I love SoundCloud. Our relationship has not been without friction. It was very hard for me to get used to the new SoundCloud, and the new platform can be brutally slow and glitch. But, I can confidently and honestly say that I would not have my modest following without it. No other audio platform can even come close to SoundCloud.
So what exactly is SoundCloud? The simplest way to describe it is a social network that revolves around sounds. Its major point of differentiation is the ability to comment directly at any point along artist’s waveforms. This gives creators and listeners the power to interact in a very intimate way.
Additionally, SoundCloud is beautiful. As much as the new platform frustrated me, its superior visual aesthetics cannot be denied. The way artwork is incorporated (especially on mobile platforms) allows creators to shape the listeners experience two-fold: both visually and sonically. And, the SoundCloud team is constantly working to make it even more beautiful.
SoundCloud not only allows creators to cultivate a more intimate relationship with their fans. In my experience, there is not one platform or social network that holds a candle to SoundCloud in terms of fostering collaboration between artists.
Artists are drawn to other artist’s music – that is what sparks collaboration. And SoundCloud is a one-stop shop, whether it be for exchanging files, or praise and criticism. I have collaborated with countless artists, virtually all due to SoundCloud. That’s followed (distantly) by spamming beats on Twitter (which doesn’t really even count as collaboration).
All this is why using SoundCloud as my go to platform for all releases is, to me, a no-brainer. But, after you’ve uploaded your creations to SoundCloud, what’s next? How do you get people to actually listen?
Before I start, I’d like to give you all just a little context. I’m not well connected, I don’t have many friends and I’ve spent virtually all my adult life broke and/or in debt. If you’re the opposite of me, you’ll probably get better results by leveraging your resources instead of following this guide. But if all you have is a bit of talent and spare time, follow these steps and I guarantee you’ll get results.
(1) Find underappreciated sounds and appreciate them! This is the best way to direct traffic to your profile. THE BEST. If you’re just starting out, the easiest way to find these sounds is through SoundCloud’s groups. Find an active group that features a style of music that you like and find sounds with very few comments. Listen. Comment. It’s that simple! You could also see what other up and comers (like me) are commenting on by going through our comment logs.
There are a few things you should keep in mind though. First, you never want to leave the impression that you’ve commented on a sound without actually listening. I can’t stress that enough. You don’t have to listen to the whole track to leave a valuable comment. But when you don’t listen at all, people will know. For example, when SoundClouders comment on a dozen songs in ten minutes – that’s a dead giveaway (remember: anyone can examine your comment log). One word comments are also a huge no-no in my books (ie: ‘trill’, ‘dope’, ‘fiyah’, etc.). I respond to every virtually comment left on my sounds, but not these.
Second, more thoughtful and creative comments tend to drive more traffic to your sounds. Generally, longer and more detailed/specific is always better (as long as there is no repetition). Didjelirium is the king of awesomely creative and interesting comments (feel free to check out his comment log for inspiration: http://soundcloud.com/
Another tip: search for SoundClouders in your city and show them love. If you’re like me, and your city does not have a vibrant music scene, then chances are there are many, many underappreciate yet talented creators that are waiting to connect with you.
(2) Utilize interesting and relevant artwork. Despite its name, SoundCloud is not just about sound – it’s at least 10% visual, and that 10% matters a lot. Using cool, thoughtful and catchy artwork is one of the best ways to get a potential listener to press play on a track that they don’t recognize. Make sure that the title, cover art and emotion of the record all complement each other.
There are countless digital artists out there who are just like you: talented and aching for exposure. You might even know one without even realizing it! The visual canvas that SoundCloud provides is an opportunity to start building relationships with up-and-comers like you. Take full advantage!
(3) Use SoundCloud’s groups. When you’re just getting started, this is a very effective, low effort way to get your first few listens, to get the ball rolling. If you have a professional account, send each track you upload to 75 relevant groups. Unsend and resend every week for best results.
(4) Be smart about what you repost. If you are a creator, you are shooting yourself in the foot if you are reposting other creators work, unless you contributed to it in some way. It doesn’t take long for your new sounds get buried in your follower’s streams. If people follow you to keep up with what you create, then you will dilute the attention they pay you by posting what others create.
But what if some of your followers follow you to hear not just what you create, but what you love to listen to? In this case, the best thing to do is create another account: a ‘fan’ account. Just keep these two things separate!
(5) Use sets to ‘repost’ your sounds. This is a clever technique, but it must be done in moderation. As I previously mentioned, it doesn’t take long for your sounds to get buried. SoundCloud used to allow you to ‘repost’ any of your sounds by making them private and then public again. Since that little trick has been disabled (it was brutally overused), the only alternative is to add a sound to a new set, which will be bring it back to the top of your follower’s streams. However, I must caution against overuse.
As artists and marketers, we toe the fine line of tasteful promotion and spam every day. If I’m following you, and you use this technique every day for a week after you’ve released a new sound, I’m probably going to unfollow you before the end of the week. But, if you use this technique once, one week after you first released the sound, I probably won’t even notice. This is why I strongly recommend not using this technique more than once or twice per sound.
In conclusion, a general rule of thumb when using SoundCloud is engage genuinely. In my experience, you get as much as you give multiplied by the quality and creativity of your sounds. That means that if you don’t give anything, you won’t get anything, regardless of how good you are. But, the beautifully democratic thing about the cloud is that the only resource you must give is time. Buying a pro account will help, yes, but if you don’t put in the time, it really doesn’t make much difference. This is why I love SoundCloud. There are no shortcuts. Put in time and you will be rewarded.