Devo got loads of press by letting fans choose everything from the songs on their new album to the color of their hats. If you’re secure enough to make your own wardrobe decisions, you can get useful feedback on your songs by conducting a focus group on Jango. It only cost me $75 to play 12 of my songs to targeted listeners 3,000 times in a single day. The information I gleaned helped me select which track would open my new album, and persuaded me to cut two others.
Jango added tons of useful features since I first wrote about it back in April of 2009. In a nutshell, you pay to have your music played alongside big name acts on an internet radio site boasting 7 million listeners. While it’s far from perfect, it’s the best passive promotion that I know of. I’ve invested nearly $1,000 of my own money in Jango campaigns over the past year and a half, and reinvested everything earned from my affiliate link (please use it if you’re not already signed up), maybe $500. I doubt I made all that money back in sales, but dozens of Jango listeners bought albums, friended me on Facebook, and followed me on Twitter. 138 of them volunteered their email addresses, which I immediately added to my mailing list. In other words, Jango listeners are real people who may become real fans.
Conducting the focus group isn’t much different from any other Jango campaign:
- Set your targets. If you only want to hear from female fans of The National, age 25-34, you can do that. I only used the free “basic geo targeting” to select the countries I routinely receive physical CD orders from. Your most important decision is which artists to target. Rather than opting for the old-school 80’s synthpop bands like Depeche Mode and New Order, I focused on current electronic acts like Owl City and La Roux.
- Upload your material. Two of my new album tracks were already playing on Jango, so I emailed email@example.com to give them links to new mp3s for those tracks, plus the other 10. I also asked them to remove all but three of my earlier songs. Erin responded within a few hours, and within two days, all my new songs were live and the old ones disabled.
- Allocate plays. If you’ve already allocated credits to some of your focus group songs, you should remove those and wait a day to separate your old results from your focus group numbers. Then allocate plays evenly across the songs in question. I bought 4,000 plays for $100, then allocated 250 per song = 3,000 plays.
- Pace your plays. I allocated my plays at midnight EST, selected “fastest possible,” and burned through all 3,000 by mid-afternoon. Would slower pacing produce better results? My guess is that it would, but that’s just a hunch.
- Tally the scores. When your allocated plays run out, go to Reports/Play Stats and select your focus group songs one at a time from the drop-down menu on the right. Calculate the percentage of song likes to total plays, rather than just paid plays, since some organic plays will likely be mixed in as well.
- Remove the songs. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to remove all the songs, except perhaps the top scorers. You don’t want your fans previewing the whole album before release! I didn’t mention my focus group to anyone, and it flew completely under the radar.
Your results may surprise you! My absolute favorite track was the least liked, with a 7% like/play ratio (no, it doesn’t have a bridge). A song that I thought was good-not-great was the clear winner at 14.5%. In the name of science, I ran the exact same campaign again. There was some movement, but the general trend was the same.
So did I cut my favorite song from the album? No way! It was one of the two songs that were on Jango before the focus group, and those two got the lowest scores. My guess is that some of the listeners already heard the song, and maybe even clicked the “like” button previously. Scoring those two songs by all-time likes over all-time plays helped bring them in line with the rest.
The vast majority of plays on my Bandcamp page are the first track of my latest album, so any song in that position needs to be a grabber! My focus group unequivocally told me which song to use, and made me feel secure in my decision to cut two of the weaker tracks, which I’ll save for a follow-up EP. As a side benefit, I got three pages of new comments on my profile, and 23 listeners shared their email addresses over the course of the two campaigns.
My all-time stats: 91103 plays (73682 paid), 8067 total likes, 3275 fans, 3352 views
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.