A wolf doesn’t wait for its food to come to them. It hunts.
So I shouldn’t have to tell you that as an artist, you are responsible for promoting your own music.
Don’t leave it up to a label, or a PR agency, or somebody else. They’re all great, but it needs to start with you.
But you’re an artist, not a marketer, so how do you actually take ownership of promoting yourself in order to get more plays on services like SoundCloud and Spotify?
Here are 5 rock-solid SoundCloud promotion strategies that are relevant for our streaming-centred, fast-paced and ever-changing music industry in 2019.
By following these strategies, you can increase the number of plays you’ll get on SoundCloud, as well as followers and likes.
Before we get into it though, make sure to check out our FREE eBook – 10 Tips For Promoting Your Music on a Budget. It’ll cover some of the things in this article + much more.
A Brief Note
SoundCloud is still a big player, but it shouldn’t be the only one you consider in your overall strategy.
In fact, SoundCloud has made changes within the last year where the home page is no longer your stream. This means that people who follow you aren’t always going to be finding your music when it comes out.
Including key services like Spotify and Apple Music in 2019 is crucial in unlocking the full power of promotion and marketing.
These tools have much larger user bases and also have the added benefit of higher earning potential – if you get it right, that is.
If you’re after general tips for promotion and marketing, check out Sam’s article where he gives 15 practical tips.
Apart from that, here are 5 strategies that will get you more plays on Soundcloud:
- Make great music first
- Leverage existing audiences on the platform
- Use email for networking and promotion
- Get into repost chains
- Make your music discoverable
Strategy 1: Make (Actually) Great Music
Controversial, but universally true. While it is possible to promote crap music, it never survives the ultimate test: the opinion of the audience.
No matter how much PR or marketing you give a track, if it’s really average, then nobody wants to listen, and you won’t get plays.
Never forget this golden rule of music promotion – your music is the marketing. You don’t just market music, it’s inherently linked to the promotion process.
People don’t buy a vacuum cleaner if they don’t want one, so people won’t listen to music if they don’t like it. This is especially true on Soundcloud, where the barrier of entry is so low that a lot of horrible music gets uploaded, meaning listeners have more to sift through.
I’ve found over time that artists and producers (especially those who want a career) tend to overestimate the quality of their music. I did in the early days, and you can go and listen to my really old music and hear the improvement over time.
But this begs the question – should I upload my music if it’s not 100% there yet? This is arguable, but on a platform like SoundCloud, the stakes are much lower, with removing tracks being just a click away.
Plus, you’re likely to get valuable feedback from the public if you ask for it, allowing you to gauge what will and won’t work.
So while promoting music online is important, getting feedback and taking that into the studio will prove to be a much more valuable use of time.
- Make sure your core musical ideas are solid – production, mixing and mastering won’t matter otherwise
- Get feedback from listeners, tastemakers and other artists
- Be patient and keep making a large volume of music
Strategy 2: Leverage Existing Audiences
This might be confusing to say, but it’s true.
There are people who are always going to be better at marketing music than you. So don’t reinvent the wheel, use these people to your advantage.
People dedicate their lives to finding and sharing music to audiences that love it, so you.
Find channels on Soundcloud that can repost your music to larger numbers of people than you ever could. This could come in the form of
- Repost channels
- Other artists with bigger followings
- Promotional channels
Don’t ignore offsite audiences as well. Just because they don’t have larger audiences on SoundCloud, doesn’t mean a blog or YouTube channel can’t send lots of plays your way. Make sure to utilize:
- Hype Machine
- YouTube Channels
- Spotify Playlists
- Influencers (e.g. vloggers, Instagram accounts)
- Radio stations (some play directly off SoundCloud!)
The key here is to find channels that are a good fit for your music. Don’t go messaging someone just because they have a lot of followers. They are already looking for very specific kinds of music for their tastes.
So play a few of their previous uploads/shares and make a decision. Don’t be too scared if your music isn’t exactly the same as what’s already there, but if it’s too different, it’ll likely get a pass.
Here’s an interaction I had with a YouTube channel when sending them my new track, ‘I Didn’t Know Anything‘ for promotion.
You don’t know what opportunities can happen if you don’t try. I’ve had my music posted on this channel before and it’s definitely impacted my SoundCloud plays.
Once you know who to send music to, then you need to figure out how.
Strategy 3: Email is still King
How do you send a message:
- that you know the recipient will get
- that goes to a place they check very often
- that is simple and clear
- using something everyone has
- that doesn’t rely on a platform that could be gone soon
The answer? Email. It’s old, but it’s still the best. How does this relate back to SoundCloud you might ask?
Email for Networking
Everyone has an email. Artists. Labels. Promo channels. Repost channels. Avid music fans. And you can communicate with them through this channel, no matter if they have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or not.
