[Editor’s Note: This article was written by Alper Tuzcu.]
Have you ever wondered why some songs get streamed and playlisted more than others? Ever wondered how you can increase your streaming revenue and create new ways to receive a steady paycheck every month? By using the data provided by streaming platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, you can make more targeted creative decisions.
So, in this post, I’d like to offer five ways of using data to boost your plays and create new revenue streams for your artistic career:
1. Analyzing genres and songs you’re most successful at (listens, saves, locations)
To start off, use the dashboard of your streaming platform of choice (Spotify for Artists or Apple Music for Artists) to analyze how well your songs are doing. By looking at your streaming data, you can see which songs perform better than others. Ultimately, this means that you can understand which styles or moods perform better than others, where they perform well, and with which demographic (by gender, age, and location). If you use TuneCore to release your music, you can also use the Music Sales report to see how your songs have been performing.
Additionally, you can see which songs got saved to listeners’ libraries. The number of saves is important because streams and listener numbers might not be enough to understand why a song is doing well. A song might be on a large playlist, and so it might look like you are getting a lot of streams, but it does not necessarily mean the listeners are engaging with the song directly. On the other hand, the number of ‘saves’ is a good indicator of whether listeners are really liking a song or not. If they are saving a song to their music library, it means they want to keep listening to that song over and over.
The first thing you should do when analyzing your data is to detect what your top performing five songs are and try to understand why those songs perform better than others. Note down the mood and genre of these songs. Check out if they got placed into any playlists. By understanding which songs are performing well, you can create more songs based on that mood and style.
2. Researching popular playlists and keywords
Another great way to use data for your music is to understand playlists. When you search and find a popular playlist, the first thing you should do is try to understand why it has so many followers. What makes it so attractive to so many people? Does the title of the playlist have catchy words? Are they focused on specific moods? These are very useful questions to ask when you see a popular playlist to understand why.
Pop music and upbeat music playlists will always be popular, but I think what’s interesting is what falls outside of the realm of pop music. One of the most popular playlist keywords is ‘chill,’ for instance. If you search ‘chill’ on Spotify, you will find many playlists ranging from reggae to trap to bossa nova. And it is true, they are all ‘chill’ in their own way because most playlists are defined by moods today, rather than a specific genre. So everyone will have their own version of ‘chill’ when it comes to playlisting. But what makes a ‘chill’ playlist more popular than the others? Trying to understand the listeners’ choices can give you a great lead in understanding playlist data in this way, which leads us to our next section.
3. Evaluating which of the popular styles and genres match your artistic identity
When you’re doing your playlist research, you might come across certain genres more often than others, which might tempt you to make a song in that style. This is a perfectly solid and legitimate strategy to go about using data for making creative decisions. The most important thing here is to be authentic and maintain catalog consistency, however. So let’s say you discovered that House music and Bossa Nova songs are two genres that are getting playlisted a lot. You want to make a song in one of these genres, but which one should you choose?
Where do you feel comfortable the most? The answer lies in authenticity. If you’re a jazz singer, then bossa nova would not be far off from your artistic identity. However, a house track might look odd for your artistic vibe. But, if you’re a singer songwriter with some electronic influences, then the house track might be a better fit for you.
Keep in mind though: there are no concrete rules when it comes to music. For instance, Rosalía’s first album consisted of guitar and vocal only flamenco songs. Two years ago she abruptly switched her sound to reggaeton, so now she’s making reggaeton tracks and riding high on the charts with J. Balvin while switching back to her flamenco roots every once in a while. She can justify this with her artistic identity, and as long as you can justify it, there are no problems.
4. Create the song and roll it out
After doing your research and understanding what kind of track would perform well, we can jump into the creation phase. The most important thing here is to maintain your artistic identity and still sound like yourself, but with a new twist and a fresh perspective. The rest is up to you.
When you’re ready to release the song, you can release and distribute your song on TuneCore to all platforms. Then, we can jump to the next phase, which is playlisting.
5. Pitching the song to playlists
This point builds off of #2, “researching popular playlists and keywords.” In order to pitch the songs, you first need to listen to the playlists and understand what kind of songs playlist curators expect in their playlists. Once you find a couple of playlists that you think would be a good fit, find the curator of each playlist and send them a short but concise message. Your message should include a short description of your music and your link.
Make sure you follow their playlists and share them on your social media accounts. Reciprocity is very important when you are asking for things from people. In the end, user generated playlist placements are great to build up your numbers and your analytics!
This post should give you a nice starting point to analyze your data and understand which songs perform better and why. As artists, we are fortunate enough to have the streaming data about our songs available at our fingertips. This is incredible information that was not even remotely available just a few years ago, except for major label artists. By using the streaming data, we can not only make more targeted creative decisions, but also boost our overall revenue.