thought that was very innovative back then.
That’s how a lot of artists got successful on Pandora. There are people out there that have over one million monthly listeners on Pandora and are not getting programmed on big playlists. They’re getting played in high rotation on other artists and track radio stations. They’re getting delivered to the right audience.
I could have nerd out about this stuff forever because I felt a lot about releases and how we can capitalize them. What have we not covered that you think people should know about the book or that they need to know by getting the book will expose them to this new type of thing that they may not even think of?
There are many handy little streaming tools out there that will do the work that you don’t want to do. Let me throw some out there. That’s probably a fun way to do it. Spotify has its own tools that they have outside of Spotify for artists where they have multiple websites. There’s one way you can create flyers, posters, cards, social media posts, where you can include your Spotify QR code or you can celebrate a milestone. You have 25,000 followers. Spotify creates this little image that you can upload onto social media and say, “Thanks. We now have 25,000 followers.” You get added to a playlist, there’ll be some artwork you can use. They’ll have a link with that as well so that you’ve got a direct link to exactly what it is that you’re sharing in that post. That’s all tracked. You can see how many people filter from that into Spotify.
Pandora’s voice messages, we already touched on. Spotify has Canvas as well, which has up to eight seconds, short looping videos. One thing about that is that you may create that video or have someone else create it for you. It will play when someone is listening to your music on Spotify on their phone but you can also share that video directly to an Instagram story. It will link to your song at the top of the story. It will use that video that’s being created. There are a lot of things where you create one piece of content and you can repurpose it multiple times. There’s a trend where a lot of these platforms are, I don’t want to say copying each other but they’re getting inspiration from each other.
You may find someone to create that eight-second looping video for you for Spotify and you may end up uploading that same video to Amazon Music when they launched something similar. Apple Music is also working on looping visuals as well and a number of other platforms. My goal is to find all of these cool little things that you can use. You don’t like creating social posts, “Here’s a direct tool that will create artwork that you can share immediately. You’ve created a short video to promote your song. Here are some other places you can upload it so that you can include that cool visual with the song when it plays in these streaming platforms.”
That’s worth getting the book already because there are all these things that we don’t even know exist. I didn’t know that that was available or you could get all these like Spotify badges. Those are awesome little tools that we can use as artists that we don’t know are there because, for whatever reason, they’re not publicized a lot. I seem like I should have known about them and I didn’t. Guys, get the book because it will help you be able to utilize all these streaming tools that are free to us as artists that we can expand our presence and not have to work as hard on our own to figure out cool ways to get our fans involved. That’s the way I’m thinking about it.
I did want to ask one quick question. I don’t know if you know the answer to this because I get many questions about distributor platforms. Everyone’s like, “I don’t know what distributor to use,” and they’re like angsty about it. Each one has its own strengths or the way that they price. Is there any difference in distributors in the way that you’re treated by all of these distribution platforms or is it pretty much the same? You get access to as much stuff on CD Baby as you do on DistroKid, TuneCore, Ditto and all those.
For the most part, they are very similar. It comes down to, “Do you like the way that it’s laid out for you?” I would also say for anyone, if you are with a distributor and are looking at another one before you make the change, which isn’t that painful if you do want to but if there’s something that’s missing, simply ask. Not to put DistroKid on the spot, there are some stores that DistroKid can distribute too but you need to ask them. They have very good reasons for that. One of those stores was TouchTunes, which is under PlayNetwork, which is music for in-store. Some people call background music Muzak. By distributing to them, you’re saying, “I give permission for them to include my songs in programming in any of their customers’ venues, whether it’s hotels, restaurants, etc.”It is hard to try to help people with where to focus their time and energy now without overwhelming them. Click To Tweet
The only way you can do that is by asking DistroKid and opting into it. CD Baby have their normal offering for an artist that signs up, pays the fee and distributes their music but when you get to a certain threshold, I don’t know the exact numbers so I won’t say them but there are higher-level services that artists can apply for where they can get preferred playlist pitching. If you search it up, I’m sure that you’d be able to find it easily. They have a public-facing website for it. Essentially, they’re saying, “Once you have X number of monthly listeners, this many followers or hit these targets, fill out this quick form and you may be able to work more closely with them on future releases.”
