By Alex Horowitz
As many musicians know, there’s no shortage of services out there offering artists feedback on their music from unbiased sources. Of course, that begs the question — just how useful are these services, and what role can they play in your development as an artist?
To better understand the potential value of music review services, we had two TuneCore employees, both part-time musicians in their own right, anonymously submit their music to TuneCore’s own Track Smarts service for review. We’ll refer to them as Nick and Chris.
Let’s take a look at what our TuneCore friends learned from their reports.
Subjective Or Objective?
The reports Nick and Chris received were robust, containing metrics, charts, and, of course, individual fan reviews of their selected song. Surprisingly, despite the increasingly important role data plays in the life of a music marketer, both our test subjects felt it was actually the completely subjective, individual reviews written by a random sampling of real music fans that offered them both the most value.
While at first glance this might be surprising — after all, we live in an age where data is king — it actually makes a lot of sense.
The data offered by their respective reports was largely designed to compile and quantify what the reviews were saying. For example, Track Smarts utilizes what it calls a Passion Rating to quantify not just how favorably your music was reviewed, but how much fervor there was about your song by those that reviewed it positively. The measurement provided a great way for Nick and Chris to quickly digest an aggregate of what the reviews were saying overall, but actually reading individual reviews actually offered an even deeper and more insightful understanding of how an average music fan was likely to react to their music.
Context Is King
I actually sat next to Chris as he poured over his Track Smarts report for the first time. The comment I heard him mumble to himself the most? Something along the lines of, “Well, yeah, ok, I knew that already.”
Chris makes a somewhat niche sub-genre of EDM which, though it enjoys a large and passionate following of devoted fans, would not be likely to find a home on the popular music charts in 2015. Unsurprisingly, Chris’ music received a larger quantity of low marks than Nick’s from average music fans that just didn’t get it.
However, those that enjoyed his music seemed to enjoy it immensely. In fact, those that liked his music the most even compared his work to, without knowing it, his favorite musician and biggest personal influence. So, while the numbers that attempted to “grade” his music were lowered by his receiving fewer favorable reactions than he might have hoped for, what he actually learned from individual reviews offered him some measure of validation regarding the value of his music, as well as useful insights from those that are actually fans of his genre.
The takeaway here is that, as with any set of data, context is important. If you’re trying to reach the top of the pop charts, the quantity of fans that find something agreeable about your music is likely a metric to which you’ll want to pay close attention. If you’re dabbling in a more niche genre, be prepared for less people to understand your music’s value, and instead pay close attention to the comments you receive from those that get it. The top-level numbers are important, but as with any set of data, the key is to contextualize what the data means for you in particular.
So, What Now?
The nicest thing a working musician could say about a tool in their marketing toolbox is, ‘Because I have this, I can tangibly improve my art or my career by taking this specific action.’ By that measure, in our little experiment, music review services have earned high marks, as both Nick and Chris were very impressed by the extent to which their reports offered specific points of feedback that will actually impact their artistic decision in the future.
For example, Nick learned from his report that for those that liked his song, his guitar riffs stood out as a key selling point of his music. Nick had actually never made his guitar riffs his main focus, and is now likely to feature them more prominently in his live shows and recordings.
In Conclusion (A.K.A. “The Short Version”)
Didn’t read the whole article? No sweat, here’s the gist: from the experience Nick and Chris had with these reports, our conclusion is that music review services can certainly have a place in a serious artist’s toolbox, especially artists still looking to hone their craft, so long as the artist is smart about keeping the findings from their report in proper context. Be sure to not just look for scores and ratings and leave it at that. Think about what your feedback means for your career in particular, and take some time to dive into individual reviews and look to trends or common reactions for specific useful tips that can improve your work.
With the right set of eyes, an objective opinion can go a long way in helping you grow as an artist.
Next Steps for TuneCore Artists