In January 2010, thesixtyone unveiled a complete redesign, eliminating the social aspects of the site. Predictably, long-time users revolted and eventually left. This article and the comments that follow provide a brief history of the rise and fall of the site. While you may still find it worthwhile to upload your material, there’s little you can do to influence your chances of success.
Update 2/2/16: It’s back! A few weeks ago, the site reverted to the version we know and love. While it’s not as popular as it was in its heyday, it’s still a lot of fun. All advice in this article still applies
thesixtyone is quite simply my favorite music site, both as a listener and and artist. Billing itself as “a music adventure,” t61 is like a massively multiplayer game, complete with reputation points, levels, quests, and achievements. It’s a fun way to discover and be discovered. The rules are constantly in flux, so I’ll omit the fine details and walk you through the broad strokes of establishing yourself as an artist.
Create a listener account. You’re given the option to convert it into an artist account, but don’t do it. You’ll need separate listener and artist accounts to effectively promote your music, because some crucial functions are only available to listeners.
Learn the basics. Select your genre in the right hand column and listen to some of the music in top songs and hot right now, under the popular tab. If you like a song, heart it! You’re given a daily allowance of hearts based on your level. Once you reach level 5, you can heart the same song multiple times. When you “max heart” a song, you’re rewarded with a loud “holy shit!” (which made me jump out of my chair the first time I heard it). As the song grows in popularity, you’re rewarded with reputation points. The earlier you heart a song, the more points you stand to earn. At some point the song may “hit the home page,” moving it from the browse tab to the popular tab and providing a large point bonus to supporters.
Complete your profile. Click the save link on your favorite songs to create your radio, which anyone can play from your profile page. Access your profile by clicking your name at the top of the screen. Show off your taste by picking three of your saved songs to feature. Upload an avatar and write a short bio. Make it clear that it’s the listener account for your band, or for you as an artist.
Make some friends. Explore profiles to find listeners with similar tastes. You can find suggestions under social>invite friends>suggested users, or just look at who’s hearting and commenting on your favorite songs. Unlike most social networking sites, you don’t need to request an add. Just click subscribe on a listener’s profile page. Like Twitter, the connection is one-way. If you leave a comment to introduce yourself, they might subscribe back.
Join a group. Large groups have tremendous influence on t61. Explore them under social>listener groups and find a good fit. Make sure the group is active and motivated. If you’re into electronic music, consider joining Electro Freaks. You won’t find a more passionate group of electronic/dance fans anywhere on the net. I can say without reservation that I owe all my success on the site to them.
I suggest getting to know the site as a listener for a week or two before creating your artist account. Gain some levels, complete some quests, and find some great music to share with your friends and your group. It’s a lot of fun!
Create an artist account. OK, you’ve had your fun. Now let’s get down to business! Remember, you want to create a new account. DO NOT convert your listener account to an artist account. Artists can’t join groups, and can’t comment on listeners’ profiles unless the listener hearts one of their songs.
Complete your profile. Upload photos and fill out your bio and maybe a news item or two, but DO NOT upload a song yet!
Tip off your group. Log in to your listener account. Go to your group page and let them know that you’re going to be uploading your first song in 10 minutes. Ask for their help and support, and link to your artist profile page (using standard HTML). Giving your friends a heads up allows them to reap the greatest rewards when the song succeeds.
Upload one song. Log in to your artist account. Upload one, and only one, song. Make it your best! Be sure to have a witty or interesting song “factoid” handy. If you choose to place the song in an album, use your profile pic as the album cover. You want everyone to see the same little icon next to all of your songs, so that they associate that image with you.
Get the word out. Log in to your listener account, go back to your group page, and link directly to your song. Hopefully group members have already found and hearted it. Soon it may appear on the group’s radio, generating more attention. Next, go to your artist profile (still logged in as a listener) and use the share link on your song to share it with friends that aren’t in your group.
Say thank you. After 24 hours, log back in to your artist account and go to your artist profile. Click on the commented x times link, then hearted by. Go to the profile pages of your biggest supporters and personally thank them. The site’s spam protection won’t allow you to copy and paste more than a couple times, so keep it fresh. Listeners like to see that the artist is personally involved, and some may even be starstruck.
Rinse and repeat. Wait until the initial hype dies down (at least a few days) to upload another song. You want to renew interest in your first song, but not compete with it. Everyone that hearted your first song will see the new one under artist uploads on the just for you tab. As you continue to upload new songs every week or two, you’ll gain more listeners to support your efforts. When one of your songs hits the home page, your listenership will grow even faster.
DON’T HEART YOUR OWN SONG. It’s bad form, and people will notice (though I’ve gotten away with hearting other artists’ remixes of my songs). Also, tone down the sales pitch. Listeners are there to enjoy the shared experience of music discovery. Blatant self-promotion pollutes the site and abuses the system.
Can’t I just create an artist account and upload my songs? You can, but you’ll reach more people in less time if you follow my advice. When someone hearts one of your songs, they bet on your success. If you don’t already have a track record of success, they’re less likely to bet on you. The best way to establish that track record is to build up support before you upload your first song, and hit the ground running!
This sounds like a lot of work. Why should I bother? If you have no interest in discovering new music, then you probably shouldn’t. If you do, t61 a great way to establish relationships with potential fans who share your tastes. I’ve made a lot of new Facebook friends, and yes, even a few sales. Last week I even got a request from a music publisher who heard my songs on t61. Just today t61 launched a patronage system, where I’ve already earned a couple bucks in tips. Your mileage may vary, so I suggest you give it a shot and see what happens!