In three years, the northern Virginia conscious hip hop artist Lucidious went from struggling to get listeners to his music to 100 million streams with a rabid fanbase.
How? Let’s step back.
For years he was struggling as an indie artist trying to figure out the music game. He was puttering around 150 monthly listeners on Spotify, with merely 45 followers, about 1,500 followers on Instagram and Facebook. And was making less than $100 a month from his music.
Fast forward to today, he has around 500,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, over 200,000 followers on Spotify, 150,000 followers on Instagram, he’s getting around 5 million streams a month, has over 150 million total streams across all platforms and is making around $20,000 a month just from his recorded music.
Oh, and he’s got no label, no manager, no publicist, no agent and is on zero official Spotify playlists.
I’ll pause as you pick your jaw up from the floor.
These are real fans. Not bots. Human beings.
He showed me his Instagram inbox which is flooded with fans telling him how his music saved their lives. His music focuses on mental health awareness.
No official Spotify playlists!
So how did he do this?
He utilized direct marketing strategies on Facebook and Instagram to find his audience and get them into his world. Specifically, he mastered the Facebook Business and Ads Manager and ran all different kinds of video ads targeting fans of similar artists.
They came pouring into his world and eventually he was getting fans to click his ads at around $.02 per click – putting every marketing expert to shame. Spending about $10 a day, he was pulling in around 500 new fans per day. And because his music is great and his Instagram is engaging (i.e. he is very active on there – responding to comments and messages), these people who started off as passive observers turned into die hard fans.
(Today he’s spending a lot more on advertising, but earning a net positive ROI. At this stage he’s spending around $3,000/month on ads, but making back around $20,000. And his CPC has increased of course because the general fluctuation of the FB ads platform).
This is not a fluke and this is not because of the kind of music he makes.
Yes, I know, that you’ve probably run Facebook ads in the past and you were less than thrilled with the results. Me too. I’ve WASTED thousands on Facebook ads. The Facebook Ad Manager, though, is not just for Facebook ads. And if you don’t know how to utilize it effectively, it won’t work for you. Period.
He did this all on his own, without the help from the industry. And he’s been largely ignored by the industry. And he’s A OK with that because he’s making a solid living and has 0% commission to pay out to anyone.
His fans know he exists. And that’s all that matters.
But But But, Playlists!
Ok, deep breath. Despite what you might think, you do not want to bet the horse on getting on Spotify playlists. For one, you’re fighting against every label, every distributor, every manager and every artist for coveted playlist slots. There are only so many slots and only so many playlists. We are too obsessed with the playlist game. Playlists are fickle and do not get real FANS into your world. Yes, getting on a few hot playlists can skyrocket your monthly listeners and streaming numbers overnight. But these are not your fans. These are fans of the playlist.
Streams ≠ Fans. Monthly Listeners ≠ Fans
Just because you have a million streams does not mean you have a million fans. Same goes for monthly listeners.
We are living in an era where there are artists with millions of streams on Spotify who cannot draw 50 people to their local shows.
These artists are making a solid living off of their Spotify streams, but don’t have any real fans. I’ve heard of artists who were able to quit their day jobs because they got included on a few hot playlists which earned them millions of streams a month (thousands of dollars a month), only to get dropped from those playlists and have to go beg for their job back when their streams dropped to virtually zero.
It’s time to break away from the obsessive playlist mentality!
One of my favorite games to play is to guess the monthly listeners to followers ratio on an artist just by looking at their Spotify profile. Spotify, of course, displays the monthly listeners number loud and proud right there on the artist’s profile. And the number of streams for the top 10 songs. But the actual followers number is quite hidden.
If an artist has no fans, but tons of streams and monthly listeners, it’s because they are on super popular playlists.
Just click on the About section (on the Desktop version of the app), scroll all the way to the bottom and take a look.
Many artists who are on a lot of hot playlists (but have no fans) have a lot of monthly listeners, but very few followers.
This is an artist’s profile (who shall not be named) who’s getting A TON of love from Spotify editors (seriously, is he sleeping with one of them?), but not a lot of people are choosing to follow this artist.
Look at all this official Spotify love this artist is getting (yes, 19 official playlists). He’s at around a 2% follower/listener ratio.
Compare this to Lucidious’ followers to listener ratio which is around 40%.
And 0 official Spotify playlists
Take a few minutes (when you’re at your desktop) and check out some of your favorite artists’ ratios.
A healthy ratio is at least 25%: Followers to monthly listeners.
Now look at some small-mid level artist ratios. And especially your friends who got included on hot playlists who you’ve been jealous of. Don’t be. Be happy for them! But also remember, monthly listeners DO NOT equal fans. And streams DO NOT equal fans. Hell, followers do not equal fans either.
If you want real fans (not just fans of the playlists you’re on), you have to utilize direct marketing.
Utilizing Direct Marketing To Grow Your Audience on Spotify and Instagram
One of the best ways to find and grow your audience is now through direct marketing. Not PR. Not playlists. Not touring. Not blogs. Marketing. And you don’t need to spend that much money to do it. TikTok is a close second, but that’s another discussion for another post.
Ok, what is direct marketing? It’s not as scary as it sounds. Direct marketing is simply finding your audience and inviting them into your world. That’s it.
So how do you find where your audience is?
Utilizing Facebook and Instagram ads is the best way to do this at this moment in time. However, you do not want to do this blind. This is not clicking the “Boost” button on Facebook or the “Promote” button on Instagram. That’s the quickest way to throw away your money. Facebook has that button because it’s so damn simple to do, they make so much money on people who don’t understand how to properly utilize the Business Manager and Ad Manager.
Yes, mastering the Ad Manager takes a bit of time. But anyone can do it. You can do it. You just have to hunker down and make it work. Yes it’s complicated. Yes the backend Business Manager can be insanely confusing. But that’s the work you gotta put in if you want to compete. Once you learn it and get it down, the hard part is over. You can then go back to making music. The beautiful thing about direct marketing is that once you set the ads, they go. Sure, you want to monitor them, but once you get an ad that’s effective, you don’t really need to touch or tweak it for awhile.
After Lucidious told me his story, I invited him to be an instructor for Ari’s Take Academy to teach this stuff. The mission of ATA is to bring in experts in the field, who are crushing it TODAY (not 25 years ago) and help the indie music community thrive.
There are now over 1,500 students in this course and many of our students who are employing these methods are gaining around 100 new Instagram followers a day (real fans, not bots) and about 500 Spotify followers every week – while spending only around $10-15/day.
Now, none of this happens overnight. It took Lucidious 3 years to get to this point. Many of our students start to become profitable after about a year or so. Some explode in the first few days and some it takes months of tweaking. And of course, you have to run them consistently.
The lessons are updated regularly. So when any of the platforms shift, change or throws standard methods through a tussle (Apple iOS 14 anyone!), Lucidious, our advisors, moderators and the other students in the course, come together in real time, put our heads together, figure out the solutions, and update our lessons. The community is incredible.
So, instead of posting incessantly on Instagram and Facebook begging people to share your stuff or praying to the TikTok algorithm gods. Go directly to the people who would dig what you’re doing.
It’s a very exciting time to be an independent musician.
If you want to learn how to do this, step by step, (literally where we share our screen and say click this, now click here, make this kind of video, no not like that like THIS, etc etc), check out the Streaming and Instagram course taught by Lucidious here.