Admittedly it took me some time to get the usefulness of Soundcloud for artists, as I tended to believe Youtube to be the better platform. Obviously, with Youtube, artists can post a music video (keyword “video”) and have their audience get to know them better than they could if it was audio alone (or so I thought). You can certainly post audio alone on YouTube with some nice cover art and that may work. However, YouTube poses more problems than it solves.
Most Unsigned Artist’s Music Videos Suck
Okay, maybe just most music videos even by artists signed to the majors suck. The thing is the production value of the unsigned artists videos is usually way lower because the video budget is closer to $0 than say $20,000. Certainly there have been amazing exceptions to this as we have seen great low budget videos from indie artists. However this is not the norm.
So as an indie artist you have to think what’s the probability that I can make an amazing video that will capture the feeling of the song? Secondly, you have to ask yourself “how many times can I do this?” Meaning, if your album has 12 songs can you put out 3 or 4 or 12 great videos to promote it? You could probably get away with one or two no/low budget videos but after that you’ll have to either get really creative or start putting in a few thousand bucks. Is this realistic? Is this smart? How can you save money and still build an audience?
Another ancillary issue is: you may not even know which song to shoot a video for. How would you know this? You could either base it of your gut instinct or base it of actual stats saying, “hey more people are playing this song more than others”. I tend to believe you should take the ladder approach. But how do you get stats?
How Youtube Fails Musicians
Sure on YouTube you can see views and use that as a viable metric. But that’s it. Youtube lacks the social networking effect as there is on say Twitter or Facebook or Soundcloud. Now what do I mean by social networking effect? On Twitter, when you retweet or favorite a tweet from someone you follow, this retweet shows up in the timeline of all that people that follow you. Thereby promoting it further and allowing it to potentially get more retweets. Youtube does show what videos you like (if you have that setting turned on, but most people don’t) and if they do have it turned on, most people don’t visit this page anyway. And this is where Youtube fails as a platform for music promotion. Sure, things do go “viral” on YouTube as a result of being featured on the homepage but that is only when YouTube’s proprietary algorithms determine that such video is worthy or in other words already has millions of views.
How Soundcloud Helps Musicians
On the other hand, with Soundcloud your songs benefit from the social media effect through reposting and likes, which is basically similar to Twitter’s retweet and favorite buttons. When someone reposts your song, it not only shows up on their page but also on their stream (which is equivalent of Facebook’s newsfeed). The more reposts your song has the more exposure it gets because it has the potential of being see by the people that follow the person that’s reposting it.
A financial benefit of posting songs as opposed to music videos is that you save money, effort and time creating the video. And instead can put that time/effort/money into making a better song. It’s funny I never truly understood what the song, “Video killed the radio star” meant until I realized what Youtube has done to music. In the same way, music videos on MTV in the 80s, 90s, and 2000s made music more about image than music, the same thing happened with YouTube. Half decent songs can be saved by an entertaining (read: funny) video. This is why sub-par parodies are so popular on YouTube (that and their SEO helps).
So all an unknown artist has to do to get know is post really good music on Soundcloud right? Kinda. Soundcloud like any social network has become saturated with tons of artists posting their music, even major label artists. So it is obviously become super competitive.
The key is your song has to be really great and you have to promote it as best as you can. A good technique is to message actual Soundcloud accounts with large followings devoted to your genre and ask them nicely for a repost. I would stay away from messaging “Groups” especially ones that automatically accept your submissions as nobody listens to those groups. Also If you can’t find any account that deals with your specific style/genre create one and don’t just post your music into it.
The idea that really sold me on Soundcloud is that they are putting the emphasis back on music. We fans have become so distracted by the image that we forget that the only thing that matters is the music. If you’re an artist and you’re trying to become famous on Twitter or Facebook, you are doing it backwards. I know you’re thinking, “I’ll build up a following and funnel that to my music”. But that wont work unless you have hundreds of thousands (preferably millions) of followers. And if you get alot of followers, assuming you didn’t buy them, they wont be because of your music, they’ll be for something else people like you for. Soundcloud still has a ways to go to really nail the social networking effect but because its platform is so centered around music and “music social networking” it is the place where music makers should focus most of their attention on.