Nowadays, just about anyone can get their music up on Spotify. With distribution being easier than ever, getting your songs up on a major platform is only a click away. While it’s great that the barrier to entry as a musician has been significantly reduced, it can be much more challenging to stand out amongst an oversaturated market.
With that in mind, building your online presence on streaming platforms is paramount to your success. Having an impressive listener base can help you build out your fan base from the ground up and potentially catch the eye of a label or two.
As an indie artist and producer myself, I know how hard it can be to start building a presence on Spotify. Thankfully, I recently passed the 10k monthly listener threshold, and while that may not seem like a lot for some, it’s a promising start.
Below, I’ll detail what I learned on my journey to 10k monthly listeners on Spotify. I’ll break it down into two equally important sections, music and marketing, for reference.
When it comes to building a listener base, arguably the most important aspect is creating amazing tunes! Here are some tips I’ve used to improve my sound on my 10k monthly Spotify listeners journey.
Check Your Skills
As painful as it can be, try to be as honest as you can with where you are at in your musical journey. If you can figure out where you need to improve and seek out help without becoming discouraged, you’re well on your way to growing as a musician and artist.
Seek out advice from other musicians you trust. You can also find feedback through online forums or even check in with your friends and see what they think. The key is not to take negative feedback personally and instead utilize it to fuel your future growth.
There’s no reason to stop learning as a musician, especially when there are so many free resources online. Make a habit of seeking out helpful blog posts, YouTube tutorials, and anything else that can help you consistently improve over time.
It’s also a good idea to reference other artists’ tracks and actively listen to the structure, melodies , and the fix. Try starting a session by dragging your favorite song into your DAW . This way, you can constantly refer back to your reference track while you’re creating to strengthen your sound.
As with any skill, consistency is vital. Regardless of what your listener count may be, focus on honing your craft every day. Creative boundaries can also be helpful if you don’t know where to start. For example, I used to challenge myself to complete a full song demo, good or bad, every week for a year. While this was incredibly challenging at times, it helped me grow immensely over a short period.
Do something musical every day. Whether that’s producing, mixing , singing, playing an instrument, or songwriting doesn’t matter as much. What’s important is developing a cadence with yourself so that you can naturally improve over time.
Collaborate With Other Artists
Collaborating with other musicians is a great way to learn in a fun, experimental way. Additionally, collaborative tracks can help you cross-pollinate with other artists’ audiences, which is great for building your listener base. You could reach out to other artists via social media and ask to collaborate. Alternatively, see if there are any jams, open mics, or local music performances in your area and network from there.
Cross The Finish Line
While it can be tempting to continue to start and stop songs, resist the urge as much as possible. You can even set a limit on how many projects you’re working on at one time. While it’s not always as fun the trudge through finishing a track once the initial inspiration has faded, it will help you grow a ton musically. You’ll also have finished tracks so that you can maintain a regular release schedule.
Marketing is music’s less sexy sister, though just as essential for helping you succeed on streaming platforms. As the saying goes, in “music business,” “business” is almost twice as long as “music” for a good reason. You can’t have one without the other.
I can personally attribute most of my listener growth to learning how to market my music properly. The power of marketing doesn’t mean you don’t need polished tracks; you certainly do. However, people won’t be able to connect with your music if they can’t find it.
Here are some essential tips on how I upped my marketing game on the journey to 10k listeners. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself what a label would be doing to push your music if you were signed and try to replicate that process on a smaller scale.
Don’t Skimp Out On Visuals
Your music is undoubtedly the most critical part of your artistry, but don’t let that stop you from building out impressive visuals. Having a sense of style, polished press photos, and a music video or two can go a long way and enhance a listener’s experience.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help either. If you know any aspiring photographers, ask if they’d be willing to do a shoot with you in exchange for promotion on social media. Have a friend with a fantastic wardrobe? Ask him or her if you can borrow some clothes for the pictures. This process doesn’t have to be expensive and allows you to build relationships with other artists.
For example, my partner and I created DIY music videos for a couple of my releases last year, bringing in a new audience. I’ve also had friends help me out with cover art, editing an artist’s bio/press photos, and building “canvases” for Spotify.
Build Your Socials
Don’t get me wrong; I detest social media. That being said, it is, unfortunately, a necessary evil for most musicians. Building up a following on sites like Instagram, YouTube, and even TikTok has helped my audience grow immensely, even though social media doesn’t come naturally to me.
Social media isn’t just a great place to promote your music; it can also be a fantastic opportunity to network and collaborate with other artists. However, I think it’s a mistake just to post promotional content. Instead, see if there’s anything you can teach your social media audience. You could also share more personal content or show behind the scenes of your tracks. Whatever it is, keep it consistent.
Pitch Your Heart Out
Pitching to blogs, curators, and music magazines before and after a release is key to building your audience.
Generally speaking, you’ll want to find blogs that fit your music and contact them via email or social media for the outlet to consider your track(s). Some blogs and playlists curators only accept paid submissions through sites like Submithub or Mysphera .
Pitch as often as you can. It can be challenging to deal with rejections and negative feedback, but that’s normal for any musician. Your tracks won’t be heard if no one knows they exist.
Have a Release Plan
You need to have a plan before you upload your release to your distributor of choice. In addition, give yourself time between when you’ve scheduled your release and uploaded your song/project. Note that the “submit a song” feature on Spotify will only consider scheduled songs with at least three weeks or so of wiggle room before the release.
You’ll need time to pitch to blogs for your song’s premiere as well. Make sure you’ve created social media posts for all of your accounts and that all visuals are locked and loaded for your release. You should outline a release plan into three sections: 1) before the release, 2) on release day, and 3) after the release.
Hence, with the help of polished tracks and a bit of marketing, you should be able to grow your monthly listeners on Spotify. I’ve also made a video on this topic; you can learn more here.
Keep in mind that this process didn’t happen overnight - I put out my first release in 2018, and I’m just hitting that 10k threshold in 2021, 3 years later.
Remember that streams don’t equate to fans. While they are important, there’s more than one way to build a community surrounding your sound successfully, so don’t get discouraged if your tracks aren’t performing the way you expected right off the bat. Best of luck building your audience!