How Does Streaming Fit into the Music Marketing Manifesto Model?  

Posted on July 17th, 2017   Comments: 108

John Oszajca in Record Store

If you’ve watched the Music Marketing Blueprint then you know that the MMM model is focused on driving traffic, building a fanbase, and selling music, tickets, and merchandise DIRECTLY to those fans.

One of the common questions I get asked is: How does streaming fit into this whole thing?

There is this assumption that even though I am making the argument that you can generate a substantial income by selling music directly to your fans, obviously streaming must fit into this somehow because everyone knows that physical sales are on the decline and for the most part “nobody buys music anymore, right?

well, errr, not exactly…

While streaming may have its place for some artists, it is not really a part of the MMM strategy because I don’t believe that it serves independent artists well to release their entire catalogues to the streaming platforms. While there is a benefit to having a presence on these platforms, (for purposes of engagement and music discovery), if your goal is to SELL albums then making that album available to your fans for free will certainly hurt your chances.

Because here’s the reality… No one is going to buy your music if it’s already in their pocket.

I realize that this flies in the face of so much of what you hear out there, but I think this is yet another example of independent artists copying what major label artists are doing because they simply don’t know what else to do. Streaming has its place, but it’s minimal in the “Direct to Fan” model.

But why is selling albums important? Isn’t the whole point that we no longer need to worry about selling music because streaming has replaced it?

In short, no. As independent recording artists, we absolutely need to stay focused on selling albums (and other items) directly to our fans if we are going to succeed.

Because here’s the thing that a lot of people miss . . .  There is an “all or nothing” dichotomy in the traditional music business.

Record labels are not in the business of developing thousands of artists and making a small amount of money from a large number of sustainable careers. They have shareholders to appease and as such, they are in it for the big wins. In order for that to happen, they need to go where the market is and attempt to dominate that market. That means that they cannot ignore streaming.

But in order for something like streaming to be lucrative, you need to have tens, even hundreds of millions of streams. Multiple articles (like this one and that one) have recently broken down examples of artists getting incredible numbers of streams only to make (give or take) about $5,000 per ONE MILLION streams (this number will vary). So to make even the equivalent of the average American salary, you would need to receive approximately 10,000,000 streams per year.

Insert tumbleweeds here…

10,000,000 streams only happens as a result of a heck of a lot of interest and awareness. There are only two ways that is likely to happen…

  1. Do what the major labels do and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hope of creating national awareness for your music and brand.
  2. Experience the musical equivalent of being struck by lightning and get really, really

Unfortunately, most independent artists can’t afford to engage in six figure branding strategies, and luck… well, that’s not a strategy.

But if you have the attention of your audience, they will spend money on your music, no matter what the format is.

And here’s the thing…

The average dollar earned per LISTEN is infinitely higher when people PURCHASE our music in album form, rather then if that music is listened to via a streaming platform like Spotify. This is especially true when you are an independent artist who is not benefiting from millions of impulse or curiosity-streams or being added to untold numbers of playlists as most mainstream artists are.

Just to illustrate the point, as most of us are aware Adele chose not to release her album “25” to the streaming services initially. Despite the stated reasons why, this was almost certainly so she (and the label) could maximize profits. Fair enough. Of course, after sales died down the album was released to Spotify and the like.

According to the old interweb, Adele’s album “25” would have needed to be streamed 16 Billion times in order to make the same amount of money she made in initial sales of that album (which was $115 MM dollars).

So I tallied up all of the streams that “25” has received on Spotify over the last 13 months since the album was released on the platform (let’s just call it a year to make the math easy) and it appears that “25 has been streamed 1,468,340,709 times as of this writing. That’s nearly 1.5 BILLION streams. Not bad right?

That would mean… and get ready for this…

It would take 10 YEARS and 10 months for her to make the same amount of money on Spotify as she did in album sales. I’ll give you a moment to get your jaw back into position.

Furthermore, just under half of those streams were generated from a single song (Hello), which she still could have released to Spotify as a single without releasing the album. If you remove “Hello” from the equation this would increase that figure to over 21 YEARS.

So…

If album sales generate more money than streaming… and you have a loyal following of fans that will support you when you ask them to (which you WILL need in order to succeed as an independent artist regardless) . . . Why in the world would you release your entire album to the streaming platforms when doing so would likely kill any incentive to buy that album?

Answer: You shouldn’t. At least initially, and/or in its entirety.

Now, none of this is to say that streaming does not have its place. 30 million songs in your pocket (the most recent number posted by Spotify) is fantastic for the consumer and as such, the platform can’t be ignored completely. Moreover, music IS being consumed on the streaming platforms, and money IS being generated. It’s become a necessary part of those “all or nothing” major-label branding campaigns. And there is also value there for independent artists in terms of music discovery, fan engagement, and the chance that you might get lucky and get added to a few big playlists. After all, you don’t want your fans NOT to engage with your music just because it can’t be found on their favourite listening platform.

The solution is to withhold your album from the streaming platforms, initially…

Instead of releasing the entire album for streaming, my advice would instead be to make just a single track or two available. As such, you can insure that your album will generate maximum profit when sold directly to your fans. And in time – as album sales slowdown – you can consider releasing more (or all) of the album to the streaming platforms.

Note*** This is accomplished with digital music distributors like CD Baby by declining streaming distribution on your album, and then re-submitting a single or EP exclusively to the streaming platforms.

So in short… despite what the recent studies from BuzzAngle and Nielsen revealed about the predicted growth in the music industry in 2017 – which was pinned directly on the 10% growth in streaming that we should see by years end – These statistics have little bearing on the average musicians chances of actually making a living from their music.

So what should you do?

Look, here’s the deal. If you are one of those artists who believes that “the cream rises to the top” or “if you build it they will come” and you are just not interested in actively marketing or promoting your music and brand, then honestly… stick with streaming. Get your music up there because you are counting on success to happen of its own accord. I mean it sincerely when I say, “good luck with that”!

But if you are a musician who embraces the value of marketing and is willing to take deliberate action to influence your chances of success… Here, in a nutshell, is a basic approach to generating income from your music that I think will serve you much better . . .

