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Streaming…. the mystery of the algorithm...

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

It took forever to write this entry: I'm in a full immersion composition period and now that the new bunch is ready I decided to take a little break before I start recording and here we are with this post!

Huh, where to start on this topic…. well, probably from the beginning.

You already know that as part of the process I've spent countless hours online reading tons of articles regarding issues I was facing.

I'm not going to post any link I checked because I really went basic, typing on google "how to gain followers", "best strategy to be successful on Spotify" and so on….

I think the sky was the limit for my imagination compiling the more creative questions to the search engine and, not surprised, I found millions of information.

Repeatedly it was suggested to have a market expert to help your voice be heard. There were gazillions of people selling packages to promote your music, with thousands of real followers guaranteed; as a newbie the temptation was very strong not knowing what more to do more how.

Of course at first impact I didn't realize that the prices were per song, meaning that having a catalogue of 10 songs at the beginning it meant "whatever price X 10"…

I told myself that maybe one day I'd have taken that route but which one to choose at the right moment? That's a current question I continue to ask myself!

The only difference since day 1 is that I avoid pushy people that initially are nice but when you tell them that you need to think about it they become nasty and rude… I couldn't work with someone who doesn't respect me first, even if I'm an entity: if you don't respect me how could you respect my music? Well maybe this will be the subject for another entry.

Meanwhile my songs were out distributed on various platform like Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Amazon Music just to name a few of them and for me it was an entire new universe learning how to manage it.

I chose to focus on couple of platforms otherwise dealing with all of them and taking care of all of them would be a job per se and my goal is still to write music. But when you're a "one man band" you have to do everything and find the time to do it.

And the adventure began! First step suggested: looking for playlist curators!

I started browsing the social media platforms looking for them, reading profiles, listening to their music selections, writing to them directly asking to add my pieces. Some were and are true champions and fans and really enjoy my music and appreciate the work underneath, some were very kind and helpful ( meaning they just added my music with no feedback of any kind ), some other ignore the messages but no hard feelings, we are all busy and we all have our priorities.

In other cases I found curators on websites that offered "free placements" and, as usual, the "free" placement was not free, still back to the "buy the package but not guaranteed placement but we'll give you feedback for sure, if you pay"...

So I decided to create my own playlists and invite other people to join the trip and mostly tasting the water. Here the situation became more interesting because I got questions like " is this a streaming group?" "do you have playlists on all platforms?"…. and my reaction behind the screen was...

I had no idea what they were talking about, especially about "ALL THE PLATFORMS"… I thought Spotify was the ocean to swim in but apparently it's not the only one. The mystery about streaming groups was revealed pretty soon: streaming groups are groups where a bunch of people get together to stream and promote their songs so the numbers can grow.

I was excited at this idea thinking everybody play fair and everybody support each other, the never old "shake a hand we have a deal"….

Full of enthusiasm I embraced this new strategy, discovering that it's not that simple. I realized that being a playlist curator, especially when you start from scratch, it's a tough job because everybody complains about everything and, having a good heart, I always want to keep everybody happy.

I always make things clear. I learned quickly, that the goal should be to have lots of followers that, liking your songs, can do the heavy lifting for us instead of being 10 people with 10 songs streaming all day long multiple times but unfortunately I guess people nowadays want "everything and now" without looking to the big picture and thinking that it takes time: Rome wasn't built in a day, someone said!

Like in every business there are people that say "yes of course I will stream" but then the only thing they want is to be on a playlist and have other people doing the work. And we all know that's not fair.

On my part when I say I do something I do it or I don't commit, but we are all different and as consequence there were people taking advantage of some other's good faith, raising as I said, complains that at the beginning irritated me then I came to terms with it: it's part of the game and it's never personal.

Another thing I learned ( very naive of me!) is that while I want to help people no matter what, even that it can be complicated. " Would you mind take me off the playlist because the genre of your playlist is different and it messes up with the algorithm"…. that was another moment I was "algowhat?"…

Researching about the algorithm was interesting and frustrating at the same time: reading around the common opinion I got is that chances for independent artist to make it for good via streaming platforms are very slim because most of the major music labels control the market and have a big budget to promote their artists ( all the big names you can think of! ) that according to the news out there are placed in front of the little musicians with a home studio. Then it made sense why some fellow musicians were and are so sensitive about playing fair about the streaming, because every number count and I understand that now although I stick with my big picture theory.

Of course everybody's dream is to be "chosen" by the algorithm and end up in some editorial playlist curated by the platform, meaning that overnight you can reach possibly million of people, but I still have to figure out how to make it happen. No worries, I will :)

Among the millions advices from all the gurus online everybody says: "find your niche" for your genre. Good point, but I write what my heart says, one day can be hip hop, one day cinematic, one day ambient … I can tell why the algorithm looks at me like the dog above!

Wrapping up, what I've learned so far?

- There are people that really want to help you and they mean it when they say " let's support each other". It's refreshing to chat with people that are not afraid to genuinely share their experiences.

- There are people that don't follow up with their words and they say " let's support each other: you support me and you support yourself "…not cool… not cool

- It takes time and patience and it's mostly a long process. Personally I got very frustrated at the beginning but I decided to always channel the frustration onto creativity: it's easy to get discouraged but it's part of the game.

- Be true to yourself and believe in what you are doing: at the least expected moment something beautiful can happen ( and I saw story of people that finally made it to the editorial playlist and they were over the moon: so happy for them!)

- Don't be afraid to share your content, pages, ideas: it can seem annoying for you but you need to get the foot in the right door and only being persistent you can do it. That's why I'll always invite you to like my pages on Instagram, Twitter and Soundcloud and share them with your friends.

As I always say it's a working progress and every day you learn something new or a new aspect of something you thought you already knew. I have decided to stay positive and keep working on the music that is the most important thing for me and keep speaking my mind with my unfiltered opinions.

Until next time…. thanks for being here!

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