A disturbing trend I noticed recently is small blogs asking unsigned artists to pay to be featured on their websites. Now I can understand blog owners wanting to make money but I think they’re going about it the wrong way. Why? First your site just isn’t big enough. You may look at your Google Analytics and see a hundred to maybe a thousand views per day and think, “Hey if Worldstar can charge, I can charge!”. The thing is the traffic you’re looking at is (1) really tiny compared to the millions of views Worldstar gets (and if you don’t understand the difference between a thousand and a million this post isn’t going to help you) and (2) that traffic is going to particular posts spread out all over your site, usually on posts about some popular artist or some scandalous thing. If you dig into your analytics a little, you’ll be shocked to see how little people actually visit your homepage. Remember the sites that can actually charge are the sites you visit the homepage first, meaning you actually type in worldstarhiphop.com into your address bar rather than google “Snoop dog diss Iggy Azaelia” or whatever you’re googling.
Is Your Music Blog a Ghost Town?
This shouldn’t be a surprise to you: it’s easy to spot a blog that’s a ghost town just by the number of comments it has on any blog post. And your blog probably has no comments. A quick rule of thumb is: If each of your blog posts doesn’t have a couple comments, you shouldn’t be charging unsigned artists, who are probably broke in the first place, to get on your site. The reason is because you are charging for your audience’s engagement, but a large enough audience isn’t engaging with your site. It’s basically the same reason public access channels or college radio stations don’t have “real ads”: it’s because nobody is watching.
Are You Hurting Your Blog’s Credibility?
Secondly, and more importantly, charging even a small amount totally ruins your credibility as a tastemaker. Remember people are visiting your blog because of your taste in a particular genre, or more likely sub-sub-sub-genre. If your blog is about old school rap, people come to your blog specifically for old school rap. So if a trap rapper comes along and pays to get on your site and you accept his stinky drug money, you totally lose all the respect your little audience had for your taste and your audience gets even smaller. If you continue to do this you’ll eventually have no audience. Another example of this is when a really terrible artist pays to be featured on your site and you post them just to take their money. The people that come to your site to hear new good music will be totally turned off and wonder how something so utterly bad has it’s own splash page, banner and featured post “advertising it”.
Are You Disguising Advertising as Content?
And that’s really what you’re doing is disguising advertising as content, which is pretty much illegal according to the FCC. But legalities aside, it hurts your reputation. Let’s go back to Worldstar. Worldstar will take anybody’s money because Worldstar is the armpit of the internet. I mean anybody that’s willing to pay the $750 to $1000 to be posted on their site, you know the videos that have [User Submitted] or [Unsigned Artist] beside them in the title, those are artists who paid to play. Nobody takes those artists seriously, because anybody, as long as they pay, can be featured. And sure your video may get 30,000 views, maybe even 60,000 (especially if you have a provocative thumbnail) but then what? You’ve got to fork out another grand for your next video to be featured? And then again and again and again until something hits? Does this make any sense? Do hits in the internet age even get promoted like this?
Hip Hop’s Armpit: Worldstar Hip Hop
No. Absolutely unequivocally no. Anybody that tells you, you have to pay to get your music posted “to make it” is just trying to make money of you. Today, hits are not created by “featured posts”. How many rappers made it of being solely featured on Worldstar and how many made it solely of being featured on Vine or Youtube? What’s the difference, one you pay to get on and the other you don’t. Various songs get popular for various reasons but it’s not because they were advertised on some website, particularly some small website. How do you know your site is too small for advertising? Mark Zuckerberg, you know the founder of Facebook, recently said, “Products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about a billion people using them.” A BILLION! Facebook only started putting up those ads in the sidebar that make you feel bad for being obese and lonely when it was close to a billion active users everyday going to their homepage! Imagine Facebook had started advertising when it only had a 1000 views per day? The site would have never made it because it would have killed it’s reputation too early.
How do you think the popular music blogs became popular? It wasn’t because they advertised on other sites or necessarily because they were first in their genre. It was because overtime they built up a reputation with their audience for providing content relevant to their audience. They didn’t take their small audience for granted by trying to sell their engagement to the highest bidder. Don’t kill your reputation too early!
What’s an Artist to Do?
I spent the entirely of this post talking to blog owners, I’d like to speak to the unsigned artists reading this for a second. I don’t claim to have all the answers but if you really want to pay to get featured on a particular site here are 3 things you should consider before forking out the dough.
1) Do they even have comments on their posts? If they have no comments on their posts, they do not have a big enough audience to make it worth it to pay them. You want real people listening to your songs who are going to play, comment and hopefully share your music.
2) Check how many Facebook and Twitter followers they have. If they have under a 500,000 they are not worth it. Besides they probably gamed their followings by buying fake followers and likes.
3) Is your style of music even relevant to the audience that blog caters to? Again if that blog only posts Chinese rappers, why do you want your music featured on a Chinese rap site if you’re not Chinese?