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What Artists Should Know About Earbits

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.

As of this writing, Earbits’ average numbers across all bands are:

  • 1.2% Facebook fans conversion (best performing band 2.7%)
  • 2.4% clickthrough ratio on the slide-out ad (best performing band 8.1%)
  • 1% conversion of mailing list signup (best performing band 3.3%)

For every 1,000 spins, Earbits’ bands average 11 Facebook fans, 24 clicks on their slide-out ad, and 10 signups on their mailing list.

I’ve spent $270 on back-to-back airtime packages since December. Because of changes in the way data is collected, my stats during the beta period are unrepresentative, but my results have been consistent over the past couple of months (click to enlarge):

Color Theory on Earbits

For every 1,000 spins, I’m getting 13 Facebook fans and 33 clicks on my slide-out ad (the mailing list signup feature is a recent addition). I’m beating the average, but I’m nowhere near the best.

Looking at the data from another angle, I paid about $100 for 16,590 spins ($0.006 per spin) when you factor in plays less than 30 seconds. Since Earbits doesn’t charge for those, I’m getting 1/3 of my plays for free!

My $0.27 cost-per-click compares favorably to Facebook ads, which have ranged from $0.13 to $0.33 CPC. Even if I have to pay a little more, a click made while my song is playing is much more valuable to me.

Some people dismiss any form of pay-to-play as a scam, and consider it payola. Earbits is not a scam. You can submit your music and get free airplay – just not as much, and without the perks like slide-out ads and licensing opportunities. If you’re willing to pay for text ads on Google or Facebook, you might as well get the plays thrown in at about the same price.

Normally I’d make a few suggestions to improve the service, but things are changing by the week. Earbits just added the option to swap out the slide-out ad for a mailing list form, which I’m trying out. Soon they’ll add “layers” to the slide-out ad. For example, after a listener signs up for your mailing list, they’ll be presented with another opportunity to interact with the band.

I’m pretty sure they’re working on this, but I’d like to see my stats broken down by song, and for the best performing songs to be played more often. Taking that a step further, ideally the best performing songs would be played most often to first-time listeners, and the deeper cuts to returning listeners.

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about Earbits, and I plan to continue using it. You can help me do that by signing up through this link or via the banner below. I’ll get 1000 free spins and you’ll get a 10% bonus on the spins you buy. In return, I’ll keep you informed with my results and any new wacky uses I come up with, like I have with Jango (four articles over three years).

Share your stats and strategies in the comments!

Earbits 10% bonus spins

Update 7/25/12

A little over two months later, my campaigns are still running strong! My current 11,000 spin campaign was funded completely through the banner above. Thanks for using it! Here are my latest stats:

I’ve been experimenting with the slide-out ad “layers,” and recently switched back to the mailing list form. That’s definitely the way to go, for me at least. I’ve had 33 mailing list adds in the past 7 days!

Update 6/29/13

I’ve run campaigns pretty much continuously, and though plays have slowed down considerably, I continue to get a handful of email signups every week. Maybe things will pick up with the release of the Earbits Radio Android App.

75 thoughts on “What Artists Should Know About Earbits”

  1. Yet another well-written and informative article, Brian. I used your little earbits banner above to submit my songs. I'll let you know how it works out.

  2. The layout reminds me of t61 too, but I've had zero traction there since the redesign. As far as I know, there's no way to get extra plays on t61 beyond what occurs organically/algorithmically.

  3. Brian Hazard True. But you know what I'm talking about. The experimental stuff that makes you wonder "what were they thinking?" till you give it a chance and figure out it's really good in its own way. The stuff that grows on you in other words. I kind of have this need to be challenged. If I hear too many things in a row that I like right away without thinking, I will start to get bored. I know I'm far from typical.

  4. I admire that you still take the time to dig into that kind of stuff. It's too easy these days to focus on the new, and it's rare that an album gets three plays from me.

