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« Artist will put a tag cloud on her back to raise money for her next album. | Main | iTunes and AIG? Don’t think so. »
Wednesday
Apr012009

Is a Last.fm Powerplay campaign right for you?

In my previous post on Last.fm, I promised to follow up with the results of my Powerplay campaigns, which target a set number of radio plays to a particular group of users. Four packages are currently offered: $20 for 100 plays, $100 for 500 plays, $200 for 1,000 plays, and $400 for 2,000 plays. Since the per-play price is the same ($0.20), I opted for the cheapest.

Powerplay results

I record electronic pop with hints of classical piano under the name Color Theory. To help determine my target demographic, I created three Powerplay campaigns, staggered over three weeks. The first was aimed at fans of The Postal Service (the electronic side project of Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard). I also included two indie electronic bands with young audiences: PlayRadioPlay! and Owl City. I chose my song “We’re Not Getting Any Younger,” which had already proven itself by winning #1 in the Electronic category at Ourstage.

Color Theory - We’re Not Getting Any Younger

Campaign #1 Results: The Postal Service, PlayRadioPlay!, Owl City
77 Users listened to the whole track, and of those Users, 1 Loved the track
23 Users skipped the track or did not listen to it to the end, and of those Users, 0 Banned the track

Next, I targeted the same song to fans of Depeche Mode, which tend to be closer to my age (or to put it in music industry terms, “old”).

Campaign #2 Results: Depeche Mode
68 Users listened to the whole track, and of those Users, 2 Loved the track
29 Users skipped the track or did not listen to it to the end, and of those Users, 0 Banned the track

Finally, I targeted “If It’s My Time to Go” to fans of Yazoo, who haven’t put out an album since 1983. The song was named Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, so I believe it’s at least as strong a track as “We’re Not Getting Any Younger.” Yazoo fans appear to disagree. One even banned the song.

Color Theory - If It’s My Time to Go

Campaign #3 Results: Yazoo
62 Users listened to the whole track, and of those Users, 2 Loved the track
38 Users skipped the track or did not listen to it to the end, and of those Users, 1 Banned the track

While the three sets of results aren’t dramatically different from each other, it’s probably safe to say that college kids are at least as enthusiastic about my music as their parents are. Still, would it be smarter to target my efforts at the generation of fans who still buy CDs? Since Last.fm users can stream almost anything for free, do they even pay for music anymore? Should I worry about selling at all, or position myself for a stream-on-demand future? You ask a lot of questions!

OK, so a Powerplay campaign can help you choose which songs to promote to which audiences, but will it generate more unpaid plays? Is there any hope of recouping the cost in sales down the line? Based on the numbers I’ve seen so far, the answer to both questions is no.

Last.fm listeners

My new album was released in November, but didn’t reach iTunes until the end of the year. From the beginning of the year through the first campaign launch on March 2, I averaged 150 unique listeners per week. In the four weeks since, I averaged 225. 75 extra listeners per week times four weeks equals 300, which is exactly what the three campaigns paid for.

Factoring in other stats muddies the waters. Radio plays are up, but on-demand plays are down. Plays scrobbled is way up, but I’ve been consistently scrobbling the album overnight. What I can say for sure is this: I can’t trace a single sale, e-mail, or friend request on any network to my promotion efforts at Last.fm.

So is a Last.fm Powerplay campaign right for you? That depends. If you’re an established artist, paid promotion might not make a dent in your numbers. If you haven’t released anything yet, you should probably wait to launch the promotion as part of a broader effort. If you’ve got an album or two under your belt, but low numbers on the site, it might be worth paying to jump start the process. Still, you’ll get more bang-for-your buck at Jango, where you can buy radio plays at one-tenth the price. Details of my 5,000 play campaign coming soon!

Brian Hazard is a recording artist with fifteen years of experience promoting his seven Color Theory albums. His Passive Promotion blog emphasizes “set it and forget it” methods of music promotion. Brian is also the head mastering engineer and owner of Resonance Mastering in Huntington Beach, California.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.

Reader Comments (11)

We (Eight to Infinity) did two Powerplay campaigns for 2000 users when we launched Aether in 2007:

“Travelogue”
1598 Users listened to the whole track, and of those Users, 14 Loved the track
405 Users skipped the track or did not listen to it to the end, and of those Users, 12 Banned the track

“Say You’ll Come”
1233 Users listened to the whole track, and of those Users, 12 Loved the track
771 Users skipped the track or did not listen to it to the end, and of those Users, 67 Banned the track

Of all the statistics the only important one was the “Loved the track” stat, which increased the number of streams by almost exactly that amount per week.

So 660 euros bought Eight to Infinity 26 extra streams per week. We never get stats for our record company, and so I’ve no idea if that translated into sales. I suspect not, and even if it did, @ 100% success rate, it would have cost more than we earned.

If there was some way to scale it up though, it suggests that of everyone you play your track to, .75% love it. Your revenue comes from that .75 % . how many of that less than 1% are going to make a purchase ? My guess would be about 10%, tops. So thats an potentially 0.075 % sale enhancement. For 660 Euros, I enhance my sales by 4000s time 0.075 = 300 units.