  1. Put all of your focus into creating an engaged audience of email and, to a lesser extent, social media subscribers and followers.
  2. Be so interesting, entertaining, and exceptional that you effectively EARN the right to ask your followers for a bit of financial support every few months. Ask your fans to show that support by purchasing albums, merchandise, tickets, access to a membership site, or by backing a crowd funding campaign.
  3. Release 1 – 3 tracks of each album to the streaming platforms (so that you have a presence there) but withhold the majority of the album until sales have slowed down and/or you have moved on to promoting the next album.
  4. Seek additional revenue streams from touring and licensing when possible.
  5. Feed your music business with paid advertising so there is steady growth regardless of touring activity.

If the ideas expressed above resonate with you and you would like me to show you HOW to build the system described above and generate income from direct-to-fan sales instead of relying on streaming revenue (which tends to pale by comparison), then consider joining me on July 26th (just a few days away) for the release of Music Marketing Manifesto 4.0. Everyone who registers on launch day or shortly thereafter will receive a special Early Bird Discount. Click here to learn more.

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave me a comment, with any questions, feedback, or just to say hey.

 

108 Comments

  • Ben Williams says:

    John;

    Great post with a right on analysis of the role of streaming in today’s marketing model for indie musicians. Your 5 steps in “So What Should I Do” are quite insightful, and I’d only add one thing to No. 4 about seeking additional revenue streams, and that is “develop a direct channel.” Namely touring, licensing and selling direct from your own web site store at full retail. You’ve built the fan base and they want to support you, so have a robust store in your direct channel that means you’re not giving up 40% to resellers.

  • Bob Hillary says:

    hi john
    great post. I’ve been feeling similar after RIDICULOUS prs payments from SPOTIFY of like 0.01 pence. (Im from the uk) Im going to take your advice and not release my new album on spotify. it feels good to not feed the beast as it were.

    HOWEVER, I asked my digital distributor, Sunshine HQ, to just release my singles & not the whole album, & I am being told that this is not possible – that if they release my album thru spotify – they apparently have to release the whole thing. seems a bit weird. any advice on how to release JUST my Singles on spotify?

    thanks man.
    easy
    bob

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the kind words about the post. I can’t speak for your distributor, but this is easily done with a company like CD Baby.

      All you would do is decline streaming distribution on your album, and then re-submitting a single or EP exclusively to the streaming platforms. Your entire album has to be submitted separately from whatever tracks you submit to the streaming platforms.

      Let me know if I can help with anything else.

  • Hi John,

    I’m a RRF guy. I have (YouTube) music videos of the singles on my website (linked). Is it worth it to put these singles on Spotify, SoundCloud etc. I kind of see value in making my website the only place people can stream, as I capture web traffic. What do you think?

    Whitty Whitesell

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Whitty,

      That ultimately comes down to you and whatever you think is right for your brand. I can see how keeping your music exclusive to your own site would have some value in a number of ways. I also think that having at least some presences on the Streaming platforms would be beneficial. I would personally release the “singles” but I don’t think withholding them is crazy either.

      Thanks for the question.

  • Spotify playlists are the main instrument record labels use to launch their artists John. I have the greatest respect for you and your system, however, we have found that getting an indie artist on a Spotify editorial or a ‘tastemaker’ playlist like Girl Power can launch that artist and provide significant roi. I have learned a lot from you over the years, however, I feel you are missing the main point of gaining streams on Spotify, like you said, you get into the potential fan’s device – boomshakala – that’s the magic. A person in another country follows a playlist and someone who they may never have listened to in their lifetime is on that playlist, instant fan! We have put together a package thru a new initiative which is not payola based, we literally put together an electronic press kit for an artist to ‘pitch’ to over 400 Spotify playlist Curators (some own up to 10 playlists). Please check us out at Playlist Pump. Cheers. ps: remember, Warner, Sony and Mushroom OWN Topsify, Digstr & Filtr

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Richard,

      I hear where you are coming from and appreciate the respectful tone despite the fact that you disagree. However, I stand by my statements on this.

      Just to clarify though… no where in this post do I say that you should not have a presence on the streaming platforms. Quite to the country, as I mentioned above in the post, you DO want to have at least SOME of your music on these platforms, and streaming can’t be ignored for the music discovery aspects that you mention.

      The point I’m ultimately trying to make is that the majority of revenue that the average independent musician will generate from their recorded music will come from their real fans; people that have signed up to a mailing list, follow them on Facebook/Twitter, or see them perform live. Because of that I feel that independent artists will generate far more income by withholding the majority of any new release from the streaming platforms until they have promoted it to their list and sales have slowed.

      This is the same strategy Adele used, and it’s the same strategy many MMM artists have used successfully.

      Virtually every artist I have worked with has withheld their music from streaming until after sales have been aggressively pushed to their list, and virtually all of them have charted on major sales charts. I just don’t see that very often when the album is released simultaneously with streaming. That’s really the takeaway here and it’s what I outlined at the end of the post.

      Hopefully you can see where I’m coming from at the very least.

      I wish you the best with your artists no matter what strategy you use.

      Thanks again for the comment Richard.

  • Chris Swan says:

    This is great man and so spot on! I just released a new EP and have been windowing the release. It has been working great so far. I’m a proud MMM 3.0 member! Thanks for what you do and best of luck with the launch of 4.0!

  • Irenka * says:

    Hi John!
    Loved this article, it makes perfect sense! I have a question regarding releasing a few songs for streaming. If your catalogue of songs is very eclectic, do you release your top singles, most popular songs, and hope that they will still buy an album and enjoy the rest of the songs?
    Also I have been working hard on collecting emails at all my shows and online. The trouble I’m having is how to get my email in their inbox rather than the promotions tab or spam. I am using Mailchimp. I saw there is a setting where I can change the server it’s sent through through, so perhaps instead of using Mailchimp’s servers which are recognized as being a newsletter, I could use my own email’s servers. I realize this is a bit of a technical question lol, don’t know if this is something you can help with. Thank you in any case!

    Irenka *

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Irenka,

      Thanks. Glad you liked the article.