  5. Brian Hazard It's not always about albums. Sometimes it's just some weird artist that keeps cropping up in a mix. Or a song I thought I didn't like that I hear later on and realize I actually love it. Legendary Pink Dots have a lot of songs that affect me that way. They're as non-commercial as they come, but they make it work with a serious cult following. I think life is still probably hard for them, but they don't stop.

  6. Good article Brian. Our group, Block Scholars, has seen some success using Earbits. Having free music to download gets you more listeners. I have our slideout on Earbits go our bandcamp page for free downloads. From there, we can see what songs people download the most…

  7. That's exactly what I was doing before I switched over to the mailing list slide-out. I'm not sure if it's more effective to get the email addresses direct or via the free downloads.

  8. Hey Peter – I am curious what you think Jango does better than us. They have more traffic, sure, but I think our service is designed from beginning to end with artists in mind. Almost every artist we work with who has tried both says our service is better. What do you think is better about them?

  9. Peter, I am subscribed to both Jango & Earbits as a band/group. Are you or is your band on Earbits? I am curious if you have tried both. I've seen more success in people actually downloading our albums and going to our pages from listening to Earbits than on Jango and our group has a big following on Jango. I get tired of the artists spamming to get their music heard on Jango. Earbits promo program is light years ahead of Jango because Earbits doesn't count a play less than 30sec as a play, so you don't pay for that play. Jango doesn't do that. You get more "bang for your" buck at Earbits and we indie artists need to make our dollar count for something…

  10. They choose and know good artists where you guys screen but really don't research artists, just to give you an example A friend of mine sent you a song …..these guys are on a Label being played with the likes of Radiohead, Black keys and on stations like KROQ, KFMA LIVE 105.3 and and many more specialty and commercial radio and you guys would not play them~
    for what reason …I don't know ……if big stations are playing them and you guys will not there is something wrong and they kick butt~ Hear them live on Commercial Radio FM>>>~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BNLxBjJmsU…………….cheers~

  11. Thanks for the article Brian. Seems like you're in every music service!

    My band's music hasn't got approved yet, but from a fan's perspective, I'd say that Earbits is the best listener's experience I've had so far. This is how I can imagine the future 'radio' to be, engaging with fans is multi-levels, providing opportunities to sign up for a band without much hassle (if you're logged in with facebook, you just have to click the submit button).

    The affiliate system paying out with credits looks right, I'd definitely suggest my music community to join.

    Now the music selection of Earbits is really impressive, quality stands out and I've already found lots of addictive tunes in there (hope my band joins the company too!). I have some suggestions to make as well, but I'm sure they'll work on more additions in the future.

    Any update on your stats Brian?

  12. I love earbits. they've created a really great design, and user-friendly, personal approach. A problem I have is with the fb linking to my fb music page. If I click the newly acquired fan, I can't follow up on facebook from my music page. I can email them thru the earbits sign-up but I'd like to be able to follow up on fb. Am I missing something here? Thanks any help appricated!

  13. I totally know what you mean Louise! You can see your recent likes from the page admin, and click through to their profile, but you can only message them from your personal profile. I thought about thanking new likers one at a time, but decided it was too intrusive and not worth the work. After all, by clicking "like," they only opted in to updates from my page.

  14. I haven't spent much time on the listener end, so I'm pleased to hear it's all that! I've just updated my stats above. I expect many more mailing list adds in the next few weeks since replacing my slide-out add with the mailing list form!

  15. Great article. I too am a big fan of Earbits and have had success. Just curious. What is your strategy as far as how many song you play? Do you play one or two or do you throw your whole catalog in there and see what happens?

  16. Going really well so far! 250 spins and 12 new likes. I've gone on to read your whole blog. The info is not only really valuable, but your writing is entertaining too. Looking forward to more articles.

