You Can’t Buy Fans (So Why Do Musicians Keep Trying?)

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Paying for SoundCloud Listens

Don’t pay for fake plays, fake friends, or fake followers

No, I’m not talking about some bad MySpace flashback; people are STILL trying to buy their way to stardom — one click at a time.

A recent article from Digital Music News called “$10 = 100,000 Fake SoundCloud Plays…” illustrates just how easy it is to pay someone to listen to your music, view your videos, favorite your content, comment on your media, and follow/subscribe to your various channels (SoundCloud, YouTube, Twitter, etc.)

But all those listens, clicks, and views don’t equal FANS, so why do musicians keep trying this tactic? 

Simple: they believe inflated numbers will impress people. Which people? Well, I guess that’s where artists’ motives differ. It could be labels, bookers, managers, fellow musicians, friends,… even themselves (yes, it’s a more common delusion than you might imagine).

But whether they’re driven by insecurity, ambition, or something else — paying for fans strikes me as a desperate move born out of a misunderstanding of how bands succeed in today’s post-label landscape.

When a band creates something of value (music, videos, community, connection), you can see how their buzz builds alongside their increasing social media stats. It’s a logical trajectory. The more actual connections you forge with listeners, the more chances you find along the way to continue that trend: blog coverage, exclusive giveaways, better touring/gigging opportunities, plus real music sales and YouTube revenue to help you make your career sustainable in the long-term.

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Fake fans don’t fool anyone

Now let’s look at the opposite scenario: you’ve bought 5 million listens on SoundCloud. Well, why haven’t I ever heard of you? Why aren’t you performing on a late night TV show or at least touring outside of your home state?

How is it that your YouTube video has been viewed 700,000 times but I’ve never once seen any of my friends (most of whom are music-lovers) share it on Facebook or Twitter?

The moral to this story is obvious: invest your time and marketing money in something that will help you find your real fans. For example, if you were going to spend $100 boosting your SoundCloud listens, use that same money to print nice one-sheets/press releases and mail out 10 CDs to 10 music bloggers in your genre that you think will dig your songs.

You might see a smaller return in terms of your tallies, but you’ll have a chance to make real fans — the kind that tell other real people about your music, and who’ll pay real money to see you live, buy your merch, and support your crowdfunding campaigns.

What do you think of buying clicks, views, and listens? Have you been guilty of it in the past (tell the truth!)? What made you feel the need to do it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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