      In terms of what you should release to streaming… That would really need to be a brand based decision and you would know better than I. My personal inclination would be to release my top tracks. The songs you would use as singles if going to radio, and which are most likely to pull people in, get listened to, and generate interest in the rest of your music.

      Re: email marketing… While I do think the promo tab has cut into things a tad, I don’t personally see it as a major issue. At least not one that has changed anything I do. I wouldn’t personally mess with the server as the server reputation is one of the main reasons to go with an established autoresponder company. That would only be something for very advanced users in my opinion. The only thing that I now do that I didn’t do years ago is use a bit of FB advertising to a custom audience made up of my email list. It doesn’t cost much and I pick up some additional clicks that I wouldn’t otherwise from email alone.

  • A follow-up to my last comment: How do you feel about CDs as giveaways at gigs, as opposed to selling them? We find that when we place the free CDs strategically by the tip jar, we get more in the jar than when we charge for them.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Heather, I’m a fan of anything that works. If that works then that’s great! The only negative I can see there is that by leaving the CDs unattended you don’t have the chance to ask these buyers for their email address. An email address from a customer is incredibly valuable because there is a very good chance that someone who has seen you perform and purchased an album will buy more music, tickets, and merch from you in the future. you just need to be able to email them and let them know it;s available 🙂

      To my mind the best case scenario would be to man the merch table, but tell people that CDs are available based on donation, assuming that continued to work best for you. That way, you or someone on your behalf, would be sitting there and able to make a connection and ask for that email address. Just my two cents.

  • John, my partner and I have been in the “digital vs physical” debate for 10 years. He’s a recording engineer, so I’m thinking maybe he’s just old-school. This article really was a huge eye-opener… I’ll be taking down our free streams tonight, followed by a meal of my foot and a crow.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Heather,

      Ha! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and that I could at least influence the debate a bit 🙂

      I’m not necessarily saying you need to go pull all of your music down from Spotify, I’m just saying that if you have an audience of fans, and you are trying to sell music, releasing that entire album to the streaming platforms at the same time that you are asking fans to buy your music, will probably not lead to the sales you are hoping for. Just make sure you have that direct to fan marketing plan in place before you pull music down. And if you do pull music down, I wouldn’t personally pull down all of it. The goal is just to retain the incentive for your real fans to actually buy your music. Thanks for the comment.

    • Hey Heather!

      Be careful that you don’t take down those songs that have been added to other people’s playlists! Minimal amounts of generated revenue through streams is still revenue as well as interested ears!

      Darrell

  • Scott says:

    Late to the party sorry,in my own experience as an artist,it was more a case of giving in to streaming,so yes I have my back catalogue online,simply because its “The way”
    I really Hate myself for doing it,but my 40 years of songs can now be accessed by anyone.I even go to the bother of making countless videos in the hope they may pick up some positive attention.I work 6 to 8 hours a day on my music,1000 plus produced songs.I always believed some of those songs would find a way of impacting the market,but the older I get and the faster the music world changes.I am feeling beaten and am considering retiring as a serious option.
    I found your post fascinating and very informative.
    Sorry for my pessimism but,well, you know!!
    Thankyou John I will pass on to other songwriters I know.
    Scott

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Scott,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I think the experience you described is a common one. You are clearly artistically driven, and I can understand the desire to share your music and make it available for people to discover and listen to. I think that’s a pretty understandable position.

      However, the strategy I’ve been focused on for the last 8 years or so is all about cultivating a relationship with an email list of fans, and to a lesser extent, social media followers. If you can create an entertaining content stream (let’s call it a “channel”) and keep that list engaged then you can ask for financial support over time and you’ll find that your list will give it to you. One of the nice things about being as prolific as you are is that you have this enormous people of content to sell t your list. That could be through direct promotions, membership programs of your own, or even a simple Patreon campaign.

      Before I got into this approach I felt a similar kind of apathy about things. All I really wanted though was an audience that was ready and waiting to consume my art/music. I didn’t care if that audience was made up of 200 people or 2,000,000 people. But I had no idea how to cultivate and grow that audience. The approach outlined in the free Music Marketing Blueprint video and the post above ultimately gave that to me, as it has for many others.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  • Sage advice. Thanks, John

  • First class advice. Let’s face it: streaming rips off deserving artists.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Kenn,

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the article. I don’t know if I’d personally go as far as to say they are ripping us off, in the sense that we are certainly free to withhold our music from the platform. But I know it can feel that way for many who feel like they are making such a small amount of money from the platforms. I appreciate the comment.

  • Rob says:

    Fascinating. I wonder what you mean by “free” in regard to Spotify. Don’t you folks get royalties when someone listens to a song of yours on Spotify? It is peanuts, sure, but every little bit helps. Of course, relying on Spotify to make a living would be absurd, that goes without saying. It’s almost as absurd as calling what Adele does “music” (“muzak” might be a more correct term), ditto thinking of “sells” (?!?!) as the ultimate aim of making music, or concentrating on albums rather than singles. Most people nowadays seem to have the attention span of a goldfish: they can’t handle Tommy; they only want Pinball Wizard. Probably you have no idea of what I’m saying, do you? Which – I suppose – is one of the reasons why I find all this so fascinating – and entertaining ad infinitum… Thank you!

    • John Oszajca says:

      By free we just mean that the consumer doesn’t have to actually pay for your music. Yes, many users have a small subscription fee, but they pay that regardless of whether or not they listen to your music. I take your point though, that money is being generated so you are not offering it for free. But when a person generates .006 cents per stream the income can be so insignificant – when compared to earnings from album sales – that it feels essentially free to many.

      The point of the article is not so much to dismiss streaming altogether but to try and inspire a mindset shift, which is simply that if independent artists are not going to benefit from expensive branding campaigns and are going to end up being responsible for all of the interest their music gets, they will benefit more from funnelling that interest towards sales rather than streams, at least initially when an album is first released.

  • I agree, as long as FREE streaming options exist sales will continue their decline. Ever since Napster sales have taken a sharp downturn and the music industry as we knew it started going downhill. Just look at what happened to most major labels. Why buy something when you can get it for free??

