This is the story of a mediocre song. An objectively mediocre song. My song. Curse you, data!
If you’re looking for unbiased feedback on your latest track, you’ve got five options. Well, five-ish.
There’s SoundOut, which I wrote about way back in 2010.
Then there’s ReverbNation Crowd Review and TuneCore Track Smarts, both of which are powered by SoundOut.
Are all three SoundOut services the same? We’ll find out.
I reviewed AudioKite earlier this year, gushingly. A new and improved version launched just this month.
Finally, Music Xray offers a diagnostics feature, which presents your track to 5 music professionals and 20 potential fans.
Which is right for you?
Time for a good old-fashioned market research shootout!
Perhaps you don’t sell too many albums on iTunes, or have that many SoundCloud plays or YouTube views. But maybe, just maybe, your music is really popular in some far off corner of the digital universe you never even knew about, and all that “exposure” you’ve racked up over the years is paying off behind the scenes.
Next Big Sound provides detailed online music analytics to measure the growth of bands on streaming services and social networks. It doesn’t cover everything, but it casts a wide enough net to shatter an artist’s dreams with cold, hard data. I know it did mine! <sniff>
Cidney at NBS agreed to give me an artist credit for one month so that I could write this article, way back in April. Hopefully she’ll forget to downgrade my account.
Drag-and-drop online mastering is here, and it’s free to try. LANDR provides unlimited 192 kbps mp3 masters of your tracks in seconds.
If you like what you hear, you can pay for uncompressed 16-bit .wav masters. Pricing is very reasonable at $9 for four or $19 for unlimited masters per month. Paid users also get to select the “intensity” of the mastering: low, medium (the default), or high.
Their algorithms were refined over eight years of university research, and they even have a resident astrophysicist. An astrophysicist!
Guess this mastering engineer is out of a job, right?
Has this ever happened to you? You think you’ve written your best song yet, but an offhand remark from a friend plunges you into self-doubt. Wouldn’t it help to have feedback from music fans of your genre who have no incentive to sugar-coat their opinions?
Sure, you say! I’ll just use SoundOut, or ReverbNation Crowd Review (also powered by SoundOut). Unfortunately, my experience with SoundOut, and those of most of the commenters, left a lot to be desired. I’ve also received a mostly useless – but free – focus group from Music Xray, and even repurposed Jango aka Radio Airplay to create my own focus group.
AudioKite has built a better mousetrap. Here’s why:
Amazon Mechanical Turk. Listeners are enlisted from Amazon Mechanical Turk rather than SliceThePie, the listener end of SoundOut. I don’t know the nuts and bolts of the operation, but the end result is that listeners comment coherently and seem to actually listen to the whole song. There’s no sign that anyone is trying to game the system by listening to only the first minute and copy/pasting generic reviews.
I asked Alex of AudioKite to explain how they ensure listeners are actually listening. Here’s what he had to say:
ArtistLink started as an extension of the Topspin Media platform, so that non-Topspin users could add content to the MTV Artists site. It’s well on its way to becoming the control panel for the music industry.
I encourage any artist with a release on Spotify to sign up for ArtistLink. All essential functionality is free.
UPDATE 12/17/14: Spotify promotions through ArtistLink are no more. If you want to sell through Spotify, you’ll have to do it through BandPage.
As of this writing, ArtistLink is basically four services rolled up into one. I’ll go over each, starting with the coolest.
If you take a look at my Spotify profile on the desktop app or web player, you’ll see I’m selling stuff! Right there on Spotify! For free! Spotify doesn’t take a cut.
Even better, I’m selling from my own site!
You can add up to three promotions, directing each to the URL of your choice. For now, they only appear on the desktop app and web player – not the mobile apps.
Ever spotted a terrible video on YouTube with an inconceivably high view count? Of course you have. Would it make you feel better knowing that most of those “views” were completely automated and only lasted 30 seconds with the sound turned off?
Vagex (referral link), a hugely popular YouTube exchange platform, is largely to blame. Credits are so cheap that members sell 2000 views for $5 on eBay and Fiverr and still turn a profit. As countless “buy YouTube views” sites testify, the views are by real people, mostly in the US. Not the sort of people who actually watch the videos, much less pay for music, but they tend to leave that bit out.
If $5 is too rich for your blood, you can earn credits by downloading one of their free viewers and letting it “watch” videos for you in the background.
If you don’t have any videos of your own to promote, you can sell your credits back to Vagex directly. The current exchange rate is 26,730 credits for $1. That doesn’t cover the electricity cost of generating those credits, but clearly people are willing to do it, or the exchange rate would be more favorable.
Since the videos aren’t actually watched, the views themselves won’t generate new fans, but…
Earbits is a personalized streaming radio site focused on independents, with no ads or subscription fees. Like Jango, Last.fm, and Grooveshark, they sell airtime packages to artists. At around a penny a play, it’s a relative bargain, especially since they only charge for songs played past the 30 second mark. Put another way, $50 buys you a bare minimum of 42 listener hours.
That wouldn’t matter if there weren’t any listeners, and there wouldn’t be any listeners if Earbits were overrun with suck. Fortunately, the staff reviews and approves every artist (you can apply here). Judging from the music I’ve heard, the bar is pretty high.
On the listener end of things, the radio experience is engaging. The only “advertising” on the page relates to the band you’re listening to. A high resolution photo fills the screen, with play controls at the top and share buttons on the bottom. A bio and comments are a click away, and artists can craft a slide-out ad with whatever text they want. I’ve been linking to my free song downloads, but touring bands can target specific geographical regions to help sell tickets.
Earbits integrates with Facebook on many levels. Beyond sharing, liking, and commenting, you can invite friends to listen along with you, and your play history appears in your Facebook activity stream.