Winning at YouTube: The Power of Music Promotion Channels

Winning at YouTube: The Power of Music Promotion Channels

Budi Voogt
June 12th, 2017

This post was first published by my friends over at DJ Tech Tools. A new trend is rising in the electronic dance music (EDM) scene. I’m sure that you’ve seen them on YouTube and Soundcloud. Channels that consistently upload curated new music, often with a signature visual style.

Some use audio responsive 3d animations, others use photographs of beautiful landscapes or girls. There’s loads of them, and more are launched every day. Some focus on specific musical genres, be it dubstep, future bass or chill out, where others offer all styles. All in all, they offer people an easy place to get a curated selection of music.

The rise of these channels offers a huge opportunity for artists and labels, as they can serve as a means to reach a huge audience of faithful subscribers.

In this guide, I will explain how this trend of YouTube music promotion came to life, how to find these channels, and most importantly, how you can get your music featured on there. Following these steps, you can let your music be heard to a wholly new and untapped audience.

The Trend

In the middle of 2000, YouTube and later platforms such as Soundcloud saw an enormous rise in popularity. This coincided with the transition of genres such as electro house and Dubstep to the ‘mainstream’. As a result, there was suddenly a huge amount of people using YouTube as their preferred method for listening to music, but only a limited amount of music available. Obviously the commercial music became available first, uploaded by listeners or rightsholders (labels, artists, publishers). But, this left a huge amount of music, specifically the more underground and niche genres unrepresented.

This is where the trend started. Many of the now biggest promoters state in interviews that they initially started uploading music because there was simply no one that had done so for the music that they loved. As ‘Inspector Dubplate’ (now 110.000 subscribers) indicates, he started uploading dubstep music, simply because it wasn’t available online and he wanted to share it with his friends.

One thing lead to another, and now you have an army of HUGE channels out there such as UKF, Mr. Suicide Sheep, Majestic Casual, SubSoul, Proximity and many more. All of these individually have over 100.000 subscribers and with that comes the power to gather 50.000+ plays on a track within days. Sometimes even millions. They can make or break artists and their influence is spans over the entire internet using world. Still, the majority of artists and labels seem to be unaware of this phenomenon. How this is possible totally escapes me.

In other words, music promotion channels are something totally new. They have serious influence and as an artist or label, you’d be stupid to not try and collaborate with them. Who knows, you might end up with a week old upload with over 100.000 plays.

Tracking them down

In order to submit your music to these promoters, you first have to locate them and gather their contact information. Almost all of them will be accepting music submission through email, Soundcloud dropbox or custom question forms.

You should start a list in which you collect their information. Look for email addresses, their (personal) names and social media links. To keep track of things, I suggest you work in an Excel sheet, but if you don’t have that, a basic text editor should work too.

To start building your list, you should check out the following places:

  • YouTube
    This is the logical first place to start looking. Often times you will find trending videos under the ‘Music’ category, of which a lot are uploaded by music promoters. For a top list of trending music channels, go here: https://www.youtube.com/channels/music.
  • edmDistrict
    edmDistrict is a YouTube network that focuses on aggregating all the EDM focused YouTube promotional channels. It’s a scene that’s very intricate and the majority of promoters know one-another. They are quickly expanding and the most influential EDM promoters are signed up with them. They’ve created a poster with all the channels that have signed up with them. It’s a little outdated, but contains many promoters that are worthwhile researching.

The partners of edmDistrict. The ambassadors (blue ring) are the biggest channels with the most subscribers. Then come the promoters (yellow ring), these are the lesser known channels. All together these can provide a massive audience.

Winning at YouTube: The Power of Music Promotion Channels - 2

  • Forums
    The promotion community is very tight knit and it’s members interact actively, be it through Facebook, Skype or other means. The edmDistrict network has been the first to capitalize on this by creating a forum, which has now grown into the only notable go-to place for promoters (and producers) alike to interact. Here the community talks about the industry, shares knowledge and tips, and serves as a platform where individual channels and music can be showcased. Amazingly, the crowd themselves maintain and update posts containing listings of all reputable channels. Check out the most comprehensive one here.
  • Community maintained spreadsheet
    Next to the before mentioned forum posts with channel listings, the community also maintains a spreadsheet on Google Documents. Here all promoters are allowed to enter their own channel information and until now, this list has been growing steadily. Feel free to access it here – and please use it respectfully.