    • John Oszajca says:

      Indeed. While I am generally positive about the state of the music industry, sales have unquestionably affected independent artists. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t still plenty of money to be generated in the music industry, but my concern is that the loss of the album and a shifted focus on streaming hurts independent artists disproportionately. Thanks for the comment Nathan!

  • thanks for the artical I am just getting started with the marketing strategy and identifying my target audiance. It makes sense to realease a couple of tracks from the album to streaming but like any buisness most sales will come from the clients you cultivate thanks for the input.

  • Flib0i says:

    This is a good article I agree with this. I wish I would have read it like last week lol.I just released a collaboration EP with artist Jimmy A.V. link below if you check it out let me Know what you think.

  • I mainly post my music on Soundcloud. I do have an album on iTunes/Spotify & two singles. I’ve tested my audience over time & learned they like free music the most. How do I convert them into sales?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Melvin,

      I think you could say the same about every audience. Who doesn’t prefer free music?

      That said, your fans will support you and spend money on your music if you do things the right away.

      My advice would be to do as outlined above…

      1. Put all of your focus into creating an engaged audience of email and, to a lesser extent, social media subscribers and followers.

      2. Be so interesting, entertaining, and exceptional that you effectively EARN the right to ask your followers for a bit of financial support every few months. Ask your fans to show that support by purchasing albums, merchandise, tickets, access to a membership site, or by backing a crowdfunding campaign.

      3. Release 1 – 3 tracks of each album to the streaming platforms (so that you have a presence there) but withhold the majority of the album until sales have slowed down and/or you have moved on to promoting the next album.

      4. Seek additional revenue streams from touring and licensing when possible.

      5. Feed your music business with paid advertising so there is steady growth regardless of touring activity.

      Thanks for checking out the post.

  • Yeah… “windowing” was the term I was searching for. I remembered you sharing the concept, but I couldn’t remember the name. Then I saw it in another comment. That’s basically what I’m talking about.

  • Hey John!

    For the sake of discussion, I’m going to PARTIALLY disagree with you. I agree with the concept of withholding album tracks from streaming services until sales have died down.

    Here’s where I disagree with you: you imply that getting 1,000,000 streams/year is difficult or a result of luck. I don’t think so. At least that doesn’t seem to be the case in MY experience.

    I was getting those kinds of streams BEFORE I charted on Billboard. Most of them are from Pandora. According to Pandora, the average listener listens almost 1/2 hour every day. Those who listen to my “Charley Langer” station on Pandora are going to have one of my songs play during that 1/2 hour. If you do the math, it only takes about 3,000 “average listeners” to get me over a million streams in a year. That’s less people than are on my email list. I think most of my streams are from my list subscribers.

    The reason I feel that streaming is important is that I think it is how people consume music now – streaming and digital downloads. I never buy CDs (and neither do my family and friends) unless there is a REAL connection with the artist. I’ll buy CDs at concerts, or from people I have some kind of tangible relationship with. I consider a “tangible relationship” to include artists to whom I bother to subscribe. Otherwise, I buy downloads or stream. I think I’m typical for my age group. My kids don’t even buy downloads – they pretty much ONLY stream. That’s more typical for their age group.

    Sooo… after I go through my CD sales pitches in my followup series, I ask them to listen to my Pandora station. Why not? They’ve either bought my albums or they’re probably not going to. I’d rather get some money from them as opposed to none.

    And then, when I’m doing my next album, I go after pre-sales (via crowdfunding) from my list. I raised a sizable chunk of money that way on my last album. And it’ll work on my next.

    This is just my opinion. I can’t prove for sure that I’m right. But, this is what MY experience seems to suggest. Happy to hear counter-arguments. 🙂

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Charley,

      Those are all good points, but I’m not really seeing where what you are doing is diverging from anything I am suggesting in the article.

      You are driving traffic and building those authentic relationships with your audience while your music is NOT available on the digital or streaming platforms. That’s pretty much the whole point of the article and it would seem that you are actually a shining example of the validity of my point.

      You are also throwing in a pretty smart additional step of squeezing additional revenue from your list by pushing them to Pandora after the album comes out. That’s a great use of that list. And your point is taken that those streams are coming from deliberate action rather than luck. That approach to streaming is certainly interesting and worth discussing more.

      But as summarized above, my advice is to “Release 1 – 3 tracks of each album to the streaming platforms (so that you have a presence there) but withhold the majority of the album until sales have slowed down and you have moved on to promoting the next album.”

      The main point I am trying to make is that as independent artists, almost all of the engagement we experience will be a result of our deliberate actions as we rally the fan base that we have cultivated through email and social media. And that all things being equal, there is more money to be made in sales than streams. So our primary focus should be monetizing our fan base through sales. By releasing your entire album to the streaming platforms at the same time as an album release, you remove a lot of incentive for those fans to buy.

      But perhaps more than anything, I am trying to get people to really understand that streaming is not the “new shiny thing” that is suddenly going to make them rich and famous. It’s an exposure based platform like radio, and while it can’t be ignored, it can’t be the sum total of one’s strategy.

      Thanks for weighing in Charley.

      • Then, I misunderstood you. I’m probably reacting to all the dissing of streaming music by negative and disgruntled musicians. They seem to think that 1,000,000 streams is like getting 1,000,000 spins on terrestrial radio. They are just NOT the same.

        A million terrestrial spins go to significantly more than a million people. A million streams goes to, maybe, 3,000 people. Huge difference. And terrestrial radio only pays the composer. Nothing goes to the owner of the recording or composer unless they happen to be one and the same.

        So, I feel that these negative, disgruntled indie musicians don’t include streaming into their overall strategy, and they should. They thought it was pixie dust, and it just doesn’t work that way. However, they should include it in their overall strategy just like they should include licensing, house concerts, and all the other many possible revenue streams.

        I don’t rely on luck. I hope for it. But I don’t count on it! 🙂

        Now that I understand your point, you and I are not far off on the subject. If people are counting on millions of people happening onto to their music by streaming media, they are disillusioned unless the actually have the kind of fan base to support that.

        It doesn’t happen that way. But you can make it happen.

