People are too obsessed with vanity metrics in the music industry. Well in regular life too – but especially in the music industry.
I'm sure you've looked up your artist friends' stream numbers or Instagram followers. It certainly feels good to be validated in some quantifiable way. It's natural to try to understand where you fall in the overall pecking order of life.
Here's the problem with that (aside from crushing your self-esteem): social and stream numbers are terrible metrics for how well people are ACTUALLY doing at making music their career.
We like defining success as being able to support yourself. Not fame, not driving Lamborghinis, not getting signed (those are fun byproducts, but not the right guiding principle).
Does your IG follower count or number of Spotify streams indicate…
- If you can consistently sell tickets to shows?
- If people buy your merch?
- If people support you on Patreon?
- If people will let you crash at their house while you're on tour?
- If people pay for your VIP experiences?
- If any of those people will do ALL of the above?
Absolutely not. Instagram, Spotify, Youtube, etc are all VANITY metrics. They feel good but are shallow. They demonstrate QUANITY not QUALITY (guess which you need in order for people to spend money on you).
There are tons of broke fashion influencers with 500,000+ followers because their audience doesn't care beyond surface level.
Similarly, I know people who got lucky with a big Spotify playlist right out of the gate, gained some followers, but still aren't making a living. 2 million streams from last year gives you some legitimacy, but after you get bumped from the playlist is that street cred keeping the lights on? Have you used that opportunity to create authentic connections and committed fans?
In our free workshop, I share a framework for thinking about levels of fandom for artists (it's probably a variation of the 1000 True Fans concept by Seth Godin). Everyone in the world falls under one of these levels:
- Casual Fans
- True Fans
- Super Fans
Excluding your non-fans, guess which category 90% of your Instagram followers or Spotify listeners are. Now guess which category is most likely to give you money.
TLDR: Don't obsess over the least-profitable segment of fans. Just watch our workshop to learn more about applying this business model.
David Ryan Olson
Hey I'm David. I'm a mix engineer and I run Evergreen Records. Thanks for reading this article and feel free to contact us with any questions about persuing music that you have.