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A few extra thoughts on how people discover new music
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thedarkproject
I've been thinking about the results and trying to distil them down into broader categories, which maybe tell us more about general attitudes to music discovery.

Recommendations or positive coverage by other people, friends or reviewers, make up over 40% of the examples. This shows the power of people we trust placing the music in a positive light. Obviously the key here is to find people who like your music, and make it easy for them to share it with others. Undoubtedly a part of that is about playing gigs where people can bring their friends to see you - but that requires that you have a decent fan base to begin with. It's cheaper and easier to let them share online.

Reviews alone carry about 1/3 of the weight that friend recommendations do. Magazines seem to still be the biggest game in town here. Perhaps the key is to get good reviews as the seeds from which the friend recommendations will grow.

More passive forms of coverage by other people, eg. music presented without comment at clubs, on radio, etc, make up almost 19% of the results: well worth aiming at, although with it being both harder to achieve and less likely to pay off than getting word of mouth recommendations, it shouldn't be the main strategy.

Automated recommendations based on your own purchases or listening habits make up about 11% of the results. I don't know whether this is something bands can easily aim at, but I suspect this proportion will grow over time, I'm surprised that Spotify didn't feature at all in my results though, as I thought people were discovering new music that way. Given the scandalous nature of how little they pay artists for each stream, it would be adding insult to injury to find out that hardly anybody is getting much new exposure that way either.

Discovery directly via live performance was just over 7%, and almost all of that was from festivals. I don't know whether this imbalance is because festivals are more popular than individual gigs or whether people are more open to discovering new bands at festivals. I suspect both are true to an extent. The only lesson I see here is that the vast, vast majority of people will not form their first impression of you via an intimate gig, so gigging as the primary way to reach people is misguided, at least for the audience I surveyed.
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I've been listening to Spotify a bit lately, and my experience is that it doesn't surface new material but does do a great job of digging up old favourites. I suspect that its algorithm is "people who like that also like this" and a moment's thought will make it unsurprising that this doesn't help new bands that not many people have heard of.

Pandora's algorithm supposedly works on what the music sounds like: "minor chords, extensive vamping, offensive lyrics", although I don't recall discovering much new stuff by that either and I don't think we have it in this country anyway.

Bandcamp is fucking killer. Free streaming, downloads in a variety of formats and physical product all on one page. Make sure yours looks nice and spread that URL any way you can. ("yours" was general in that sentence: the Twighlight's Embrace bandcamp is a good example of how to do it right).

Your music is going to be on YouTube whether you want it to be there or not: I'd be inclined to stick a lot of your songs on the official channel with adverts switched on and "click here to visit our bandcamp" popups during and at the end of the videos. It's my understanding that this makes much more money than Spotify does and some musicians are able fund a cup of coffee now and again from it. YouTube is apparently the primary way music is consumed by young people these days (when they're not on my lawn) and it makes sense for the artist to control that experience as much as possible, with the goal being to convert "that was a nice song, what's next?" to "that was a nice song ooh look click here for deeper engagement".

Bandcamp has been frustrating because although it's by far the best shop-front a band can have, there's no discovery aspect there. I can only share the URL with our existing friends and fans, which is the real problem - how do we get it in front of potential new fans?

Ideally, what we want is a system that can pick out similar artists without them needing to have already had a lot of plays on the system, as Last.fm and Spotify currently require.

I'm also of the opinion that a good YouTube presence is important. We had something like 40,000 views of 2 of our songs before they were taken down for copyright infringement (which is an amusing and annoying tale in itself really) but a lot of that depends again on connectivity - if the right person links to your videos, they get watched, otherwise they mostly don't. But at a minimum you need to have the stuff up there to be shared, and it should be as high quality as possible to make it worthwhile..

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