A lot of distributors will have their own little perks that they offer. There are other ones that instead of saying, “You get 100%,” they will say, “We will take a percentage, maybe 20% or 30% but we will be working more closely with you. We will assign you someone who is direct contact. You will be calling or emailing them anytime you need anything relating to your music.” It’s almost like having a person on your team like a manager but maybe not on that level. The distributors, most of them can offer the same. If they show that they can’t, ask them. That would be my advice. It’s pretty competitive out there. If you’ve got some incredible music, they wouldn’t want to lose you if they can simply help you by getting you that feature that you are looking for that you couldn’t find.
Ask for what you want, do your research, look around and see what all the distributors have. If the one that you were thinking of doesn’t seem to have that, ask, maybe they do. That’s awesome advice. This has been enlightening. I’ve learned a bunch during this. I even scan through the book. I highly recommend you guys get the book. How can they get a hold of the book?
I’ve been live streaming, talking, making calls and making sure it’s in stores and it’s available but it is out. It is everywhere. If you want it, go directly to WorkHardPlaylistHard.com, all of the information will be there on the main page and links to all the different bookstores you can get it from. It’s available in paperback, hardcover, digital, Kindle or however you want to get it. The audiobook is definitely coming. There are many reasons why audiobooks are important.
I’ve got to give a shout-out to my wife for this because there was a point where I said, “How would an audiobook help people?” She said, “Some people may have a visual impairment where a book is not an option for them but they still can create music, play instruments and do everything else. An audiobook could be another way to reach them.” I never thought about that before. I encourage everyone that if you’re writing blog posts or books, keep in mind that it may be worth to also record that, make it a podcast episode and accessible for everyone that you possibly can. It is out everywhere in stores worldwide. If you go to your bookstore and they don’t have it, they can look it up and order it. They can probably ship it directly to a house as well.
Can they go on the typical online sites to order it?
The best place to get the book is http://workhardplaylisthard.com/.
I can’t even think of the last time I went into a bookstore, which is not good because I want to support the stores. I wanted to make sure we can get it online.
It’s exactly what I preach with music. I tell people, “Your music has to be available everywhere because people will get it where they get music or they probably will never get it or discover it.” With the book, it was important that in every bookstore possible, I made it available. I went to extremes with this one. I’ve purchased my own ISBNs. I’ve registered myself as the publisher. I’ve registered it with every library I can and trying to make it available everywhere humanly possible.
Guys, go out and get the book, WorkHardPlaylistHard.com, Amazon or wherever you buy books. You’re going to get many tools in there that I know are going to help you get in front of your potential fans. Mike, thank you so much for all of this info and for allowing me to nerd out with all these very detailed questions I was asking.
Thank you for letting me know it out as well. It’s always fun when we catch up. I’m glad we did this one on the show so that everyone else could be part of the fun but truly I appreciate you and everything that you do. As an artist yourself, the amount of time that you dedicate to helping other artists is truly inspiring. Thank you for all of your contributions and time.
You are welcome. Thank you for letting me put in a little paragraph in the book.
There’s going to be a nice surprise in there for everyone that you may see a very familiar name. Thank you, Bree.
- Work Hard Playlist Hard
- Rock Your Next Release
- Amazon – Work Hard Playlist Hard
- Barnes & Noble – Work Hard Playlist Hard
- Booktopia – Work Hard Playlist Hard
- Dymocks – Work Hard Playlist Hard
- CD Baby
About Mike Warner
Mike has lived and breathed almost every aspect of the music industry, wearing many hats over the years as a DJ, Radio Host, Producer, Podcaster, Marketer and Author. Currently, he oversees Artist, Label and DSP relations at Chartmetric but the reason he’s here today is to celebrate the launch of his new book!