All together, these resources should provide you with plenty of information to build an list of more than 100 music promoters. As mentioned before, get their email addresses, social media links and possible submission form URLs. Oh and.. personal names are always useful too.

Find my personal selection of 30 of the biggest YouTube music promoters right here. It’s the perfect starting point and I have categorized them for genres and even included contact information.

Download the full 25+ page .PDF about the music industry

Understand them

Now that you’ve got an idea of who you’re going to approach and where to find them, it’s important that you take a moment to look at things from their perspective.

After all, how can you offer them what they want, if you don’t know what they want?

Here’s a list of things that you should consider:

  • They’re very young
    The majority of promoters will be young males. Younger than 25 even. The promotion trend really started with the EDM scene and thus attracts a young and totally internet addicted crowd. They’re very communicative and interlinked. Facebook and Skype are places where they flock and many of them will have a preference to interacting with both their colleagues and aspiring artists over those networks. It’s considered normal to add the majority of promoters as your friends on Facebook, even if you have never spoken or interacted, whether digitally or in real life.
  • It’s all about the audience
    The primary goal of a promoter is to develop an audience. By increasing their number of subscribers, they increase their income through monetization, but also gain more influence in the scene. In turn, this leads to a bigger influx of demos and opens door to collaborate with bigger labels and artists for more premium content.
  • They need to stand out
    With the huge increase of the number of channels, it’s very important for them to stand out. They can do this through their musical selection, visual presentation and communication with their fans. As a result, many of the channels focus on promoting specific genres of music, which gives them a clear identity, but also limits their options of what music they can support.
  • Fans love added value
    To successfully build their fan base and establish a reputation, the promoters need to provide value to their audience. The basics for doing that are the aforementioned music selection, visual presentation and communications. But there are many other important ways.Most crucially, all promoters want to be the first to discover something great. To upload a track from an artist of which no one has heard before, and then have it go viral, can provide both the promoter and artist with a surge in popularity. Essentially, it’s what the promoter looks for the most.Alternatively, they love freely downloadable tracks. It’s something that can seriously improve an artist’s chance of getting uploaded, as the download serves as something valuable the promoter can give to their audience (apart from the traditional stream).
  • The better they get, the busier they are
    The bigger these channels are, the more music they receive. We’re talking about more than 25 submissions a day for a channel of 25.000+ subscribers. The big shots such as Mr. Suicide Sheep get so much music that it’s almost impossible for them to keep up with music submissions. Standing out is essential if you want to get covered by these big guys.

You should now have a better grasp of who the promoter is, what they need and why they need it.

Laying the foundation

Before we proceed to actually submitting music, there’s a number of things that you should have in order before you even consider sending something out. If you get these things right, you can greatly improve your odds of getting supported.

These things boil down to a number of essentials that all good artists should have, and then there’s the important aspect of developing a relationship with the promoters.

Here’s your checklist – and how to tackle each item:

  • Good Music
    Surprise! This is the most important thing you need to have – great music. Don’t even bother sending out stuff if it’s not, as your time will then be much better spent improving in the studio.There’s a few ways to determine whether your music is good;
    – Is it getting traction from people other than your friends and family?
    – What do your fellow musicians have to say about it?
    – How does it compare to the music that the promoters you want to target? Is it on the same technical level?Please avoid asking opinions of people very close to you. Sure, some of them will be honest to you, but the majority will be yeah-sayers and that won’t give you the objective opinion that you need. The above tips should give you a decent indication of where you stand. Feel comfortable after all that? Then proceed! Not so much? Then focus on improving first.
  • Solid mix & master
    Music promoters aren’t record labels and the tracks that they upload are always the files that are delivered by the artist. Because of this, it’s essential that you deliver a track that is mixed and mastered decently. It can make the difference between your track sounding ok…. or amazing.If you’re uncertain about your own mixing and mastering skills, then it could pay off to do a little research. Creating a solid software master (using a plugin such as iZotope Ozone) doesn’t have to take a lot of time. There are many YouTube tutorials about the topic and articles available on the web.Recently my label has published a comprehensive article called ‘Essential Guide To Good Mixing & Mastering’ which is a great place to start. Check it out here.Alternatively, if you can’t figure out how to make it sound great, or don’t want to, then it’s worthwhile to get it mastered externally. There are producers offering (software) mastering services for as little at 25$ a track, to professional audio engineers that will charge ten times that and will do it from an actual studio. The latter is of course the best, however a cheap yet normal master often goes a long way in comparison to none at all.
  • Online presence
    You should be represented everywhere. The minimum is a YouTube channel, Facebook Page, Twitter and Soundcloud account. Make sure that all of these channels interlink to all your other social media sites, provide a contact email address and have a short bio of you up. Also all channels should have a similar page URL… so for example, if your Facebook is www.facebook.com/thebestbandever then your Soundcloud URL should be www.soundcloud.com/thebestbandever. This is important because it shows to the world that you’re on top of your game, paid attention to this and understand the importance of social media. For promoters this is all the more relevant, as their total game revolves around social media. They expect you to re-post and share their uploads on your own channels, so having it all set up nicely is important to your ability to do so.
  • Visuals
    Make sure you’re looking mighty fine. That you have a logo which sticks and that radiates professionalism. Get it up on all your social media pages and become instantly recognizable. Sure, this isn’t as important for a music promoter as it is for a record label, but it’ll help give them a feeling of confidence in you (and what you’re doing) if your presentation looks sleek.
  • Own all the copyright
    In order to be able to monetize content and also to upload tracks without receiving copyright and third party rights claims by YouTube, the promotion channels need to have permission to upload the tracks from the original rights holders. These are often the artist, record label and/or publisher. Back in the day it wasn’t uncommon for a promoter to upload music illegally, however with their increasing popularity and YouTube’s increasingly strict and expansive regulations, this is quickly becoming a rarity. Also, artists, labels and other promoters often frown upon these acts as they are considered ‘faux pas’. This makes it important for you as an artist to make sure that you control the copyright of your tracks and that you did not use any third party (copyrighted) content without permission.Alternatively, there’s also channels that specialize on promoting music under the Creative Commons licenses, which often allow free sharing as long as the creator is accredited. Read more about CC here.
  • Build relationships
    Developing a relationship with the promoter is probably the most crucial thing you can do to improve your odds of getting supported by them. The best approach to doing this is – by adding value.Seeing as you researched all their information earlier, you should be able to locate them on social media. Most promoters are young and very active on these networks and do not mind being approached there. Like their Facebook pages and with it. Also look for their personal pages and start a conversation. Can’t find it? Then message the page. Same goes for Twitter. Follow them and start interacting.Point out something of value to them, show your support and help them out. That will win you the goodwill that you’ll later need if you want to get their support. Try avoid asking for anything or to mention that you WANT their support. Be kind, and build that relationship and once you’ve got that going, you’ll see it’s effects once you submit your music to them.The process of building relationships with new people, for whatever reason, is something that will benefit you on so many levels. This far exceeds just music. I’ve written a very extensive guide about how I approach this when it comes to interacting with record labels earlier and that would be a good supplement to this guide – find it here.

Once you’ve got these things covered, we can proceed to actually submitting the music. Take note that building new relationships can take some time. Therefore I often suggest that you start networking and getting familiar with the people in this scene long before you actually start submitting music to them. At least two weeks leeway is generally a good idea.

Winning at YouTube: The Power of Music Promotion Channels - 3

Get a list with over 30 YouTube Promo channels that decide what goes viral

The actual submission

Here we are, finally. If you’ve read all bits of this post then you should now have a solid grasp on how the promoter hype came to life, what they are looking for and how to improve your odds at getting their support.

It’s time to run you through how to best submit your music to them. Pay attention to the details as these are going to set you apart from the other hundreds of people sending stuff to their mailboxes.