  17. Well I can offer a review of Jango based on what I have experienced over a 6 month period(I just signed up today for Earbits)..Positives on Jango: Inexpensive, radio plays, listeners provide email address, two mass emailing to fans, matched up with "sound like" listeners.NEGATIVE: The NEGATIVE is why I cancelled my paid plays. After 6 months I ended up with over 300 fans and email addresses HOWEVER, NONE of them translated in other social media, NONE of them interacted with my twitter, Facebook, YouTube or etc..which made me question if these FANS were even real? A lot had NO profile picture and weird names. I have a huge percentage of my own fans that go between all my forms of social media(ex if then they follow on Twitter they like on FB, or sub on YouTube) none of that happened with my "Jango fans" I think the biggest issue is that listeners on Jango are there for the free plays on the artists they ALREADY know…In six months I will come back and give my review of Earbits..

  18. Thanks for sharing your experience Lexi! I agree that most Jango users are there for free radio plays of artists they already know. My take, and perhaps this is unfair, is that they are not very tech-savvy. Otherwise they'd be on Spotify, right? ;) I've got 13K "fans" there, and a very small percentage make the jump to Facebook and/or Twitter. Still, I hear from many who do! I value the 1200 mailing list signups I've had so far the most.

  19. Well I decided to come back a little early to give my feedback on Earbits. I would say that I will not be renewing my plays once they are done. Sadly as a teen artist, what I didn't get on Jango(Which was communication with the listeners) I MORE than get with Earbits and not in a good way. My genre is Pop and I was hoping to increase my fan base within my market which is tween-young adult, INSTEAD I got a bunch of OLDER men from who knows what countries hitting on me on my fan page and sending me DMs. Frankly disgusting and I WOULDN'T even consider using the mailing list that I got. I think I will just stick to SoundCloud, iTunes, Concerts and my social media to get my music out.

  20. Sorry to hear you've stumbled upon the "perv" demographic! ;) I'm sure unwanted advances will continue to be an issue on Twitter and Facebook as your popularity grows. Personally, I wouldn't dump the whole list over a few bad apples. Considering your market, I suggest focusing on YouTube.

  21. this virtual world is a bit new to me….and I have a new self financed CD out…but I'm not quite sure how Earbits works…is it not the case that the artists are paying for 'spins' and collecting 'likes' in exchange…but in 99 out of 100 cases those likes don't add up to much (in terms of earning a living). so not only do I pay for recording and manufacture I am also paying for airplay? and I get nothing back in exchange…..other than a print out of likes and shares…but that don't help me recoup costs…does it?

  22. Haven't you ever heard a song, liked it, and bought the CD? I see no reason why yours couldn't be that song to someone else. All those likes and email address shares are grants of permission to communicate with fans you otherwise wouldn't have. What to do with them is up to you!

  23. I just got a surprise "approval" from Earbits, after submitting my music about 2 years ago. Figured instead of writing off the very "sales-man-like" approach, I'd give it a google search and find some info from an artist's perspective.

    I'm willing to throw my stuff online for free, but I'm still not sure I'm interested in paying for such isolated exposure.

  24. I use FanBridge too. I'd definitely include Earbits in the equation, but it doesn't move fast enough to generate momentum for a new release. Maybe throw Facebook Ads or Promote It in the mix? When/if you can handle more social media, and assuming you already have http://www.yourname.com with a decent site or as your Tumblr, I'd next look at adding YouTube, Twitter, and maybe SoundCloud.

  25. mmmm Brian……I can see that there might be some link…especially if the folk on your mailing list actually attend your gigs. Do you agree that there is also a possibility a musician might not be able to pay the rent with 'likes'?

  26. Agree completely. My point is that you simply can't expect to make more money in sales than you spend on advertising, regardless of the platform. If it's a question paying the rent or dumping money into music promotion, by all means pay the rent! :)

  27. Considering your sound and budget, I'd focus on selling CDs at performances. I don't see anything at tomhouston.com or tomhoustonmusic.com, so that needs to be addressed pronto. I don't recommend spending a penny on promotion until your digital house is in order – your own site, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and maybe SoundCloud, plus a mailing list. I estimate I'd be lucky to generate $4000 on a new album right now, and I've been building an audience for 18 years. $9000 is a tall order!

