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Giving your music a chance

By Tracy Chan, Chief Content Officer

Picture this: you’ve had this song idea in your head for a while. You know the melody, you have the hook on repeat. You’ve spent hours grinding in your favorite DAW to lay the track down, you’ve gone crazy making sure each instrument hits at *just* the right time, you’ve recorded and re-recorded the vocals, and finally, finally – the track is just right. You go upload to your distributor, carefully fill out all the metadata and credits, and craft the most compelling pitch to secure editorial support. This is the one that’s gonna go big, you can feel it.

The track goes live at midnight and you stare at the play count. It’s at zero right now, but you remember that it takes time for tracks to become available. You’re excited, but you decide it’s better to go to bed, because you know you’ll wake up to all those messages telling you people are listening! 

But you wake up, and the play count is still zero. You think something’s wrong, or that the distributor must have messed it up, so you email them..but after a few days they say it was delivered properly. And you still have zero plays. How could this possibly happen?  

Unfortunately, this story is more common than you might think. According to data from Luminate, 42% of tracks on music services (that’s 66 MILLION tracks!) have less than 10 streams, and 24% have exactly zero streams. And it’s getting worse, not better. With 120K tracks being released across music platforms per day, it would take a curator 330 years to listen to just one day’s worth of music uploads. So many amazing songs never even stand a chance at being heard.  

At SoundCloud, frankly, we think that sucks. If artists put in the time, effort, and passion to create music, then it deserves to be heard – and to at least have a chance. We also believe music lovers should have a hand in determining what music should reach more people. 

That’s why we’re experimenting with a new feature on SoundCloud called First Fans. What if, within the first few days after uploading, your track was guaranteed to be recommended to people who are likely to be interested? What if we could give you a real chance at finding your First Fans for every track?

With hundreds of thousands of tracks being uploaded daily, the “zero plays” problem isn’t easy to solve. However, at SoundCloud, we have some cheat codes that make a solution possible. And we think it’s one that will benefit artists and listeners alike.

First and foremost, SoundCloud is one of the largest A&R platforms for the music industry. We have a huge listener base of people who come to SoundCloud seeking new and unique content that’s not available anywhere else – and they’re always on the lookout for new artists to fall in love with. Second, we acquired a company called Musiio last year that specializes in music-related artificial intelligence (AI). This helps us understand what's going on musically within your tracks using technology, and lets us match your music with listeners who we think will like it.

Together, these things allow us to tap into our autoplay algorithms and tackle the zero plays problem by recommending your music to 100 relevant people on SoundCloud, soon after you upload. We’re exploring the possibility of doing this automatically and immediately, because we want to make sure you’re getting heard in the first few days, when it matters most. And, to be clear, any plays from these First Fan recommendations are real streams, so they count and are paid out like any other stream. You deserve to get heard and get paid the full amount for what people hear. That’s the right way to do things and as an artist-first company, we feel strongly about it.

We’re testing First Fans now with a select group of Next Pro artists and we look forward to expanding availability in the near future. You can learn more about First Fans in our Help Center here. And, in case you missed it, make sure to catch up on our other SoundCloud for Artist updates like the new Fans tool, Comments tool, DMs on iOS, and more. We’re serious about our commitment to artists and we’re continuing to explore and innovate, so watch this space. 

Subscribe to Next Pro to be the first to get access to First Fans & other upcoming features.