The rules of the game:

  • Only finished works
    Promoters have no use for tracks that are works in progress. Only send them tracks which are totally finished.
  • Just originals and official remixes
    As explained earlier, promoters can only legally upload tracks of which they have received permission to do so from the rights holders. You grant that in the case of the music being your original work (without unconsented third party content). Or when you’ve made an official remix of a track and it’s rights holders (likely the label and/or the original creator) give you permission to do so.This implies that you shouldn’t even bother sending over mash-ups, unofficial remixes, edits and reworks. Promoters are busy enough as it is. Don’t sweat it… you might even get them or yourself into trouble with it’s actual owners.
  • One release at the time
    Only send one release to a promoter per submission. With this I mean a single, EP or album. The reason for doing this is because the promoter needs to have a clear idea of what ‘product’ he is pushing. Also, you want to avoid them to have to listen to a lot of music before finding the quality.If your release has one of two huge tracks, then you’re better off sending those instead of the total package. Once you’ve sparked their interest, there’s always to send more later. And whatever you do, avoid sending over multiple unrelated tracks. It’ll decrease your odds of getting supported because it takes more time to listen to and leaves an unorganized impression.
  • Sooner the better
    Promoters take much fulfillment and pride in being the first to discover something that’s new. If you want to improve your odds of getting covered, it can be a great idea to send out releases a short while before they come out. To prevent tracks leaking out, make sure to place an embargo note in your submission saying that it can only be publicized from the release date onwards. The downside to this is not having access to the buy links of the online music stores yet. But you can always send those later.

Preparation:

  • Export the right quality
    Make sure to send music out in the right format. Some promoters prefer lossless files for in their videos, whilst others prefer MP3’s. Bounce both 320kbps MP3’s and 16+ Bit 44.1hz .WAV’s of your masters.
  • Use correct file names and ID3 tags
    Tracks and emails tend to get lost. This is why it’s essential that you use clear and easy to comprehend file names and ID3 tags. The latter is the track info that you can edit in your DAW or in an audio player such as iTunes. You know, the ‘Artist, Track Title, etc’ information.
    I recommend that for both filename and ID3, you run with a “Artistname – Track Title (Mix Type) (email address)” format. The promoter needs to be able to figure out who you are, what track it is and where to reach you, if they were to just find the file somewhere.
  • Upload a streaming version
    No promoter likes getting tracks attached to emails. Often times they’ll have a filter on their email inbox which will actually take out these attachments. What you want to do, is offer them a streaming option. Use Soundcloud for this. In the case of a submission pre-release, set your upload to ‘private’.
  • Secure a description of the release and artwork
    If you’re submitting a release that came out with a label, you should have access to the release’s artwork and description. If you can’t get your hands on it, ask your label manager for it, or grab it directly from Beatport.If this isn’t the case, then you could get major bonus points by crafting these things yourself. Take note though that the release description is far more important than the artwork, as the promoter is unlikely to use the latter anyway.
  • Create ZIP packs and upload these
    To make it easy for the promoters, you should create two .zip (compressed) packages. One with the MP3 files, the other with the .WAV files. Make sure to include a text file with the release description and the artwork with each of the packs. Once you have these, upload these to a file-sharing platform. I highly recommend that you use Dropbox for this. Other platforms such as Mediafire and Zippyshare common too, but can’t even come close to Dropbox’s performance. Next to that, it’s a brand name that most promoters will recognize and thus improve the odds of your tracks actually getting downloaded.
  • Grab the download and buy links
    If your tunes get uploaded, you’re going to want the promoter to include the links to the places where fans can download or buy it. If it’s a free download, then this might be your Soundcloud or Bandcamp link. Buy links are typically Beatport and iTunes links. Locate these.Once you’ve gathered these, you want to shorten them. Long links look ugly in upload descriptions. I recommend you make an account at Bit.ly and shorten all the links using that service.

