Pandora told me today that I had 6784 “spins” from the 3 albums in their system during the month of March 2013. (I have since had a 4th album accepted in April, Beneficial). Based on 12 months, that’s about 81,000 “spins” in a year.
That’s in the ballpark of what I guessed my numbers are based on what I earn in royalties through SoundExchange, the body that collects internet royalties for musicians.
I’m immensely grateful for the exposure. You’re not going to ever hear me whine or moan about the royalty rate I’m getting “per play” on internet radio. Just being in the system is enough for me, and people must like what they hear.
Getting that many “spins” in a month is something that never could have happened with terrestrial radio. It just would have been too expensive and too impossible to achieve, especially in the “ambient / electronic” genre niche I am in. Even before internet radio became popular, there weren’t that many specialized radio shows that play what I create.
Additionally, I have an artist-specific radio station at Live365. People happen upon it or have saved the station as a preset, and I get around 4500 listens a month. The station doesn’t cost me much money, and it definitely pays for itself with album purchases by fans.
And I’m excited to hear about iRadio at Apple because that will be big.
For now, I’m waiting on Fandalism to be the next game-changer. I signed up early with Pud’s service, which costs $19.99 a year to upload your own albums to get them on iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play’s music store without having an aggregation service take a percentage of the sales cut. I’ve got a couple of releases in the first wave, so once they hit (which should be any day), I’ll see how it looks and then probably upload a whole bunch more.
But so far, I think getting exposure on Pandora has been one of the most important things for me, possibly even more than podcasting. Although you can’t get your music on Pandora without it first being in Amazon, and their CreateSpace service helps bridge that requirement. Even then, Pandora has a submissions process, so it’s likely that your album could be rejected. I’ve had a number of them rejected. It happens. I put that music onto other systems, like Live365. It finds an audience.
I like the idea of random people discovering my music so I’ve always been uncomfortable with “promoting” my music the old fashioned ways. I know I’ve never sent a promo CD to a record label. And I think the number of promo copies sent to radio shows can be counted two hands, and that’s over the past 10 years. I consider myself an independent, studio-based artist. I’m here to create and get sounds distributed in the modern paradigm. It’s not about money or fame or career or touring. I have a day job and a family. I can’t tour. I don’t think I’d like touring anyway. I’m a homebody.
People have asked me about Soundcloud. I don’t think it’s that useful for exposing random listeners to your music, at least in large numbers. To a certain extent it might be useful, but it’s far less exposure than you’ll get than via a streaming radio service like Pandora or Live365. I’ve been a paying customer of Soundcloud, off and on, for a few years, largely because of the Disquiet Junto, but I still kind of regard it as a service of it’s time. Others like Soundcloud have come and gone: MP3.com, MySpace, and others whose names I can’t remember but which I used for a while some time in the past. Soundcloud has nice widgets, but don’t think for a moment that the owners of Soundcloud wouldn’t love to cash out their business to some big company who will then screw it up and ruin it while the artists who stock it’s servers flee to the Next Great Thing. Then again, maybe I’m just not using it properly.
YouTube works for some. It’s great if you can get people to license your music for their videos. I do this without charge. For ambient musicians, if you’re willing to play the game and title songs in a particular way or make interesting videos or use cheesy still images then you can maybe get a big audience that way. I think it’s important to be out there on YouTube, even if you don’t get much traction for a while. It’s a big service, and you never know what it’ll morph into.
Then there’s podcasting. I’ve been doing it since the earliest days of podcasting in 2004. It’s been fun. I get a lot of downloads. I don’t know if I get a lot of listens. I’d rather have listens like via Pandora / Live365 / etc. I’ll still keep doing podcasts.
As far as submitting to other services… I don’t want to mail a CD anywhere as the first order of business. That’s a dead end – an expensive dead end. I worked in radio in high school and college, many decades ago. Back then, things stacked up on desks and got thrown away. I don’t want to spam anybody with email. What I want is for various services to have a streamlined submissions process like Submittable is for writers rather than a slapdash web page with too many caveats and hoops to jump through, otherwise I see little point and little value in using that kind of submissions process.
I’m sure there’s other things I’m not doing that I should be, but it’s hard to know.