        • John Oszajca says:

          Hey Charley,

          From what I know of you, and our discussions about your career, I’m fairly confident we are on the same page here.

          My primary hope for this article is that indie musicians realize that there is still money to be made in direct sales, and as such they use streaming as part of a broader strategy, not the end all be all of their strategy.

          We’ll catch up soon for another podcast interview. Cheers.

  • Jamal P. says:

    I agree so much that it is almost scary. Streaming platforms are designed for major artists with millions of fans. That’s the only way to make a decent amount of money from streaming. And as for discovery, that’s difficult simply because as an artist if there’s no one looking for you, it’s very hard for people to find you. And you need to be added to popular playlists to get heard. How exactly is that different from trying to get on the radio? It’s the same game as before, gatekeepers guarding the gates, they’re just cyberspace gates now. Getting on a streaming platform as an independent artist and expecting to be found, would be like going to college and expecting a degree simply because you’re there. It just doesn’t work that way.

  • Very interesting article John. It reminds me a bit of what you said about windowing in your “Record release” course.

    I feel like the transition from “All CD model with gate keepers”->”napster”->”streaming model” is now over (of course this is just my humble point of view…).

    Now with streaming being so prevalent I wonder if we are not back to a model where there are new types of gate keepers (you need to be or pay to be on certain playlists on Spotify to be heard, have big marketing power to get out of the noise, etc…). Only big artists get heard on a larger scale, because there is so much stuff out there… We might be back to the indie vs major situation like in the 80’s and 90’s…. just a thought.

    Even though sometimes it’s hard, I like being my own boss, doing things as an artisan, owning my own masters! Got to get back to work… 😉

    Keep up the good work, thanks for your help and looking forward to MMM4.0!

    Eric

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Eric,

      And yeah, there is a lot of crossover with this article and the concept of windowing which was discussed in Record Release Formula and the Insider Circle.

      I think the Indie vs Major analogy is a good one.

      Thanks for reading and all the best.

  • Brian says:

    I withheld from streaming until about 18 months ago. At that time, my physical sales from my site had fallen to basically zero. So, with some professional advice on the benefits of streaming, I did eventually place my album with all of the platforms through Tunecore shortly after its release. To my surprise, digital sales increased dramatically in concurrence with the add to streaming with no advertising. With that said, after 18 months of trial, my music specifically, is most often streamed in the U.S., but actually purchased more often in other countries. I do not believe it would have been discovered there without streaming, IMO. Finding markets that actually still buy music has been my surprise and now my target for live shows.

    Just my experience. John, the windowing example is exactly what I plan to do with my next album.

    Brian

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Brian,

      I don’t think that sounds off base at all. As mentioned in the article, I think having a presence in the streaming platforms is important for music discovery, as you point out was your experience. Especially after the initial sales dry up. It sounds like that’s exactly what you did. And I think Windowning is the way to go. Good luck on your next release.

      • Brian says:

        One thing I’d add for consideration (and from personal experience)….when you add singles initially from your album, but then go back and add the album, you’re in a dilemma. It makes no sense to keep paying to renew each single and the album, annually (as such with Tunecore), so when you delete the singles (because they are already included in the album), you are not just deleting a song, but it’s total algorithmic success on the platform. Just food for thought. As far as that song is concerned, you’ve essentially started its life over on that platform, so to speak. I’m not sure how that works with other distributors.

        • John Oszajca says:

          Hi Brian,

          Thanks for the comment. This would certainly be something for Tunecore users to consider. I personally would go with CD Baby because they don’t have that subscription. And when I added the remaining music, I would not delete the old music. Instead, I would add a new collection that consisted of the remaining songs. If you were concerned about the impact that might have on someone who wanted to add your entire album to a playlist and also have it include the original songs, I would just add the entire album with the next submission. That approach should solve the algorithmic concerns you had, which I think are valid.

  • dan foster says:

    Hey John ,
    I had to read this one because I was very interested as to which way you would go, wasn’t really sure. I have to say that I agree with you’re philosophy 100%. For artists, streaming totally sucks, we really get burned here and i wish there was some way to fix this to get artists a fair cut for their craft. A quarter of a penny per stream is obviously not a fair payment, I dont recall the exact figure but its something ridiculous like that. For those of you who haven’t experienced getting a royalty statement from someone like cdbaby or a licensing company, it can really take the air out of your sails. At first you see dozens and dozens of streams, which is the exciting part, then you see what your share is…. oh crap, thats it?
    thanks John , appreciate your work,
    Dan Foster –
    http://www.DanFoster.rocks

  • Tommy says:

    I disagree as streaming is still a fairly new way for independent artists to connect with an audience. Remember, there was a time when no one would hear your music. The may pay more in the future. Remember, Netflix was laugh at by Blockbuster and guess who won. I personally believe being an artist is more than about making money. I believe independent artists can’t always afford to be “stuck up.” Be humble that anyone takes the time to listen to your art. I have more streams that album sells and I’m fine with that.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Tommy,

      Fair enough. If you are happy with more streams than album sales then that’s all that matters.

      For most of us though, we want to sell as many albums so that we can make a living from our music and dedicate our entire lives to it rather than needing to spend the majority of our time working day jobs. For the reasons stated above, I am arguing that withholding the majority of the album from the streaming services is the best way to insure that artists can generate the most income.

      And just to be clear, no one is suggesting that music should be all about the money. But this is a music MARKETING site that is dedicated to discussing how to profit from our music. It goes without saying that one needs to love the craft and make music for the right reasons. But that is a different conversation than the one we are having here.

    • Cowboy Slim says:

      They may pay more in the future? Do you also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny? They will ALWAYS pay as little as possible. The only way to keep them from GIVING AWAY all of your music is to NOT GIVE your music, repeat, YOUR MUSIC to them. Most major artists, if they allow streaming at all, start the track somewhere in the middle, give you a taste, then fade out. Welcome to the music BUSINESS.

  • Cordes says:

    Hey thanks John I learned a lot from your article your research makes a lot of sense thanks I appreciate it clarifies some questions that I had

  • Steven says:

    Hi John, for me, the question remains: how to release the selected spotify songs in such a way the listener knows that there’s more music to be found on our personal website?