Profit on 300 units would be 1500 Euros if I sell the CD's for 10 euros each and make 5 euros on each unit.

That would be great.

But if the person just buys the track from Itunes becasue they like it, for a retail price of one euro, itunes take a cut, cdbaby take a cut, and the label takes a cut, I get maybe 30 cents.

so now i have 300 x .030 Euros = 90 Euros for my 660 euro investment.

In fact, If I could release it straight to BitTorrent, at least I wouldn't lose as much money : by giving it away, i'd effectively be up 550 euros.

You begin to see why the majors dont like the model where you download individual tracks from albums.

So you can only lose money with Powerplay IMHO. I suspected as much when I did them, but I find the %age of loves per track a useful guide as to how “sticky” your music really is.

The target audience we used was every popular and underground electronic vocal band we could find, From DM down to B! Machine.

April 1 | Unregistered CommenterArron Clague

I don't really believe that the pay X for Y plays model works at all. Given that people generally need to hear a song multiple times before they'll even consider buying the track, playing your song once to a group of, say, a 1000 people seems rather pointless to me.

I would like to see a service where I could, say, play a song 5 times to the same group of people. I bet that would dramatically increase the chances of those plays turning into actual purchases.

It would also be nice if the service could somehow filter out people who aren't likely to make a purchase anyway, although I doubt if Last.fm has such data...

As it stands, however, from my point of view the PowerPlay campaigns are nothing but a good way to waste money if you have too much of it already.

April 2 | Unregistered CommenterJim Offerman

Generally i agree with Jim Offerman, heavy rotation brings sales. But to know, what translates into sales and what not, you need something like statistics from iTunes Store with information on referring URLs, views, purchases etc.

April 2 | Unregistered Commenterminimum

Powerplay is a total and utter rip off for new bands. I have done 6 power play campaigns already and it has done nothing for me. And I've even got better returns on "plays forced on people" than you guys! Example...

100 plays: Over 80 heard them, about 20 skips and the odd one or two love our track.

I've done this with 3 of our tracks and at first I was really glad to see a traffic spike.

But for unsigned/starter bands Power Play is a complete waste of money. Last.fm sell you a promise and then rip you off. Not so cool at all.

Atul from
DonkeyBox
(Metallica and Greenday doing the funky chicken dance with Nickelback)

It's disheartening to see that others have had similar results, but I suppose it's nice to see that my results "scale."

It would be sweet if Apple offered a similar program to target people who buy through the iTunes store. That way I could focus on people who BUY Depeche Mode rather than just listen to their songs. Then again, that may not work either. A few years back, I handed out promo CDs to people in line to buy DM concert tickets, and never got even a nibble.

April 3 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

I just ran across this post via another blog and I have to say the reason that you're not seeing sales from your Last.fm payola campaign is that these songs suck. The production is boring, amateurish. The lyrics are banal. I wouldn't listen to this if you paid me directly.

You may be right Chad. I'm just lucky the judges at Ourstage and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest appreciate amateur production and banal lyrics. Where might one go to admire your superior works?

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

Name one successful artist who won these schlocky contests and then you might be getting somewhere.

April 17 | Unregistered CommenterSceptic

So the music is good, regardless of what that hater has to say. I would enjoy hearing these tunes with the likes of The Postal Service without an issue.

The problem with Last.FM and other forms of "DEAD" radio, is that they have no life to them (which is why I call them dead). If you turn on the Postal Service radio station, and start cleaning your house or go about the rest of your day, you may hear a track by Color Theory and never think about it again.

You have no idea that the songwriter is a stand-up chap who has won song writing contests and now has an album available on iTunes. Ok, so DJs can be bloody annoying, but I find listening to an endless stream of music hard on the ears.

It's like if this blog only had links to things you found interesting, some of which paid to be there. Would that really rocket your blog to number one to be featured there?

My suggestion for success will always be playing shows, I know that is not an option for all musicians, but that's my shallow minded thought on the matter.

May 5 | Unregistered Commenterjay

Jango is actually a great tool. But a lot depends on your music and the demographic.

We put 3 bands on there.

Zenyth
Walk.DontWalk &
Isaac's Aircraft from our roster.

We initially did the 300 free plays option for all bands most of this was limited to the USA.

Isaac's Aircraft had 12 Likes and secured 4 New Fans. They are an out and out UK indie band.

Walk.DontWalk are a Indie/Ska band and had 21 Likes & 4 New Fans.

Zenyth are a rock band that do really suit the USA market and there stats were a lot better and had 32 likes and 8 new fans.

I think its a great way to get new music out there, Plus its far cheaper than a Radio Plugger!

May 16 | Unregistered CommenterJames

IF MUSICIANS would support,download,and pull a fan base together
united,just think of the power thousands of us have to HELP bring
sales..ITS ABOUT BEING POPULAR..not good..

or does BOOMBOOM BOOM #1 by blk eye peas ---...make you go AH YEAH
THATS WHAT i make music to sound like!! hello??????

LOVE,UNITE

and if your curious...go poke me angel- funk baby ( album title)

BE KIND....

January 12 | Unregistered Commenterda angel

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