The actual send-out:

  • Determine who you are addressing
    You’ve done your research on the promoter and with a little luck you’ve found out his or her personal name. Use it when addressing a mail to them, as it’ll show that you’ve done your homework.
  • Writing the email
    It’s time to write out your actual submission email. This is a pretty straight forward process and you should focus on keeping it personal yet short and efficient. You’re going to include private download links to the MP3 and WAV packs, public download/buy links which you shortened and a note of permission to upload and monetize the tracks.The email subject line is very important too. I approach this differently with promoters than I do with labels, and therefore recommend you stick to this formula: “[Genre] Artist name – Track Name (Free Download / Record Label)”. This makes it very easy for the promoter to filter out the style they’re looking for and gives a much more professional vibe than saying “Hey listen to my track”.As a template, I suggest you run with something like this:

    To: Peter@electrohousepromotions.com
    Subject: [Electro House] Peter The Producer – Feel The Beat (Free Download – Spinning Records)

    “Hey Peter,

    Hope you’re doing good.

    Here’s my new track ‘Feel The Beat’. It’s coming out on Spinning Records on October 1st as a free download.

    Release description + Artwork included in the packs.

    Stream: http://www.sc.com/h3439423n
    Private MP3 Pack: http://www.dropbox.com/juh349h
    Private WAV Pack: http://www.dropbox.com/j39jire9h

    Public Download Link: http://bit.ly/i4gh2123d
    iTunes: http://bit.ly/iu09i
    Beatport: http://bit.ly/i89use

    You have full permission to upload and monetize these tracks, as long as you include my social media links and the download and buy links. It’s under upload embargo until October 1st. Please feel free to upload it then.
    Hope you like the tunes. Would mean a lot if you support them.

    Thanks,

    TheBestBandEver

  • Send this out to your list
    Now that you have your template email, send it out to all the contacts on the list that you’ve built. Make sure to customize their first names. If you don’t have the first names, use the name of the promotion channel or organization.
  • Wait – then send reminders
    Most respectable promoters receive so much music that it can take them up to a month to even go through all their track submissions. I suggest that you wait a week for a response, and if you don’t get one then, send a sweet reminder by replying to the initial email.The reminder could look like this:

    Hey Peter,

    Did you get a chance to look at the tracks I sent you?

    Very curious to hear your opinion.

    Thanks,

    BestBandEver

    You can repeat this process a few times, but I recommend you restrict it to a single time. Often the promoter just won’t dig the release or not reply to your mail, and you’re far better off trying your luck again with a following release than you are bombing them with more emails.

  • I got supported! Now what?
    Assuming that you built a list of 100+ promoters, checked all the prerequisites and sent out a bunch of decent emails, you should by now have gathered support. When you do, ask the promoter for the upload link and make sure to support his upload by reposting it on your Facebook pages and Twitter account. Commenting on their upload, liking their videos and reacting to their own Facebook page posts is also a good idea. This is all contributes to strengthening your relationship.
  • I’ve done this a few times now – can I do this more efficiently?
    That’s a great and crucial question. Once you figure out how this process works, and have expanded your list a few times, sent out multiple releases and gathered some support, you’re going to personally experience how insanely powerful these promoters are. My lists are currently far over the 200 individual promoters and with some dedication, yours can be too. Submitting music to all those promoters with single handedly written emails will then become a very time consuming task. If this is becoming the case for you, then I recommend that you transition to using a ‘mailing list service’ such as Mailchimp, YMLP or Aweber. My personal preference is Mailchimp as it is both intuitive and looks great. The latter will help you make email campaigns that look much prettier than traditional emails, can help you re-enforce your personal style and increase your odds of getting supported. I’ll cover how to do this properly in a future post.

—-

And that’s it people. Quite simple actually isn’t it?

Hopefully you’ll now have a good grasp of this trend and how to use it to your benefit.

If you’re getting little response or when this whole procedure seems difficult to you, take a moment to think about this: the bigger channels out there such as Majestic Casual and Mr. Suicide Sheep have the power to single handedly get someone 100.000+ plays. Maybe things won’t work out immediately – but when they do, you’re going to be one happy critter.

If you enjoyed this post, you should check out The SoundCloud Bible. The Second Edition just came out and it is packed with marketing strategies and insight into the business.