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A Primer On Streaming Music Royalties

Releasing New Music? Focus On Singles

1A  look at how the new music economy has developed to favor the promotion and popularity of singles rather than full albums, as has historically been the case.


Guest Post from Trill Trax

Music platforms today offer songwriters a variety of tools to share music. One service that has made a riveting impact on the music business is streaming. Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora and Spotify are a few of the major companies that offer consumers unlimited content for a small monthly fee. With the ever-changing dynamics of the business, songwriters must adapt to the models. Creating vibrant singles is a strong way to make this happen. 

Singles are the new albums today. Unless you are in the realm of acts like Taylor Swift, Adele, Drake or One Direction, chances are, you will not sell thousands of units immediately. 

Popular acts like Drake have followed this model and have created a very lucrative career. His singles have reached Top 40 Billboard Charts countless [times] which led to the release of strong albums. Singles help build momentum for the following project. A single is what consumers hear the most, it is the driving force behind everything. DJs play the singles at club venues and artists perform them at concerts.

Radio has evolved. Singles are heard in television commercials, radio advertisements on multiple platforms like Sirius XM and local radio. That is why people, whether they like it or not, are aware of popular music.

Urban artist Desiigner recent single “Panda” has allowed him to monetize from live performances. What makes his success most interesting is that he only has one record to perform.

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Even so, he gets paid decently just to perform or make an appearance. Let’s take that into consideration. In urban music in particular, mixtapes are the driving force of its economy. However, they are free. As a songwriter trying to reach more consumers, how can you when you struggle financially giving away free content?

Economically singles can be the better option. Why? Because the funding pushed into it can reach a much larger demographic than say an album. Consider that many people do not know who you are yet. Imagine that you have a budget of $5k. If that budget is dictated toward a 6-track EP, then you have to split that budget up among each record. Keep in mind this includes pre and post production, graphic design, marketing and of course copyright registration.

Now let us say that you reach 200 people with that project, but now your budget is gone. Did you reach an adequate ROI (Return of investment)?

Imagine now that you took that $5k and focused it entirely on a single. Now you can dictate a couple thousand dollars towards varying marketing tools. For example, posters, stickers and custom clothing. You could also use some of that budget toward travel expenses, to reach radio stations or shows in other areas. The budget could also have a higher impact with online marketing because you have a larger budget.

Singles are easier to go viral. Social networking apps like Vine and Instagram have helped facilitate a community where people use certain songs to help with their video creations.

Another reason why singles are more efficient is for the networking aspect. It is in your best interest to share the least amount of content with those within the industry. Why? Well quite simply they are busy and get several CDs with content just the same as you. Make their job easier which could help them contact you faster.

Think of it this way. If you went to the music conference A3C in Atlanta, GA and gave 35 music industry leaders your CD with 10 songs and 400 other songwriters did the same, will you stand out? More than likely not. What will happen is a portion of CDs will get thrown out from poor design, lack of pride in the appearance, another portion may get lost, and some will get listened to. Here is the key part though.

While these industry leaders are scanning each of these CDs, they are more than likely getting frustrated by a number of things. Therefore, when they do reach your tape, you have all the odds against you. If that first record is not captivating within the first few seconds, you’ve lost their attention just like everyone else.

Now if you have given them a thumb drive with your single, press kit and music video, this shows that you respect their time and took your time to provide a stronger product. It should not require listening to 15 songs in order for a person to decide, if they like your music or not. More importantly it should not take that many songs for a music leader to determine if they want to go into business with you. Handing them your music is a sales pitch.

With reference to urban artist Desiigner, he is able to monetize his single. Even if he sold only a small portion of iTunes sales, his live performances will bring in much more money. Money which he can form a new budget and create more content. He could sell “Panda” merchandise and include that into a new budget as well.

Singles have their place as much as albums and EPs do. Your role is to determine which route best suites you and the consumers you are trying to reach. Consider singles as an appetizer before the meal. Tease the audience. Consider how you listen to music. If someone left a CD on your car windshield, would you play it? If they sought your attention while you left a store, would you pay them any mind?

Economically, singles are worth it. Many songwriters have grown based off that. Are consumers prepared to hear your story yet? Are they prepared to sit down and listen to you? Think of your options, budget and demographic you wish to reach. Good luck.