Imagine If The Counter Went Away

This is a great article that came from Bryan Farrish at It’s brings a little clarity and insight into social media and self-promotion for an artist. This is¬†definitely¬†worth taking the time to read. Thanks Bryan…

Radio Compared To YouTube and MySpace: Imagine If The Counter Went Away

The hypnotic effect of YouTube, MySpace, and any other similar site where you upload your music, is one thing: The Counter. Without the counter, these sites would have no more use to you than your phone number listing in the phone book. Why does the counter matter so much?

Psychologically, it has to do with the “media effect”, which is explained in mass media studies (especially Marshall McLuhan’s book called “Understanding Media”). But you don’t have to understand psychology to understand how the “counter” is misleading you and other artists. Imagine for a second, that all counters were removed forever. No more counters, ever again. Never will you be able to tell how many people “heard” your song. Wow.

What then would you focus on? How would you judge your success? What would you brag about? How would your goals change? How would you compare one song against another? This was what life was like before the “counter”. Back then, you actually had to make things happen, instead of looking at a counter that said things happened. And the way you made things happen was mostly by phone, in-person, and maybe fax. Today, email has replaced fax, but two things have stood the test of time: Phone and in-person contacts.

We talk to a lot of artists who want promotion, and most all of them have music on a site somewhere that has a “counter”. When asked, the average number of “views” or “plays” they say they have received (for their best song) is about 200. That’s right, 200. And this is from day one (cumulative), and from around the world. That’s about one “view” or “play” per country. And they’ve typically had that song up for over 2 years.

On the other hand, the highest number that artists typically tell us they’ve received is 20,000 “views” or “plays” for their best song. Again this is from day one (cumulative), and from around the world, and also for about 2 years. This is about 100 plays per country, over a 2 year period. That’s less than one play a week, per country.

Obviously, both of the above are miserable failures, since the GOAL OF THE ARTIST was to get LOTS of plays. This, unfortunately, is the problem. The goal should NOT be to get lots of “views” or “plays” at all. The goal should instead be to get MONEY; this is so different from “getting views” that you may even have a hard time understanding the difference.

The first way to explain this is to look at media facts that pertain to music. Typically, about .1 to 1 percent of a radio audience will buy the music. This means that if a radio audience of a song is 50 million, then that song will sell 50,000 to 500,000 copies. The higher end of these sales is the major-market high-rotation area, which generates huge numbers of “listens” within that group of 50 million people. The lower end of these sales is the medium and smaller market stations, along with major stations that are not spinning as much; these generate far less “listens” (per-listener) in the same group of 50 million people. Stated another way: The same group of 50 million people can be exposed to two songs; one they hear 10 times per-person, and the other they hear 100 times per-person. The song that is heard 100 times per-person will sell ten times what the lesser-heard song will, even though the total number of listeners are the same (50 million).

Note that the total number of “listens” of the lesser song is 50,000,000 X 10 = 500,000,000 (from day one); whereas the total number of “listens” of the greater song is 50,000,000 X 100 = 5,000,000,000 (five billion) from day one also. These are typical numbers of “hit” songs. See for more, and compare it to the sales number of iTunes or Soundscan. You’ll see that ALL of the top sellers are getting high “listens” from commercial radio regular rotation. All of them.

Now comes the “counter”. The typical artist has never had any numerical feedback before the counter came along. No sales tracking, no airplay tracking, no ticket sales tracking, nothing. So the counter looks to be pretty exciting, because for the first time the artist is getting “feedback” on his or her music. So far so good. But the problem arises when the artist makes it their GOAL of maximizing the “views” or “plays” on the counter. And the reason this is a problem is because the typical artist reading this article does not have the resources to get enough “views” or “plays” to make any sales occur.

Looking at the example above, it takes 50,000,000 “listens” (total, from day one) for the lesser song to sell 50,000 copies. That’s because in lower-rotation markets or stations, the typical listener will only hear it about 10 total times. So sales are about .1 percent of the total audience. Using this .1 percent number, the typical artist needs:

50,000,000 “listens” to get 50,000 sales
5,000,000 “listens” to get 5,000 sales
500,000 “listens” to get 500 sales
50,000 “listens” to get 50 sales
5,000 “listens” to get 5 sales

Compare this to what I said earlier about how many YouTube views the typical artist tells us they have, and you see the problem. The typical artist with 200 views or plays does not have enough for even one sale. And the artists who tell us they have 20,000 views or plays will only be getting 20 sales. THIS IS THE REASON that you don’t want to focus any energy on increasing your number on the views-counter or the plays-counter. It won’t sell anything, and it will just make you think that your music is not good enough.

Now, if the goal is to get “listens” from the radio, you can do it. This is how the majors get their high sales and views: they get high “listens” from the radio first, and then some of these listeners go “view” or “play” the song. Even our unrated-market commercial regular rotation campaigns (the smallest) usually end up with near 10,000 total listens in 8 weeks. 50,000 listens, and 500,000 listens, are not that much more difficult, since all you need to do is get a few small-market stations on board with 300 listens each spin, and get them spinning 20 spins a week each, and you are at a high number of listens after a few weeks.

But the goal of this article is not about using radio, it about avoiding the counter. You should be spending your time and energy REACHING PEOPLE that can help you sell your art. This requires phone calls, and personal visits, to people who can book you, play you, review you, recommend you, place you, and so on. “Views” or “plays” will NOT serve this promotional purpose. Nor will emails; emails are just for SETTING UP phone calls or visits, or for following up on phone calls or visits. No high-level activity will ever come your way if all you do is email. And certainly, nothing will ever come your way if all you do is watch the counter.

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