  28. Brian
    That's realistic advice.

    youtube is 16sillyducks
    and I have soundcloud

    http://tomhoustonmusic.bandcamp.com/

    Is my main site..with soundcloud and reverbnation there too…I probably have an audience of six if I'm lucky.
    The project…well it was a once in a lifetime thing….something that on my deathbed I can say…well at least I did it. At age 58 I guessed I had one last fling..although the songs (for good or for bad) keep coming. 1000Cds will be produced in February. I reckon the chances of something financial happening are very slim..so I'm in it for the adventure, but don't want to fail for lack of effort….just lack of talent!

    Ps thanks for replying to my posts….you seem like a guenuine guy…Ps do you reckon I need a specific web site? I'm thinking that bandcamp/reverbnation does with a bit of facebook to annoy my friends and for invites.

  29. You don't look 58 Tom!

    I guess the question is: are you willing to put in several hours a week to building an audience? If this is indeed a last fling, it may not be worth the trouble.

    But if so, yeah, you need a "real" site! Following the "hub and spokes" model, your site should link to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and SoundCloud and your activity on those sites should direct fans back to your own site – which you update on a regular basis with news and other interesting goings-on. All the while, you're gathering subscribers to your mailing list, who also need to be kept in the loop.

    It's a lot of work, and it takes perseverance and dedication. If the goal was to have something you created to hold in your hands, mission accomplished! Whether it sells or doesn't sell, it's an achievement.

  30. The only problem I've come across with these services is the genre listings are just too dumbed-down: where would someone like Sufjan Stevens be listed: folk? Pop? It doesn't fit – and as a listener I wouldn't go to either to hear his/my kind of music. And the alternative "Other" category is just too broad. It's my biggest frustration and the thing that's kept me away.

  31. No, they give you a list of genres you must place yourself in — a fairly short list too. I've been stuck in the folk genre before, and then all the traditional folk people click on and then right away when they don't hear that Americana sound. I need something more like "singer-songwriter" — that's a term where listeners expect sounds that encompass, say, a Fiona Apple or a Rufus Wainwright. Or me!

  32. Looking at your site, you direct fans to iTunes and Amazon. I'd set up Bandcamp and sell direct, giving away a free track to build your mailing list. I'd also simplify your site and remove the fan forum, because its disuse makes a bad impression. Once you've got your house in order, I'd give Earbits a shot! Right now I'm doing Earbits, Jango, Twitter ads, and the occasional Promoted Post on Facebook.

  33. I just started earbits this afternoon and found Ian C. Bouras – Purchased his album "A cure for Reality" on cdbaby.com about 4 hours later. While the site isn't perfect it is one of the best I have found and I expect we will be hearing more about it in the future. Good album too by the way.

  34. We have been offered Earbits plays. As an act that is seeking (above most things) conversions into live performance attendees in our territory (Melbourne, Australia, and other cities in Australia), is there anyway in Earbits to focus geographically?

  35. Hey Brian – any update on the usefulness of Earbits? I have a profile there, and was considering buying 1K spins, but I’m finding their interface a little inscrutable, and can’t tell whether it’s really the best bet for my specific goal (mailing list signups).

    Are you still getting decent ROI there in terms of building your mailing list?

    Thanks!

  36. Thanks for the response, Brian. I think that’s all I need to know about Earbits for now…

    Glad to hear that giving away an older track is working so well for you. I’m assuming that’s working because (aside from having great music) you’ve built such sizable social followings and you’re blasting your offer out to Twitter, Facebook, etc. Is that right?

    Also, I read on one of your other comment threads that you’re using Twitter ads to get followers for $.01 each – can you say anything about how you’re achieving that? Simply only bidding that amount, or some other, trickier method?

    Thanks again!

    1. Most of the downloads come from my mailing list, which is around 5500 right now. But yeah, I blast it out to social media too.

      As for Twitter, there was a time where I was paying a few bucks a day for hundreds of followers! Now I don’t get any traction at $0.02. No tricks. It was set for global if memory serves. Maybe it was a glitch and they caught on, or maybe bidding is just more competitive now.

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