With major streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify sharing the streaming data on your tracks openly, it’s now more possible than ever to make targeted decisions about what to do next as an artist.
Whether that means identifying what types of songs your audience gravitates towards so you can serve them more effectively, finding out which tracks specifically are being shared out of your network, or targeting geo-located clusters of fans on your next tour, data can help you make smarter artistic choices.
So here I would like to outline five ways you can start to make creative decisions using streaming data.
1. Identify your best performing songs
One of the greatest ways to use data is to understand which songs are performing better than others, and why.
List your top ten performing songs and note down their moods and genres. Your top performing songs are songs that not only have the highest number of streams, downloads, and listens, but also the songs that have the highest engagement by your fans (comments on YouTube, shares, likes, etc.). This also includes the number of “saves” and playlist adds on streaming sites like Spotify.
“Saves” reflect the number of listeners who saved your tracks to their libraries. This means they want to keep coming back to listen, which is a great sign! Playlist adds are also a great indicator that listeners would like to keep returning to your music, and that listeners would like to bundle your songs with other songs in the same vibe or style.
Not only can you cross-reference the moods of the songs on this list to identify trends within your catalog, but if you look at which playlists your songs are being added to and identify the moods and attributes of the other songs appearing, you can learn a lot about your audience’s taste.
2. Discover your demographics (age, gender, location)
Streaming data can also help you understand the demographics of your listeners: their age group, their gender, which city, country they live in, etc...
While this might be creepy on some level, if you’re responsible and good-natured about knowing this information, you can certainly put it to good use to make sure your fans continue to be satisfied with your musical output.
Among these such indicators, age group is especially useful. If 65% of your listeners are in the 18-24 age group, that means you have a large Gen Z listener following, so you can release music closer to the styles of music this group listens to and be more successful with your future releases. Moreover, you can also cater your social media posts to your fans by catering closer to their values, their favorite books, films, and music, and generating content that they’d be more likely to share.
By identifying traits common in your audience, you can make deeper connections with your fans and build on those profiles to get more people to follow you. As artists, we’re lucky in this way that we have the data to know who our listeners and fans are.
3. Find popular playlists and pitch to them
Playlists are great for keeping up with the current trends in the music industry, but they can also act as a jumping off point for you to find how your music fits into different contexts and tastes.
Most playlists today are defined by moods, rather than a specific genre. For example, when you type in “relax,” you might get all sorts of playlists with tracks ranging from reggae to trap to bossa nova. Everyone has their own curatorial relationship to relaxation. If your song appears on a person’s playlist, even one without many followers, that’s a window into their relationship with your music and how they see it fitting in to what else they listen to.
Spotify for Artists and Apple Music for Artists both allow you the opportunity to see which playlists you appear on, so take some time to listen through each one and extrapolate those identifying factors; then, seek out many more playlists with the same moods, styles, and curatorial contexts to pitch your music!
4. Determine which styles match your artistic identity
When conducting playlist research, you will notice that pop songs or upbeat songs tend to get placed more than others. If your music does not fit into either of these categories, you might still be tempted to make a song in these styles.
And don’t be shy about this “branching out” either—this is a perfectly solid strategy. As long as you maintain your authenticity, and stay true to your artistic mission, the genre you write in shouldn’t matter. But don’t take this so dramatically, it might be about simply changing one aspect of your music.
For example, let’s say you discovered that songs in the tropical house and reggae genres are getting playlisted a lot, and you’d like to try to reach some of those listeners. Instead of going full Rastafari, perhaps consider taking only the rhythmic or percussive element of those genres and applying it subtly to your music, or upping your tempo to match some of the genres’ popular songs.
If you’re an acoustic singer-songwriter, then reggae isn’t that far off from what you already do. A house track might look odd on your streaming profile, but an acoustic guitar driven track with some heavy rhythm could do just as much good as it did Paul Simon when he made Graceland.
This is an example of branching a bit outside your comfort zone in order to seek deeper within, and you’ve got your fans to thank for it. In this way, playlist data can give you clues about what kind of music to release going forward in your career, which is a very interesting and experimental endeavor.
5. Track where your fans live
I’ve saved this one for last, as it relates unfortunately to live music. Under the current circumstances, it’s hard to foresee when concerts will start again on a global scale, but that really shouldn’t affect how you use geo-tagged streaming data.
If you’re booking shows on a forthcoming concert tour, you’ll definitely want to use location information to see where you’ve got strongholds of fan activity; but even without the live component, you can use location data to target your fans in certain regions with boosted posting on social media.
Streaming data is always a great tool for artists to have to learn more about their audience, but it doesn’t have to stop at the numbers. Think creatively about how you might build on the narratives that your data is portraying; because the right move can land you more new fans and more dedicated current fans.
Alper Tuzcu is a composer, guitarist, and a producer. His newest EP “Imagina” was released by Palma Records on 29 May 2020, and inspired by the music of different cultures. An alumni of Berklee College of Music, he’s also a touring musician and educator. Check out his music on Spotify.
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