In this piece Brian Hazard breaks down his experience with ReverbNation's recently overhauled Crowd Review, and how it can be utilized by artists to improve their music and get a better sense of audience response early on.
Guest post by Brian Hazard of Passive Promotion
Which of my unreleased songs will people like? I have no idea. Friends and family aren’t much help either.
Fortunately, I’m able to get unbiased feedback from fans of my genre through ReverbNation’s Crowd Review, which has been completely overhauled since ReverbNation’s acquisition of Audiokite last November.
To call this market research simply “helpful” would be a gross understatement. My last report precipitated a complete overhaul of not just my marketing plan, but my entire album concept.
I’d been in the process of setting up collaborations with some of the better-known synthwave artists. My plan was to put together a bunch of song demos with finished vocals, and have them redo the underlying instrumentals in their own style.
Problem was, I didn’t have any collaborations locked down yet, and I needed material to release on my newly launched Patreon page. That got me wondering what I could do to spruce up one of my demos for release to my patrons. Enter Crowd Review.
To my surprise, the demo — vocals over a drum loop plus four synth tracks — scored the highest by far out of a dozen previous submissions. It ranked in the 89th percentile of all songs analyzed by Crowd Review. 74% of listeners said they would want to hear the song again, versus a 33% average across the platform.
As a result, it was forwarded to ReverbNation’s curation team. I’ll let you know if anything comes of it!
But the real shocker is, it ranked in the 100th percentile for production quality. A demo!
As a direct result of this feedback, I released the song to my patrons virtually as-is. I’m planning to invest a decent chunk of change in a Feature.fm campaign to promote it (and share the results with you). If all goes well, I may just drop the collaboration angle entirely and continue recording songs in the stripped-down style of the demo.
So yeah, helpful.
Reviews are currently priced at $0.49 per listener, from $12.25 for a 25-listener report all the way up to $245 for a 500-listener report.
You can also add “advanced insights” for $0.15 per listener each, and get your report in one business day for $0.35 per listener.
You can get 10% off and support the site by using coupon code: AK-PASSIVEPROMOTION
Standard Insight is included in all reports, and kicks off with an overall rating and a concise written summary of what listeners thought of the song. It also tells you:
- How the song rates against others, both overall and in the same genre
- The distribution of ratings (was it mostly 1s and 10s, or do they clump around the average?)
- Whether the comments were positive, neutral, or negative
- Whether or not listeners would want to hear the song again
I won’t go over every metric, but if you’re so inclined, you can download my full report as a PDF here.
The first of the four advanced insights modules, Songwriting Analysis covers both the song itself and the performance, including:
- What well-known artist the song reminds reviewers of
- How the song makes them feel
- The appropriate genre for the song
- Whether the lyrics fit the music
And my favorite, a little spider web of the individual song component ratings:
What I find most useful is that, with the exception of “Artist Name,” these are all things you can go back and fix. Unless your song is already released, why not address the weak areas and resubmit?
Audience Identification provides key information on listener preferences. Are they cat people or dog people? More to the point:
- Where in the US do listeners who like your song live?
- How do they listen to music?
- How many concerts do they attend per year?
- What is their ethnicity?
- What subgenres do they like? (my music seems to resonate with Christian Rockers)
- What is their age and gender?
All useful information for everything from planning a tour to advertising on Facebook.
Production Quality covers the track’s sonic qualities and more, including:
- How engaged were listeners?
- Does your song make them want to dance?
- What sound qualities (deep, punchy, muffled, etc) do listeners associate with your track?
- Is it ready for radio?
- How loud is it compared to other songs on the radio?
It also tells you what type of system (headphones, laptop speakers, etc) reviewers are listening on. 50% of mine were on high-quality headphones, and 23% on high-quality speakers, so the majority are in a good position to actually judge sound quality.
Can your track actually make you money? Commercial Potential has the answers:
- How likely are listeners to purchase or stream your song, or seek out more of them?
- How likely would they be to attend your live show if you were playing in their area?
- Which TV/film genres do they like, and which do they associate with your song?
- What press outlets could they imagine reading about it in?
- Do you have a hit on your hands?
While the summary for my song is rather discouraging, the actual data looks promising! The track beat the average for both “very likely to purchase” (16% vs 13%) and “very likely to stream” (23% vs 13%). To put an even better spin on it, 76% of listeners were at least “somewhat likely” to stream the song on a streaming service.
Every listener is required to write a review. I counted, and yep, there are 100. Surprisingly, none of them are generic or vague. It’s obvious that every reviewer actually listened to the song. Even the mean ones were insightful:
Reviews are color coded red for negative (1-4 rating) and green for neutral or positive (5-10). You can sort by rating, listener age, or comment length. If you click the down arrow, you can see the reviewer’s full responses (truncated in the screenshot below):
It’s gratifying when someone really gets what you’re trying to say:
Crowd Review is hands-down the best market research for musicians yet.
It’s everything that Audiokite was and more.
My impression is based on not just one report, but also on another rather lukewarm 200-listener report on this admittedly quirky song (download the full PDF here):
Crowd Review is, at least for now, the only game in town. SoundOut, which fared poorly in my review hereand my more recent comparison shootout here, closed up shop and is now only available through TuneCore’s Fan Review.
There is one addition I’d like to see to Crowd Review: how do listeners rate the well-known artist they think I sound like?
In other words, if they say I sound like A Flock of Seagulls, what do they think of A Flock of Seagulls? If they hate the band, I can’t reasonably expect them to like my track, so I’ll take their feedback with a grain of salt.
I also wonder if it might be possible to restrict the reviewer pool based on demographics, to target, say, males 35-54. Or better yet, males 35-54 who primarily listen on Spotify, live in California, and prefer sci-fi.
In other words, what do people who look like my super fans, or like me, think? That would be some precious intel.
Brian Hazard is a recording artist with over twenty years of experience promoting his nine Color Theory albums, and head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.
His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion, along with a few tips on mixing.