The evolution of streaming music platforms has been a curiosity of mine for the past several months. As a user of both Spotify and Soundcloud, I find myself not only attracted to their service, streaming audio content, but also the dynamic communities formed by their active users. The prevalence of the social web, combined with the music’s unique ability to bring people together, creates a compelling niche—one where like minded individuals can share, relate and discuss the content consumed. In this blog I’d like to investigate two of today’s most popular music platforms and how they could be used as an advantageous tool for supporting an online community.
Soundcloud is social media platform built around the consumption of user-generated audio. Initially, it was the go-to platform for underground producers and musicians to share their work. Today, major studios and recording artist (like Zedd and Damian Marley), popular brands (such as Red Bull) and well known news authorities (like NPR) are all using Soundcloud as a publishing platform to share exclusive audio content. Upon registering, all users have the ability to record and publish up to 120 minutes of audio content. Those who decide to pay for a Soundcloud “Pro” or “Premier” account gain access to extra features, such as more hosting space and deeper engagement analytics. Just last week, Soundcloud announced it would be introducing ads to its U.S. users for Premier users who publish frequently to large audiences. According to The Guardian, SoundCloud is the second biggest streaming music service in the world behind YouTube.
First, consider how Soundcloud fits into your content strategy. Are you or your team ready to commit to a new storytelling channel? Adopting a new social platform, then neglecting it, is a regretful waste of time, so before recording your first upload, ensure your publishing calendar and target audience are well-developed and your benchmark objectives are clear. Interviews, podcasts and transcribed blogs are good place to start.
If you’re just starting out on the platform, tracks can be searched and discovered via playlist, group, profile or by individual track. After uploading, publishers can optimize their recordings through general and searchable tags. The best way to grow a following on Soundcloud is the same as any other social networks: Cross-promotion on separate channels and regular account activity (scheduled uploads and community engagement.)
Just like in any type of web content, public commentary can have an immense impact on how we interpret what we consume. Audio content is no different. In fact, Soundcloud’s timestamped commenting is essential to its user experience, encouraging an audience with similar interests to express their thoughts on any given track. When visitors read comments that align with their own, emotions of familiarity ignite a roar of enthusiasm (positive) or wave of defamation (negative). To avoid negativity, publishers need to follow a fundamental rule of content marketing: provide outstanding content your audience cannot ignore. If done successfully, public engagement and social advocacy will naturally propagate, all good signs of a vibrant social channel.
As with other social networks, Soundcloud has vanity metrics that display a track’s popularity. The number of listens, likes and reposts are made public on all audio tracks, spurring the urge to share and engage. Because Soundcloud is made up of user-generated audio, sound quality isn’t regulated, and low-quality recordings of questionable origin (including copyright infringement) remains a serious issue for the platform.
Spotify is not a publishing platform; but rather a streaming music service heavily integrated with social sharing. Spotify is the most successful music service for paying subscribers (all 10 million of them) thanks to royalty agreements with the music industries top record labels. Spotify relies on the “freemium” model: Non-paying users are denied access to mobile downloads and must suffer advertisements. Paying subscribers get an ad-free listening experience with offline mobile access. Users can follow popular artist, subscribe to public playlists, and tune into a real-time feed of what their followers are listening to.
Brands and users cannot publish user-generated audio on Spotify, but what they can create are sharable playlists. If promoted and maintained correctly, Spotify accounts can attract an impressive following. Take Fuse TV for example. It created a Spotify playlist containing all the artists expected to play at the 2014 Austin City Limits music festival. By associating itself with the popularity of the festival, Fuse “borrows” the favorable qualities of ACL’s music, reinforcing its brand as an “in-the-know” online resource for music. A positive association with music that resonates with your audience inspires familiarity, likeability and, ultimately, trust. Curating a customizable playlist for your audience is the best, and most popular, way to use Spotify in content marketing.
Users have the option to integrate their Twitter and Facebook profiles so they may publicly share what they listen to with followers on all connected social channels. This transparent broadcasting is ideal for music discovery and brand building. When we hear the different kinds of music our friends listen to, our curiosity is peaked and our personal tastes are challenged. The success of a Spotify presence depends on how followers choose to share their experience with your playlist.
To many people, Spotify’s clean and organized user interface is easy to navigate around. This is especially true when managing large music libraries with several different playlists. Once you have a playlist ready to share, make sure it is labeled accurately and updated regularly. An organic following on a Spotify playlist is possible, but it requires promotion, time and the right kind of audience to embrace it.
Use Soundcloud to record and publish audio content on your own, but be wary of your content's quality. Start a podcast channel or custom track list and share it on your other social channels to develop a listenership. All publishing channels require a strategy.
Use Spotify to leverage the abundance of music in its library. By creating and sharing personalized playlists, you can attract a niche following that can be considered fans (i.e supports, followers) of the playlist publisher.
Social music gains its strength from music’s unique ability to unite us behind a common interest. And what better common interest to share than your favorite band playing your favorite song? Before I wrote this blog, I asked a few friends which music platform they preferred to used, Spotify or Soundcloud? They gave me some great viewpoints, most of which helped me write this blog. Remember, music and social were not meant to sell hard products or drive services, but rather to bring us together and connect us. And that connection is highly sought after, no matter brand, business or user.