    Maybe the listener just thinks that our 3 released spotify songs are all we have. How to make the listener understand they can buy our full album? Maybe there are creative ways to be found to be able to accomplish this…? Just thinking out loud.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Steven,

      A major issue with relying on platforms that we have no control over is that we really don’t have anyway to do what you are describing. Instead we are hoping that the fans decide to take action and seek us out. It;s for this reason that I prefer to rely on direct marketing strategies in which we can take action to influence people to become part of our tribe and communicate with them over time.

      I don’t think there would be much of a risk of people thinking three songs is all we have though.

      My feelings are essentially stated in the article above. The real value of streaming for MOST independent artists is in music discovery (through playlists), and so that our existing fans can still listen to our music on the platform.

  • Bharat says:

    How does this process relate if you’re only a singles artist?

    How do you make money like album artists do using d2f in this way?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Bharat,

      I’m not a big fan of the single model unless you are doing it through subscriptions. Selling is essentially the art of overcoming resistance. There is little to no price resistance change between $1 and $10. The hard work is getting someone to care enough to pull out their credit card. As such, I would rather have them pull it out for a $10 – $15 album then for a single.

      The exception again would be with subscription models. This could be through your own membership site, or through a platform like Patreon. This way you are still focusing on making one sale, even though you are distributing the product in the form of regular single releases. The numbers just won’t pan out if you need to convert your fans 10 times into buyers of singles, as compared to converting them once with a subscription service or an album sale.

  • Philip says:

    Hi, John, great article! Got a question: What do you think about the difference between selling CD’s and selling from your website, per album or per song, assuming the price is the same both ways?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Thanks Philip,

      I’m a big fan of selling directly from your website. I don’t personally care if it’s physical or digital. That will depend a bit on your demographic and your personal desires. Having both options is probably the best idea. There is more profit in physical, but not necessarily more demand.

      I am not a big fan of selling singles over albums though. Selling is essentially the art of overcoming resistance. There is little to no price resistance change between $1 and $10. The hard work is getting someone to care enough to pull out their credit card. As such, I would rather have them pull it out for a $10 – $15 item.

      Hope that helps and thanks again.

  • Ricky Molina says:

    Hi John,
    Thanks for your article. You’re abs right as far as music sales is concerned, but we should also factor in the PR effect that Spotify,Pandora and Soundcloud can offer – this is relevant if you’re seeking patrons/supporters or for plugging your sync music opptys through sound or song libraries libraries. I totally agree that artists should only share a tip of the iceberg on Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud however. Don’t want to give it all away for essentially nothing.

    Thanks again.

    Ricky Molina

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Ricky,

      I hear you, but I guess my point is that there is minimal PR value for most independent artists. The reality for most of us is that we are going to need to personally drive almost all interest in our music. It’s not going to happen of it’s own accord until you become a much larger brand. And as such, if we are going to drive that engagement, lets turn it into infinitely more profitable sales, rather than streams.

  • I personally don’t agree with this article.
    1. it should never be about the money.
    2. marketing is more then marketing for the money, it’s marketing your music to a group of people who wish to listen.
    3. fans aren’t just consumers, they are people.
    4. because they are people, they should be treated the way you would want to be treated.
    5. when it’s all broken down, you should always put yourself in the place of the listener. would you want to hear your favorite song on spotify or pandora or would you want to purchase it?
    6. if you are in music for the money, perhaps you should think of another industry.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Brother Timothy,

      While I certainly respect your right to disagree with the premise of the article (and I’m sure you won’t be alone), I do want to address your points…

      1: This is a music marketing blog, so in the context of the discussions that take place here, it absolutely needs to be about the money. That is not to discount passion, artistic integrity, and craft. That is all crucially important. It’s just a different conversation. The theme common to the MMM audience is that they are a group of musicians so passionate about their music that they are willing to do anything to insure that they can create a life for themselves in music, even if it means mastering a sometimes unintuitive skill set like marketing. Otherwise, it is likely to amount to more than a hobby.

      Points 2,3, and 4: If you watch the Music Marketing Blueprint or just about any of the content I put out you will hear me stress over and over that this is about building authentic relationships with real people, not just selling.

      4. I personally purchase most of the music I listen to. That said, as stated in this article, “streaming is good for consumers and as such, it can’t be ignored”. But if you give your catalogue away, you will not be able to sustain yourself as an independent musician, as streaming revenue will be negligible for the average independent musician. Major label artists succeed by making a small amount of money from a large amount of people. Independent artists succeed by making a large amount of money from a small amount of people. By trying to generate money the way the major labels are you are essentially attempting to make a small amount of money from a small amount of people. That is a losing proposition.

      6. No one gets into music specifically to make money, as it is probably one of the least lucrative fields there are, aside from the very rare exceptions. We get into music because we feel a calling. But we can make that music a hobby, or we can make it our life. If it’s going to be our life, it needs to be financially viable. I am endeavouring (successfully I should add) to help musicians do that latter.

    • Jamez Monroe says:

      Oh God, you really have no idea what you’re talking about.
      I think it’s you who should belong to an other business than the music business which is built upon figures and sales.

  • “Hi John, I’m a former Insider and MMM 3.0 participant. The biggest complaint we received were new fans not being able to listen to downloaded Mp3’s in the way they wanted. They couldn’t/wouldn’t figure out how to download music via .zip files and get it onto their phones in a way that fit their normal listening habits. If they had iPhones, the music would download and play as a Memo, and Android users couldn’t figure out how to search and find their music on their phone. We created a few “how to” videos for our new potential fans on how to get the music into their iTunes or upload as a local file to their Spotify player, but no one took the time and we ultimately saw most either get off our list quickly when they couldn’t listen in the way they wanted, or would just become in active because they couldn’t figure out [quickly] how to experience our music in the same way they experience and consume all their other music. Does MMM 4.0 address this?”

    This important info for me to

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Bruce,

      The limitations of mobile devices is certainly a limitation for any artist sharing or selling music outside of the handful of major consumption platforms. That said, I have not seen it hurt conversions.

