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An Open Letter to Musicians: Lemme Hear It!

By Published: March 20, 2012
That first 30 second sample is a big one, but it's not your only shot. If I like what I hear on that first sample, I let it play to the second. If I listen to the first two samples of your album in their entirety, I put you on my list. I keep a weekly list of artist and album names to investigate later. If you don't do much of anything in that first sample and don't piss me off with your music, I'll often skip ahead to the second and then third sample. If your music doesn't irritate me in those first couple song sample fragments, I'll put you on the list with a "maybe" designation after it. If you irritate me with your music in the first sample, I don't bother listening to anything more. I move on to the next album. It may not be fair, but that's where we're at. There is so much music out there and so little time to go through it all. We live in a world that has pretty much imposed a 30-60 second shot clock on how much your songs play on a retail site... respect that limit and keep it in mind when you construct your album. Keep in mind that the first 30 seconds are the first, and perhaps, only impression you'll get to make on a listener. Let's move on...

Okay, so now I've gone through a ton of jazz new arrivals. I have my list. Here's where my advice, and this article, becomes relevant. Here's what I do:

I begin searching for internet sites where I can hear something more of your music than just 30 second samples. I'll Google your name and see if you have a web site. If you do, I immediately look for a page on your site to stream your music. If you have a place where you stream all or most of your new release, I think a nice thought of you and I listen to it. If I really like the first couple songs, then I make a couple notes on my list, and then I'm done with you for the time being. You've made it to the next round. If I'm not sold yet, I keep listening, giving your music every opportunity to connect. If I'm not liking your music so much, I still continue listening. If you give me the opportunity to listen to your music in full, I will give you every opportunity to prove to me that I should keep listening.

Let's say I don't like the album and you don't make it to the next round on my list. Lemme tell you why that's not the end of the world. I bookmark sites. I have different bookmark folders with links to sites that let me stream in full. I will return to your site. I will return to give your current album another listen, I will return to your site to see if you're coming to a town near me, and I will return to see if you have a newer release coming out, one that might better connect with me. This process I'm currently explaining, it's not the only method I utilize to discover music. I also have bookmark nights, when I go back through what I've heard before and give it another shot. I have strong anecdotal evidence of artists who had an album I didn't like suddenly becoming my new favorite artist with a later release. And, sometimes, making that connection with a later album has me re-evaluating my relationship with the earlier album. Sometimes, once that connection is made, it translates on to future albums and back to past ones. This has happened. Repeatedly.

Okay, let continue with #4, but we'll set up the scenario that you don't have an artist site or you don't stream music on your artist site. These days there are less and less tech excuses not to stream on your site, but that will be a subject for a different article. For now, let's just continue on with this scenario.

So, I struck out on your website. I now turn to specific trusted third-party sites where I am confident that I can stream music in full and the site won't spam me or unload some ungodly virus onto my hard drive. My first two choices are Bandcamp and SoundCloud.

For those unfamiliar with either of those sites, Bandcamp is a very cool retail site that is very self-driven by the artist, and I've been told that as far as music retailers go, the musician rate on sales ain't bad. It's a lot like Myspace but without all the social nonsense and spam. What I like about it is that 99% of the artists who list there use the functionality of full streaming of music. SoundCloud isn't so much a music retailer as a music showcase tool, but the end result is the same... a huge percentage of the musicians who are on SoundCloud stream their album in full (or near about).

(Note: Artists who only provide song samples on Bandcamp and SoundCloud stand out like a festering thumb.)


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