The New Pay to Play

By Kyle Gilbert

Kyle is the writer / drummer for the alternative / punk band Second Player Score He is also DJ Dex , Host of Gettin Squatchy every Thursday at 2:30pm PST on 99wnrr . com
Spotify is the top dog for music streaming now , and bands are doing anything to get noticed . One thing that I have been seeing a lot of recently are playlist promotion sites , as well as playlisters that will put you on their playlist for a monthly fee . Are the numbers alone enough to grant you further success ? Do you get return on your investment dollars ? I have seen a lot of commentary on this , and even gave it a quick try with my own band to find out . Let me tell you what my understanding is on this , and what my personal experience turn out to be .
With the rise of Spotify and the desire to obtain more plays and followers on the platform emerging bands have started working with playlist promotion sites and
playlisters themselves to obtain those bigger better numbers , but unfortunately in my experience the only true winners are the ones accepting the money . The problem with a site that says they will promote you to playlists is that you really have no control over what you get put on , nor do the sites have to prove that the playlists you ’ re on are legit . Plus , there really isn ’ t a way to prove that anyway . My own band has been on some playlists with huge follower numbers , but when looking at our stats would never see anything coming from these playlists . We even had a place that had payment tiers . We never paid , but they did give us a trial run for about 3 weeks . Now that playlist got us a lot of plays , like numbers we ’ d never seen before , but the issue was this . Even though we had plays we got little to no followers from it , and of all those listeners there was no way to tell who were real listeners , and which ones were bots just running you on repeat . Also , of the real life listeners one thing that we encountered was a lot of passive listeners . These listeners are just people that will listen to whatever is on the playlist . They aren ’ t actively looking to add new bands to their roster . So really , in the end , even with all these awesome plays we were getting we weren ’ t seeing really any more engagement with our band than before . Luckily for my band that was the end of our story on chasing playlists , but I know personally of bands that got added to playlists that were loaded with bots and they eventually had their tracks removed permanentaly from Spotify . This is definitely not worth the price of admission , even if its free .
I ’ m not here to tell you to ignore Spotify , or that you don ’ t need it . I mean , they are the name of the game right now , but if you can elicit more engagement your Spotify numbers will improve in a far more substantial manner . Another thing to remember is that Spotify is lacking in a return path . When you get new followers the
only way to get on their radar once you ’ ve dropped off is to release new music or post an upcoming live show . You have no real way to contact your audience to engage with them . You ’ d be better off to work to get people following you on social media outlets where you can interact on the daily . ( Continued on page 77 )
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Do you ever get a chance to go back and unearth some of that stuff and possibly use it in current songs? AV: One of the songs on “Twisted Road” we wrote back in probably 2009. We’d play it a little bit here and there. It was never, really what we wanted at the time. Brett just came in one day, like, hey remember with that sound, because I think there was still a market for it, there was a need for it. You know, people wanted to go back to that sound. And you know, I think what helped a lot back then was honestly. MySpace when it came out was huge. Our record player, I think on MySpace, had like over 150,000 plays. We had, you know, 20,000 fans. People over in Europe connected with us, some guy tattooed our logo on the side of his head. We thought it was going really, really great. And then, I don’t know what happened in the 2010 era, but for us, we just wanted to play what we wanted to play. We knew that this is not really a money making gig for us, you know, it is what we do. It’s our passion. Would we like to sell millions of records? Of course, Who wouldn’t? You know, but for us, our formula is, we only want to put out what we like because we’re doing it on our terms. So if we’re not happy with the product, if it’s something that we don’t want to put in the record player and listen to and bang our heads to them, we’re not going to do it. They’re like, oh okay, that’s the real deal. What it may not be, you know, something, that’s their type of music. They’re not going to be thinking it’s anything but high quality and the real deal. I mean, we bring it and I think it shows there’s a certain presence about it. When you see a band, you’re just like, oh, okay, I get it. They’ve got something. Talk about the advantages you had taking your time with this record. this one? I was like, man, that’s groovy. So, we took it back and rear- ranged it. It’s great to have that material to reference, to say, wow, that’s what we started out with. Now we know what to do with it. How does a classic rock style band stay relevant in today’s industry? AV: Well, for us, it’s easy. It’s funny, because we do get this question asked a lot for us. You know, when we came out back in 2005, and you know, I think 2007 right before we released “Strip Rock,” we had no issues. We were packing out the clubs here in Atlanta, even AV: We are blessed with the ability that we recorded the whole record here at Scott’s. We’re not paying for studio time, so we have that ability to sit back. And one of the things that we that we really focused on, and going back and listening to the older records, was how fast we were playing. So when we’re writing the songs and we’re playing them live, yeah, they feel great. But then I said, you know, whatever beats per minute, we think sounds good. Now, let’s knock it back like five to 10 because that’s actually the right speed. So we really focused hard on pulling it back, getting the groove a little bit better. And then once we got used our ears, it really opened some things up for us to do extra layering in the songs. You are a band that lives live! With nowhere to play, how have you guys been dealing with it? AV: Well, you know all of 2020 was a big mess. Of course when you released your rent, when you spent that long writing and recording this, you drop it February 28. You’d have all these shows lined up to go promote, and you’re like, grass, still, you know? But it’s starting to come back. We played a couple of charity gigs at the end of December, and then in January we played with Kickin’ Valentina here in Atlanta. And it was a sold out show, it was played down. We played just a couple weeks ago at a really cool venue here, 37 Main. And now Bill has got us on the books for lots of road trips. So as of now nothing’s being canceled, and it’s on the book. We’re hitting Louisville, we’re hitting Baltimore, we’re hitting Wisconsin, Kansas City. For us, this up and coming 2021, we’re definitely making up for the loss in ‘20. But it was fine for us. Because, you know, Evan, who is who did the record with us, he lived in San Francisco. So honestly, the touring thing, while doing the record was great, we thought that touring was going to work. In reality, it wasn’t so insteps Darrell, to kind of fill in those shoes. So really 2020, to get him really owning, not only “Twisted Road,” but our other material, you know, worked out good for us. Because then we step back instead of touring, we were able to do a couple music videos, write some new material. We were still very productive. What’s your take on bands lip syncing shows? AV: I don’t understand because that’s not what people pay tickets to go see. To go put in a CD and watch somebody basically lip sync or not I don’t get. I mean, I grew up a punk rocker you know, a metal head, and you’re gonna hear bad notes. It’s just the way it is. And we play them all the time. You know, rock and roll. But at the end of the day, it’s loud, it’s raw. And we’re up there and I mean, we played the other night, I’m hitting this high note and all of a sudden my voice just goes out and I’m like, It’s just what happens. But that’s what I don’t understand. How you can get up there and come off the stage and say wow, man, I really knocked it out of the park! Page 85