To Be or Not To Be – Posting, Posting, Posting…
Last article, I spoke about the divide between Creators & Consumers and how these days the drive is to be constantly posting so you are in the eye of your (hopefully) adoring public more often.
Release Singles Often and Abandon the Album. This is the advice being bandied about online at the moment. Totally putting aside the value of a body of work over fragments of such a body, how is this likely to play out for an average Indie Musician?
As a musician, this can be tricky. If you are a serious musician/artist then your work may well exist in albums – collections of material that define a period.
Albums come out every x number of months – x commonly being defined as between 3 & 12 months. Sometimes even longer. Sometimes as short as 2 weeks.
The variable is most likely in the Muse. Art is created when life feeds it more than when the handle is being turned. You can train yourself to be more productive, but that doesn’t always translate into better art.
Let me seem to sidestep now.
All Guns Blazing
I had some ability to test this strategy in the last month. I had a new album “in the can” but as I was waiting to complete the video-for-every-track plan I set myself I decided to use the downtime to upload a slab of my albums from 15 – 20 years ago.
This gave me the opportunity to be posting, posting, posting… An album a day to be exact was rolling across the Bandcamp “just released” feed. Here’s what the stats showed me happened.
Cool. I am getting tons of Plays. I reached the highest number of Plays per day whilst I have been on Bandcamp. Looks like the strategy is vindicated: release more often, get more attention.
However, is that your Strategy: get lots of Plays, die happy?
If we had a hypothetical product, let’s call it “Coca~Cola”, “Coke” for short; sure we are happy to be known across the world. We may even be delighted for Coke to have been heard of 50 light years away. If the Viridans of Viridia 4 ask for 20 trillion cans, do we just fax em over and feel special?
Not at all. That is not a business strategy. We may send a USB with the recipe to a particular Viridian business with an agreement to return 30% of the proceeds of sales in Galactic Credits. That is a business action.
Getting known in the first place is at best a Tactic in your Strategy. Viridins are only likely to want Coke after they know it exists & makes summer beach parties so immensely cool. Being known is only part of the larger Strategy: to sell more Coke (to feed families who rely on Coke jobs).
So as serious musicians, while we are happy to know we got heard, we are needing to generate Reactions and particularly Sales. Plays mean nothing. Likes are slightly nicer. Re-Blogs & Reviews are a kind of currency. But it is cold hard bitcoins we need to know that our work is really valued in people’s lives.
Also, to enable us to justify to our [insert appropriate significant other here] why we spend so darned long in the studio and spent the kid’s college money on sample sets of Moroccan Nose Drumming, WE NEED MONEY.
Raise Your Hands
Here are Sales generated from all those Plays that came from shoving something in-front of Bandcamp Ap followers every day for about a month:
Ok, so that looks like a winning thing too. That burst of activity appears to have brought in $55. That is greater than my yearly average of about $46, all in under one month.
That seems to make it easy to say that releasing more often makes more sense than once every x number of months.
But rather than letting Statistics let us believe whatever pretty lies we want to tell ourselves, we should drill a bit deeper.
We’ll start by looking deeper at those Plays in the first image. How many were “complete” track plays? 225 out of 872 is 26%. Which leaves 74% of plays “abandoned”. Maybe some of those people heard enough to make a buying decision. It is hard to know as there is no correlated data between people who play who go on to buy either that track, album or even work from that artist.
From the Sales stats we see that on most days I made between one and two sales. Seems pretty good. $5 per album x 1.5 x 365 days = $2,700 per year. Styling. Well not really as that won’t cover food which for me alone is more like $3,000 per annum (I’m sure the girls don’t need to eat).
But before I even try to support that maths in real-world activity, we need to look at those stats a bit deeper. What you can’t see here but I know, especially from the more detailed Stas on the Bandcamp Artist App, most of those sales were from one person. He bought each album as it came out, sometimes earlier in the day, sometimes later. But 1 album for $1 every day. Those extrapolated hypothetical numbers definitely fall to bits now.
This fan is a great fan to have as he commonly adds something extra to the value of his purchase. For most of the $1 albums he gave $2. That is really nice as not only does it increase my coin collection but it shows he appreciates what I have delivered to him. A musician friend also did the same and purchased the new record for three times the normal ask!
So we see that in reality I was left with only one (1) newly acquired fan in that month. That fan spent $1. Looking at his information I can see he has some “social” connection to my daily fan so it is entirely likely his interest and subsequent sale was driven more by his seeing his friend purchase Benedict Roff-Marsh music and came to investigate that action more than because I was releasing daily.
To put this into a greater perspective, here are my Sales from “all time”:
We see a spike. At this zoom/time-passed we can’t see a trend in it – but many faux stats hounds may claim it – started with one and now hit seventeen. 1,700% growth in under 10 years! You’d be mad not to buy that stock.
But I can see that in the closer-look that it all stopped the moment the new material stopped. Still averaging 1 after 10 years is not getting me on Shark Tank.
One More Murder
The other test was to see what effect, if any, this deluge of activity had on my new album “Triumph & Tragedy” when it was released. Would all the exposure from back-catalog turn to more people scoping & purchasing my new record?
Having looked at the stats from any angle I can think of: Nope. One sale to my daily fan and one to a musician friend of mine. Then zzzzzzz. Two sales is better than some albums but not extraordinary. No new customers generated.
What this does tell me is that people are casually dipping into things in-front of them but not seeking to engage in any sort of relationship past that fleeting moment. See images below on people who click over to Bandcamp as opposed to those who sample where they are (embeds) and drift on.
The music passes by like jellyfish in a current. You might touch one or two but otherwise, you know that there is a never-ending stream of jellyfish and you really don’t care as they are essentially all interchangeable.
Not conducive to art. Which brings me back to:
Trapped In A Casket
How sustainable is it to create material worth hearing if you have to do it extremely regularly & reliably – let’s say one song per week?
I feel your fear. I could easily pop out a track a week (and choose from the best of a few available) but is that a wise course for me to take? Does it nurture me as an artist making credible music? My albums cease to exist, let alone the meta-stories or themes which (to me at least) are a great part of my work.
If you are simply feeding a crank-machine where you sing formulaic songs about skater boi’s & your emotiveness over people fat-shaming your cat then maybe. Especially if you commit most of those song-posts to be drippy covers of already drippy songs, or great songs that you boil down into drippiness (thereby avoiding almost all the work). If that is your audience & platform then go for it. It works. You’ll get lots of Plays, some Likes and maybe even a few re-Posts. Maybe once in a while, you’ll be asked if you are on Spotifry or iTunez. Maybe a tiny percentage of those people will buy your record.
If however you are attempting to make art, sorry Art, then you would be well advised to resist this poorly thought through plan to be posting, posting, posting… as while it may create a bit of short-term activity on the Play-o-meter, it likely won’t deliver you anything of value when your real work comes out. Keep your album releases to be an event of magnitude (to yourself at least).
Look elsewhere for possible fans, or let them find you as when they do they are dedicated to finding Art and supporting it.
If you wonder if the above is too small a statistical sample to be of any value, I understand.
I also tried a track-a-week approach to the release of my “Plugged In Bach – A Tribute to Wendy Carlos (and of course Bach)” album and let me say that while there was a bit of activity on the first track/post “Toccata & Fugue in D Min“, after that it was crickets. I didn’t sell any more copies than any album sold under the normal method.
Interestingly this is exactly what Bandcamp said would happen.