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As we’re sure you’ve heard countless times over the last several years, the chances of making a living solely off of streaming income are slim to none. But does that mean that making your music available on streaming services is pointless? Far from it.
Major platforms like Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music have begun rolling out robust dashboards for artists to not only track and analyze how your songs are performing, but also to provide you with invaluable streaming data that can help you understand who your audience is, where to tour, how to most effectively spend your marketing dollars, and much more.
So how do you leverage your data to maximize streaming success, and also benefit all the other areas of your music career?
Focus on actionable metrics.
Similar to social media platforms, it’s easy to get fixated on increasing your total number of likes, followers, or views. While it’s always encouraging to see these numbers go up, the truth is that these are just vanity metrics — or, in other words, things you can measure that, while not completely meaningless, don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things.
Sure, total streams are a factor in determining your payout from streaming services. But assuming you’re among the vast majority of artists who aren’t quite making the big bucks from streaming royalties (or not yet, at least!), it’s much wiser to focus on quality over quantity.
Instead of hyper-focusing on your total stream count, pay attention to actionable metrics, which help you make data-backed decisions that actually have an impact on your music career growth. Specifically, this can include things like how engaged your followers are, which demographics are most engaged, and which tracks are being shared and saved to playlists.
For example, in Spotify for Artists, you can see detailed stats for your top 200 songs. You can filter by date range to see whether certain promotional efforts or live shows have correlated with your Spotify activity. You can also track the total streams and listeners of all of your tracks, combined (but note that this “all-time” graph can only go as far back as 2015).
Another key metric you can measure is your follower growth over time. This is important because when listeners follow you, your new releases will automatically show up in their personalized Release Radar playlist. They’ll also get email notifications about shows you’re playing in their city.
Get access to your streaming data.
Spotify for Artists
In order to get access to your Spotify metrics, you need to be a verified artist. Fortunately, the process is now much simpler than it was before — just go here and fill out the short form. Once you’re verified, you’ll be able to log into Spotify for Artists and see all of your data.
Apple Music for Artists
Apple Music for Artists allows musicians to see their stats across both Apple Music and iTunes. The platform is still in beta as of this writing, though, so unfortunately it’s not open to all artists just yet. In the meantime, you can sign up here to reserve your spot.
Pandora AMP/Next Big Sound
With Pandora-owned Next Big Sound, you can access not only your Pandora stats, but insights about your entire online presence, including Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Songkick, and much more. If you have your music on Pandora, you just need to be a verified Pandora AMP user in order to access Pandora data on your Next Big Sound dashboard. You can claim your AMP profile here.
Know what to do with the data once you have it.
Once you start regularly checking in on your streaming data, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about different aspects of your music career, such as:
- Where to route your next tour (based on top listener locations)
- Which songs to include in your setlist (based on song and location data)
- Which audiences to target for social media ads (based on listener demographics)
- How well your marketing is working for various releases (based on album data)
- Organizations to reach out to for partnerships (based on listener demographics)
- Artists to go on tour or collaborate with (based on the other artists your fans listen to)
- Which single to put more promotional effort behind (based on song and playlist data)
- Which tracks to pitch to local radio stations (based on listener demographics)
You can even take this a step further and cross-reference your streaming metrics with your Next Big Sound analytics to discover some really powerful insights about your audience and understand which efforts are feeding into one another.
But keep in mind that no matter how much data these platforms offer, none of it really matters unless you actually make an effort to track it, analyze it, and then turn it into tangible action steps to grow your music career.
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Lisa Occhino is the founder of SongwriterLink and the Director of Marketing & Communications at Soundfly. She’s also a pianist, award-winning songwriter, and graduate of Berklee College of Music.