I got my biggest play numbers out of email networking, including a top placement on one of Majestic Casual’s weekly playlists on Soundcloud. In this case, it was a form that sends them an email, but the point still stands.
Even the example I gave before with emailing my track, look at the difference in response time.
I got a response in less than 24 hours!
Granted, this won’t usually be the case for huge names in the industry, but email networking works.
Not to say that you can’t use avenues like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Those channels are great but always try email first. And use the Hubspot extension to track email opens, you’ll thank me later.
To make this easier, you’ll want to be making a list of emails of relevant people you can send your music to. Just use Google Sheets or Excel.
A few tips & tricks about sending emails:
- Be concise – the recipient is likely already time-poor, so get to the point.
- Send them a SoundCloud link – it’s the easiest to listen to, and you can make it downloadable.
- Be conversational – don’t just send a link, actually treat the person on the other end like a human, and you’ll get treated like one too.
- Personalise messages – CC’ing a large list never works, and it often annoys people, especially if people ‘Reply All’. Send one message at a time and once again, treat them like a human.
- Follow up – not everybody is in a position to do something the first time around. Follow up in a week or two (depending on the person) if they haven’t replied.
If you want more promo email etiquette tips, check out this list from an industry professional.
Building a List
With the decline of plays on SoundCloud (due to the lower visibility of the ‘Stream’), it’s important your core audience still gets to hear your music when it’s released, and what better way to this than email marketing?
If you’re familiar with download gates like ToneDen and The Artist Union, perhaps start using them to gather people’s email addresses. If you’re a Bandcamp user, you can grab email addresses on checkout too. That way, you can build a list to send your music to next time you have something to release!
Once you’ve got a list, you need to find a email marketing service. Symphonic Distribution compiled a list of the best email marketing platforms for musicians, so make sure to give that a read.
Strategy 4: Repost Chains
This is one of the most useful tools on SoundCloud and is an effective way to garner the force of multiple accounts in a simple, automated way.
In essence, a repost chain is simply a group of people who automatically repost a track, each at a timed interval, to maximise exposure. A service like SCPlanner allows you to do this effortlessly.
Just get a few music buddies in a chain and one person submits new tracks to the chain. As each of you gains followers, you multiply the reach each time.
There are a few ways you can join or create a repost chain:
- Producer friends – get your inner circle together and signup to a repost chain. That way you get a guaranteed baseline of exposure every time you upload a track.
- Bigger chains – a lot of people on Facebook groups etc. are looking for accounts to join repost chains, because the bigger it gets, the more valuable. The only caveat is usually you need at least a certain number of followers to join these (e.g. 5000+ followers only)
- Random chains – if you just need exposure, try Googling ‘repost chain’ and you’ll see a bunch of results for submissions to certain chains. Some of these require payment, be wary. Also, these aren’t necessarily an effective way to gain promotion, as you could get a lot of plays that don’t mean much. So be selective.
Sounds good, right? Hold up, there are a few things to consider before joining a chain.
Firstly, make sure you’re okay with reposting the music in that chain. Does it fit with your brand, or will it annoy your followers? Even though the numbers can be appealing, hold off if you think it’ll damage your brand.
Also, some people have a problem with repost chains because it ‘abuses the repost feature’, so have a think if this works for you or not. Personally, I think it’s fine as long as you repost music you like.
Strategy 5: Make Your Music Discoverable
Now that the ‘Discover’ tab exists on Soundcloud, the aim is to get your music featured on this new avenue of discovery.
The best way to do that is metadata. Tell Soundcloud what your music is, and give it the best chance on the platform.
There are a few key ways to do this:
- Correct Genre tags
- Relevant track tags
- Name your track appropriately
- Utilize the description
- Get other engagement (likes, comments etc.)
You might be wondering why I’ve bolded ‘Correct Genre tags’, and that’s because it’s probably one of the most important factors in SoundCloud deciding where your music will be placed.
Beyond that, the more metadata SoundCloud has, the more opportunities it can give that track on the platform, not only with ‘Discover’ but also with the ‘Charts’ feature, especially when it gets more plays.
Relevant metadata goes beyond the platform into other services like Google, meaning your music will come up in search results too.
Because Google reads text, not your mind, and if it can see who you are and what your music’s called, it’ll help your chances of showing up. Pretty neat.
Bonus Tip: Don’t Buy Plays
Everyone wants to take the easy road, right? But oftentimes it’s simply not worth it.
I had to mention this here because it’s often something people consider when they’re looking to up their Soundcloud game. The same can be said for likes and followers, and other platforms too. These stats are fake and don’t provide organic growth.
The Bigger Picture
Like I already said, marketing and promoting your music should go beyond SoundCloud.
Plays aren’t the only thing to consider either.
Yet it’s hard to promote your music well without a lot of money.
That’s why we made our guide about promoting your music on a budget. You can grab it free below:
If you have questions about marketing and promoting your music, let me know at [email protected] – I’d be happy to answer.