Get more streams by understanding the new structure and sound of popular music.
Streaming platforms are measuring success through new metrics, which is changing the way musicians are creating music, which is changing the whole industry.
Today music is consumed at an insane rate. The amount of music that hits my ears on any given day has reached upwards of 40 different songs. When I was younger (The 90’s) I would listen to the radio; I’d hear maybe 8-10 different songs per day and if I bought an album I’d listen to those same 10-12 songs on repeat for the next month.
As we all know, CD sales and digital downloads are slowly going extinct. Streaming services have started to thrive and have complex structures and algorithms to handle the large volumes of new music uploaded every day. Today on streaming services like Spotify, an algorithm will determine how far your song goes and how many ears it reaches. These frameworks have been put in place to optimize the listeners’ experience and they’re now having a direct impact on how songs are being written, structured, and produced.
Disclaimer: These are observations I have seen from working with thousands of artists on Spotify. These tips are not for everyone and not everyone needs to change their art just to make it more commercially viable!
But follow these helpful tips if you want to make your music more streaming-friendly and rack up more listens.
Tweak your song structure
For a long time, the typical structure of a song has been ABABCB.
But now more and more songs are starting with the chorus: BABABCB.
Why? This instantly grabs the attention of the listener and allows artists to hit them with the meat of the song right out of the gate. No more long intros. Instead, the listener hears the hook and then waits for it to come back around a few times throughout the rest of the song.
Examples of songs that start with the chorus:
“Better Now” – Post Malone
“Please Me” – Cardi B & Bruno Mars
Make your songs shorter
This one is a bit controversial but important to note: The average length of a song on the Billboard Hot 100 dropped from over four minutes in 2000 to under three minutes and thirty seconds in 2008.
Not everyone should be shortening their music to appeal to a younger, shorter attention-span generation. In fact shortening your songs could push away your existing fanbase (if you have one.) But if you’re a Hip Hop, Pop or Indie Pop artist, shortening your songs can definitely help you gain more streams through repeated listens, and maybe even get you on more official Spotify playlists.
However, you should only shorten your songs if you are releasing an entire project or album, as this makes it easier for the listener to stream the album in its entirety. Additionally, Spotify rewards entire projects (albums) on the platform over singles. When you release an album you have a better chance of popping up on Spotify’s radar.
Have a release strategy
Each release that hits Spotify is a chance to learn what’s working for your music and what’s not. The consistent factor among artists that succeed in the streaming environment is a strict and dedicated release schedule.
Hundreds of times I’ve seen artists go all in on one single, spend money on flashy music videos, etc. Once the release doesn’t go viral or match their expectations they feel deflated and have a hard time getting back in the proverbial saddle. Plan out a yearly release schedule, even if you plan on releasing only one single every 3 months. That way when you do start to gain some followers and monthly listeners you have tracks in the can to feed the beast. Be prepared for at least one of your songs to take off and stick to your plan!
Your release strategy should include the following:
- Creative direction for the project (design, marketing hook, etc.)
- A cast of creatives to help you match your timeline and their availability, i.e. Band members? Studio time? Mixing engineer?
- A checklist of pre-release essentials (artwork, metadata, etc.)
- A checklist of music promotion essentials (playlist pitching, PR, videos, etc.)
Collaborate with a similar artist
The great thing about Spotify is when a song is created by two artists it can show up on both artists’ profiles.
Finding an artist that is somewhat established (has more monthly listeners and followers than you) can be a great way to launch your presence on Spotify. Be sure to check with CD Baby on this to be sure both artists are represented as top-level artists (also known as “compound artists”), as opposed to just a “featured” artist.
A seamless example of this would be the Date Night/Chris Robley collaboration “True North.” As you can see the track shows on both of their profiles and both artists are credited:
These are four simple tips to make your music more effective on streaming platforms:
Get to the point – attention spans are shorter, so the quicker you can get someone hooked (by the chorus) the more likely they are to listen.
Don’t worry about length. Short songs are okay, and oftentimes preferable on streaming platforms.
Plan for success. Get your cast of creatives in order and make sure you plan for stardom. If it doesn’t happen, you’ve got more songs ready to release — so keep at it!
Lastly, work with other artists. It’s good for inspiration AND extra streams.
Have you made changes to your music since streaming has emerged?
Comment below on what you think works and what doesn’t.