It’s a telling statement about the abundance of electronic dance music and the open access provided by advancements in the digital/tech industries when we here at Do Androids Dance can present a list of 50 talented DJs and producers with under 5,000 followers on SoundCloud. As much as it’s entirely possible that the numbers no longer matter, when examining the list and extrapolating meaning from it, there is a deeper notion at work that provides a truly valuable lesson. In an era where decentralization and disruption are the music industry’s most powerful controlling factors, the onus for honest, organic development falls much more on the artist themselves. With major labels reportedly involved in the next round of SoundCloud funding, the concept of a tree falling in a crowded forest and failing to make a sound may be truer now than ever before. In an industry with a potential worth of $20 billion, it isn’t so much anymore about making the music, but efficiently and effectively marketing one’s craft, too. Yes, cream does always rise to the top, but pond scum does, too. How can an artist a) rise and b) separate their worth from the “scum?” The answer is quite simple. In perceiving the dance music industry as being less about music and more about business in this era (and acting accordingly), the inequalities highlighted by the list can be lessened, and those who deserve it can receive the increased success and sustainability that they ostensibly deserve.
Yes, it’s true that the key to developing a top business brand in the social/digital age is to provide value when, where, and how your audience wants to receive it. However, what social media guru Amy Jo Martin doesn’t tell us is that the key to maintaining attention requires making the value process reciprocal by merely asking for a like or a follow (depending on the platform) in return. It is an inarguable fact that the process of having to like/follow an artist in order to receive a download or even access their library is tedious and completely inauthentic. However, for the purposes of an artist viewing themselves as not just a creator but as a viable business, the creation of social currency through that “transaction” is invaluable. In a decentralized environment where earnings through the music itself lessens by the second, the new paradigm by which to study access to wealth is the “creative capital” model wherein social engagement occurs and once aggregated at a certain level, is literally cashed in for income. Thus, being aware of developing spaces to earn “creative capital” is quite important.
As much as an artist should be valued for their creativity, artists in this unusual time must be concerned with marketing, too. The production of music is easier than ever before. Technological advancements have balanced the playing field, and while having a significant musical background is important to making great tracks, it is no longer a prerequisite in aspiring to become a producer. Thus, as much as one may bemoan a top producer for rising by swimming directly into the mainstream, it may behoove a producer with considerable musical talent to invest in upping their marketing chops, too. Between taking free online classes and consulting with marketing and PR professionals, there are a plethora of ways in which a great producer wanting to not compromise their creativity can also master marketing, too.
In a game governed by disruption, there’s absolutely no reason why any path chosen to be successful cannot result in a fruitful journey. Moreso than creativity, execution is truly important. In a wide-open environment, the space between being Avicii (941,514+ Soundcloud followers) and Torvvo (138+ Soundcloud followers – a growth of 52 followers since being on our list, intriguingly enough) isn’t very far at all. Again, it’s not enough anymore to just produce great music and hope for the best. Disruption also causes distraction, which leads to the aforementioned issue of not just the cream – but the “scum,” too – rising to the top. Instead, more producers should contemplate not just being musicians, but musicians-as-businesses with well-marketed brands featuring well-executed processes aimed towards well-defined goals.
Let’s consider the following. Let’s make a conservative estimate and say that of the ten million SoundCloud users, one million of those likely produce dance music. If 10,000 of those producers become as serious about production as they should also be about business, then it’s entirely possible that of the potential $20 billion that EDM could be worth in five years, each of those producers would make $2 million. As well, let’s consider that if all of the producers were to engage in pushing for sustainable financial development with the same verve that they push for artistic creativity, that $20 billion dollars of wealth could feasibly grow into a far larger number.
Ultimately, the time has come to work smarter and not harder, fully accept that the game has changed forever and to learn the new rules.