James Blunt, relaxing at home. He's on Youtube, y'know. And he used to be in the Army.
Okay, so you lucked out and somehow managed to slip one past Geoff Smith and get a spot play on Radio 2. Millions of listeners all over the UK have just heard your 3 minutes of radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul. Which means you’re now going to sell a load of singles, yeah?
As is ever the case with these articles, dear reader, the answer is no (and sorry about that). What will probably happen is this: around 0.01% of the people who heard Jeremy Vine interrupt calls from inane members of the public to play your song might be interested in hearing the tune again - but for free. And if they like it enough, then they might consider paying to download the track (or, since it’s Radio 2 listeners we’re talking about, see if they can find a 78 in an antiques shop in Rye). Either way, when they've got a little more acquainted with your music they may, heaven forbid, finally take the plunge and purchase your whole album. The main thing is: they've got to be able to hear that radio-friendly song again.
Now, they probably won’t hear it again on Radio 2, because there is an awful lot of James Blunt to play and you really used up all your luck by nicking that 3 minutes off him in the first place (heavens, his mummy will be ringing in to complain next). But, James Blunt aside, 0.01% of 8 million people is still quite a lot of listeners – 80,000 in fact – so you’ve got to make it as easy as possible for those half-interested people to find that catchy little ditty of yours.
Obviously some of them will go looking for the song on Spotify – a good reason to have singles up there, even if you’re reluctant to let people stream your whole album for free – but not everybody uses Spotify, and it's unavailable in a truckload of countries anyway. Put Spotify to one side, because there is an arguably far more important streaming site which bands often overlook: Youtube.
The reason Youtube is often ignored by bands is because they simply don’t have the budget, time or ability to make videos for their songs. Rather understandably, they therefore think Youtube, because it is a video hosting site, is irrelevant. Big, big mistake.
Here’s why: Youtube has, in internet terms, been around for ages and is so famous that even Radio 2 listeners have heard of it, and – gosh – use it extensively. They use it for two reasons: (a) to look at videos of cute cats and (b) to access the biggest repository of free pop music ever known to mankind. Let’s momentarily ignore the cats and ram point (b) home: Youtube is synonymous with pop music, and even in the Spotify era, people simply expect to find any song they have even half-heard of on Youtube. As such, your radio-friendly-two-tone-emo-shoe-gazing-nu-metal-folk-soul effort needs to be there.
BUT WE DON’T HAVE A VIDEO FOR IT, I hear you scream (in capitals, obviously). WE CAN’T AFFORD A VIDEO, you shout. WE READ YOUR LAST BLOG POST AND YOU TOLD US NOT TO MAKE A VIDEO IF WE WEREN’T MARTIN SCORSESE. Well, so what. Look up any Beatles song on Youtube. The biggest band in the history of rock didn’t really make videos – thank god, or the mullet would have arrived 15 to 20 years earlier – but nonetheless, you’ll find any Beatles track, no matter how obscure, on there. You'll no doubt encounter a video of Polythene Pam made by a mad bearded fan: the song will play to a home-made photo montage of images involving said mad fan sporting latex and covered in cream. All for the delight of you, dear reader. And yes, it will have been seen by 656,234 people.
Latex aside, if you don’t have a video, you can – and should - do something similar with that song of yours. Get some tasteful pictures of your act together, do a little montage using Windows Movie Maker or iMovie, and upload the opus to Youtube. If you’re too broke to have even done a photoshoot with the band, you could think about accompanying your song with some stock footage from iStock; using random-but-arty lo-fi video footage you shot on your phone; as a last resort, just whack something up containing some text against a black background (the song lyrics perhaps). Or a picture of Cliff Richard at Wimbledon.
The key thing is: get your music on Youtube in some shape or form. It’s still a major go-to point for potential fans, and at the end of the day, if you do get any airplay, there will be an expectation amongst the people who heard your music that you will be on there. And if you’re not, that 0.01% of Radio 2 listeners are going to just shrug their shoulders and go back to Blunty.
If you found the above useful, you may also like to read our article about using Youtube cover versions to raise your band's profile.