      The way that I have been suggesting musicians deliver downloads for some time now has been to include both the zip file and MP3 files along with an explanation and instructions. That way people can listen to the music with one click and download later. Or, as you would instruct them in the email, they can download using any number of apps. This approach has consistently led to engagement and regular sales.

      My experience has been that no matter what you do, you will hear from a very small percentage of people that have a problem with it. As long as the positive reactions are where they should be and those sales are coming in, nothing else matters. As the saying goes, you can’t please all the people all the time. And at the end of the day, this is a universal mobile issue that most people are familiar with at this stage. It is not an issue that is exclusive to marketing music this way.

      This is discussed in MMM 4.0 and the email templates are provided.

  • Ralph Dejean says:

    the end of this article is where the magic happens

  • Great article, happy to hear your thoughts about streaming for indie artists, my thoughts too!

  • Esli says:

    Hey John, great post. It totally makes sense.
    I’m thinking about giving MMM4 a try… but I’m not sure if it fits with my model. Currently I have already released 2 EPs (iTunes, Bandcamp, Spotify…) but for personal reasons I won’t bore you with, I’m going to start releasing singles every 2-3 months, probably just on Bandcamp. Do you think MMM4 could work for me?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Aspects of MMM might be congruent, but some might not.

      I’m not a big fan of the single model unless you are doing it through subscriptions. Selling is essentially the art of overcoming resistance. There is little to no price resistance change between $1 and $10. The hard work is getting someone to care enough to pull out their credit card. As such, I would rather have them pull it out for a $10 – $15 album then for a single.

      The exception again would be with subscription models. This could be through your own membership site, or through a platform like Patreon. This way you are still focusing on making one sale, even though you are distributing the product in the form of regular single releases. The numbers just won’t pan out if you need to convert your fans 10 times into buyers of singles, as compared to converting them once with a subscription service or an album sale.

      Hope that helps and thanks again.

  • Kyirim says:

    So great! Ya that’s exactly what I was thinking. Thanks for stating that. I’ll repost this asap!

  • John:

    Glad to hear some sanity from someone who has not drunk the corporate Kool-aid….or been paid to spout the “Spotify or be left behind” nonsense…..I get a steady stream of tenths of cents from older material, some of which has been posted to Spotify by others! But I wouldn’t DREAM of helping them rip off my current stuff…the Wal-Marting of music continues! But without me.

  • Bram says:

    Well said John! We at indiehitmaker totally concur and glad to help your artists #makeitcount by reporting sales to both SoundScan and Buzzangle

  • Hi John.so glad you covered this aspect .To me ,this is really refreshing (being an older guy ) .I have friends that have a reasonably sustainable music career and they were telling me how many streams they had ,which ran into the thousands .When they told me how little money they had made ,it surprised me I’m glad you have shed some light on this to clarify just what sort of proportions of streams you would have to generate to have a decent income .I’m a late comer to MMM 3.0 and hope to be up and running soon .Thank you for this and all the other info you impart .

  • Camino says:

    A couple thoughts on this-

    1) Adele is getting more than 16mil streams on Spotify every month. That number you’re quoting is her number of monthly LISTENERS- it’s 16mil different people streaming her songs on Spotify every month (not sure how many streams that translates into, but it’s definitely more than you’ve quoted)

    2) I think of Spotify as a top-of-the-funnel platform as opposed to a revenue stream. Two of my previous singles have been picked up by the Discover Weekly algorithm, which exposed me to a quarter of a million new listeners. Although that only added up to ~$1500 in revenue from Spotify (which did pay for a few nice recording sessions for my new music), some of those 250k people joined my mailing list and bought merch or physical copies from me directly. I’ve started selling out shows in my hometown (Boston) and I can DIRECTLY track the ticket sales (via Eventbrite and Songkick) to emails and notifications that Spotify has sent my listeners on my behalf. Activating my fanbase to get the ball rolling on Spotify has been one of the best marketing investments I’ve made. I would’ve had to spend $25,000 in Facebook ads just to get that many people to give my music a chance at all (i.e. clickthru to my landing page), let alone join the email list.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Camino,

      A couple of things…

      1. You are absolutely right. I was looking at the wrong stat when this was initially posted. I have since correcting the article. Adele’s 25 has received just under 1.5 Billion streams in the last 13 months (let’s call it a year). So it would take her 10 years and 10 months to make the same amount of money she did in sales. However half of those streams were from 1 song (hello), which she could have still released to Spotify as a single without likely impacting album sales significantly. If we remove that from the equation it would take 21 years. But that said, this is all mentioned anecdotally to illustrate a point. The reality of how things would/could/might shake would be hard to predict with any precision. But thanks for pointing out my oversight.

      2. I think Spotify can be used as a top-of-the-funnel platform as you have outlined. But I also think this can be done with just a track or two. As I mention in the article, there is a place for streaming. Money is being made there and the platform is good for consumers. We don’t want to ignore the potential benefits of music discovery and engagement with our existing fan base. However, you do point out the minimal amount of revenue that you made from what would be an enormous amount of streams by the standards of most independent artists. An artist would only need to sell 150 digital albums (or 100 physical CDs) from their own site in order to make the same revenue, which just about any independent artist can accomplish fairly easily.

      And regarding the idea that you would have had to spend $25,000 to get that many people to click over to a landing page… That concept is not consistent with the way MMM works. While, yes, you may have to spend $25,000 to get 250,000 clicks. You should be profiting (or in a worst case scenario, breaking even) from those very first 100 clicks. So one never actually comes out of pocket for much money at all. They just reinvest a portion of profits as things grow. Moreover, if you spent that money to get 250,000 clicks, even with a landing page that converted moderately well (let’s say 20% – which is on the low side for an optimized page) you would have 50,000 subscribers. That would translate to an incredible amount of money in the long run as you marketed to that fanbase over and over again over the years. It’s with fanbases of that size that we start to see the big 6 figure, even 7 figure crowdfunding campaigns.

