This post has been completely updated. Click here to read the update.
If you want to be semi-scientific about music promotion, here’s a song adoption formula to consider: Listeners * Optimal Frequency Rate * Social Situation Rate * Conversion Rate = Song Fans.
Here’s the short form: (L * OFR * SSR * CR = SONG FANs)
Here’s how the formula breaks down:
Listeners (L) is the variable that equals the number of listeners (not fans but receptive listeners) that have frictionless access to your song via a download (paid is ok, free is better), a digital music stream, a broadcast, or by way of receiving your CD.
Side note: In 2009, I would not refer to handing someone a CD as granting them frictionless access to your music; there are a lot of people that can’t be bothered with unwrapping and playing a CD from an unknown artist.
Optimal Frequency Rate (OFR)
It’s often stated that falling in love with a song is a complex process. For the purpose of this post, I am going to speculate (comment below if you have better information) that a song needs to be heard by the average person at least 10 times within 60 days to make a lasting (classic-like) imprint upon one’s memory. Therefore, 10 spins within 60 days equals the Optimal (maximum) Frequency Rate of 100%.
Less spins over a longer time period equates to a lower Optimal Frequency Rate.
Social Situation Rate (SSR)
Once again, the imprinting/socialization process is complex. Most (young) people need social cues (signals from others) to believe in (adopt and evangelize) a song. When people spin songs in a vacuum (think about the lone iPod user with headphones on), they are less likely to adopt a song than when the song is played within a social setting.
Social settings (where social cues are gathered) range from listening to songs with friends, to hearing songs at a club or party, to sharing/playlisting/promoting songs for ‘friends’ online. In a perfect world, 100% of a song’s ‘early’ spins would occur within a social situation; this would equate to a Social Situation Rate of 100%.
All social situations are not created equal. If you want to be more specific, assign varying weights to different social situation types.
Side note: a lot of individualized music engagement that occurs on the Internet doesn’t translate into adoption and popularity. Why? A low SSR is one cause to consider.
Conversion Rate (CR)
Conversion Rate is the subjective component of the formula. Listeners are going to love your song(s) along a spectrum. A percentage of listeners (this would be the conversion rate) are going to adopt your song, while others won’t give it a second listen.
Although optimal frequency rate (OFR) and social situation rate (SSR) drive conversions (CR), investing in iterative song improvement is something you have complete control over. If you want to increase conversions (from listeners to fans) invest in writing sessions, collaborative efforts (try Indaba Music), song critiques, song surveys and expert coaching.
Consider the power of radio…
Radio is great at making fans. Radio has receptive listeners; radio spins songs to death; and for many people (worldwide), radio is the ultimate social cue and social sharing mechanism. (It’s got to be good if it’s on the radio right?) My last post on Music Think Tank - “Don’t go over the self promotion cliff, crush your local radio station instead” - should give you some ideas on how you can create a ‘channel’ to drive the formula (L * OFR * SSR * CR = SONG FANs) covered in this post.
Nobody (sane) records to tape any more…
There are lots of things artists do (like prematurely finalizing songs without seeking the best possible collaborators or expert feedback) and there are lots of things the industry does (like collecting royalties) that are artifacts from days gone by when music was expensive to create and distribute. Anything that prevents any variable in the formula (L * OFR * SSR * CR = SONG FANs) from being the largest number or highest (%) rates possible is something that’s holding you back.
In my next post, I plan to cover the friction that slows, and the forces that accelerate, the song adoption formula.