      I’m not at all trying to discredit or even challenge your perspective. In fact you bring up a lot of solid points. And if you are happy with the approach you are taking and the revenue that it’s bringing in, then that’s fantastic. But for me, having worked on quite a few campaigns over the years for independent artists, I see the revenue coming from album sales and touring, over and over again. And I see the direct to fan methods I teach in MMM bringing in substantial sales very regularly. Even an artist who sells 10,000 copies is bringing in $100,000 – $150,000 in sales and I would never want to sacrifice that for streaming potential with an artist that is not likely to receive much streaming due to the limit budgets alotted independent artists. That’s my two cents anyway.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Cori says:

    I agree with you John. You cannot display everything for free. What is the point for them buying your music than?

  • GB. DeClerck says:

    I look forward to learning more from you and about you. And thanks for teaching and sharing this program.

  • Danny Gee Goju says:

    Hi John!

    This is Danny Gee Goju. I hope to join you on the 26th July. I am using Bandcampa nd Numberone music with over 700 subscribers; but I need to find a way to turn them into buyers because I get a lot of plays and likes on a daily basis. I hope you will find the time to work with me step by step.

    Thank you

    Danny Gee Goju

    Thanks

  • Erica Joy says:

    What if you’re re-releasing an album the direct to marketing way? Are we back to square one where the strategy which would require pulling some existing songs from Spotify?

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Erica,

      Whether you pull songs or not is completely up to you, I have seen many people still sell well from their own funnel with a direct to fan approach even though their music is on Spotify. But the fact remains, it’s harder to ask people to buy something they already have in their pocket 😉

  • Jordan says:

    Hi John, I’m a former Insider and MMM 3.0 participant. The biggest complaint we received were new fans not being able to listen to downloaded Mp3’s in the way they wanted. They couldn’t/wouldn’t figure out how to download music via .zip files and get it onto their phones in a way that fit their normal listening habits. If they had iPhones, the music would download and play as a Memo, and Android users couldn’t figure out how to search and find their music on their phone. We created a few “how to” videos for our new potential fans on how to get the music into their iTunes or upload as a local file to their Spotify player, but no one took the time and we ultimately saw most either get off our list quickly when they couldn’t listen in the way they wanted, or would just become in active because they couldn’t figure out [quickly] how to experience our music in the same way they experience and consume all their other music. Does MMM 4.0 address this?

    • Mick says:

      Hi Jorden.

      John’s system works 100%,but we found the same problem as you did it was a point of resistance. My thoughts are if a fan can do all the unzipping etc. they become more of a fan. Got to keep positive.

      Rocking in Rockingham uk

    • Steven says:

      Interesting question! I would love to hear John’s answer as well!

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Jordan,

      The limitations of mobile devices is certainly a limitation for any artist sharing or selling music outside of the handful of major consumption platforms. That said, I have not seen it hurt conversions.

      The way that I have been suggesting musicians deliver downloads for some time now has been to include both the zip file and MP3 files along with an explanation and instructions. That way people can listen to the music with one click and download later. Or, as you would instruct them in the email, they can download using any number of apps. This approach has consistently led to engagement and regular sales.

      My experience has been that no matter what you do, you will hear from a very small percentage of people that have a problem with it. As long as the positive reactions are where they should be and those sales are coming in, nothing else matters. As the saying goes, you can’t please all the people all the time. And at the end of the day, this is a universal mobile issue that most people are familiar with at this stage. It is not an issue that is exclusive to marketing music this way.

      This is discussed in MMM 4.0 and the email templates are provided.

  • I have a well established loyal following of listeners who buy prefer to buy CDs & downloads. I generally find that the streaming audience is different, and the key there is not engaging with people, but rather getting on large playlists, where the music is almost secondary. I’ve also met some “real people” (niche market artists) who make both traditional sales and streaming work very well in tandem. To my mind, streaming usually involves the “less interested”, casual fan; maybe someone who likes a few of my songs on their yoga playlist. Unlike most people, I don’t view streaming as a place to “get discovered”, I’d be happy to get on some bigger playlists and just sit in the background. But I definitely haven’t experienced a loss of income since embracing streaming.
    On a side note, only Apple Music can afford to operate at a loss, Spotify is on a pretty bad financial trajectory at this point. Not sure how long they can continue like that.

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hi Andy,

      That’s great to hear that you have found an audience that enjoys buying physical CDs. That is the ideal market. And it’s great that you are not seeing a loss of income since including your music on Spotify.

      The fact remains that as an industry, we have seen an incredible decline in album sales since the introduction of streaming. My point is simply that if most independent artists are going to drive the majority of their fan engagement themselves (which most are), let’s turn that engagement into infinitely more profitable sales, rather than streams.

      But I agree, there is value in being included in the spotify playlists. It’s for that reason that I suggest in the article above that artist release some of their music to the streaming platforms rather than all. To my mind, that is a best of both worlds approach.

  • I agree streaming is better used as a promo vehicle for the album which u should sell from your own site. My thought is to sell your album on all digital platforms but sell the download on your own site
    for $2.99 which is still 3times what u might get from a label

    • John Oszajca says:

      Hey Tony,

      You might consider just delaying the release from the digital platforms until after it has been released directly to your fans through an incentivised promotion on your site. That way you can still sell it at full price and make 100% of the profits. We need to generate as much money as possible per customer if we are going to be able to scale up with ads.

  • Chris Morris says:

    Hi John, I’ve recently started actively reading your site and listened to a few podcasts. I’m sold! Everything you’re saying completely resonates with me and makes perfect sense. I have a slightly off topic question that I hope you don’t mind. I know that you primarily recommend Facebook advertising but do you have any feedback on ‘Feature.fm’ or other companies that offer ads like ‘ReverbNation’? Just curious as I’m giving my website a face lift and putting together my budget for a fall campaign. Any advice is most appreciated. BTW, count me in for July 26th! Thank you.

  • Ihor says:

    There are a lot of examples when even very famous musicians with lots of streams vote against streaming services because of the small commissions.
    Of course the independent artist could not expect for any real money for living via this way.
    And I think it’s a big luck for me to find John who has discovered how to avoid that barrier and to generate sells.

  • Paul Hooks. says:

    I have been wondering about this very thing. That all makes perfect sense and really helps me decide on how to handle spotify for my upcoming release. Thanks John!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *