In my Tools for Indie musicians series (hit the link to see all the posts), I’ve covered 3 different ways to get your music out there. CD Baby and TuneCore both distribute your music to iTunes, Amazon, and the like. BandCamp lets you set up a storefront and sell stuff (or give it away) on your terms. This post is all about NoiseTrade, which is yet another venue for digitally releasing your music.
I think NoiseTrade is special. It has something the others don’t. At least that’s been my experience. That something special is the exposure factor. For me, no online service or marketing tool has been as successful as NoiseTrade, except maybe for YouTube.
First let’s talk about how the service works, and then I’ll dive into exactly how I use it.
How it works
NoiseTrade is a free service, and it is an extremely simple concept, which is probably why it’s so popular. You put up any number of songs (between 1 and 40 tracks), upload your album art, fill in some details, and you’ve got your artist page. For an idea of what that looks like, take a look at one of my artist pages. From the wording I used, you probably deduced that you can have more than one page, but you’ll need a totally separate account for each (including a separate email address). NoiseTrade is not the place to host your entire catalog.
So you put your track(s) up, and then people can download. You cannot charge at NoiseTrade, but people can leave a tip. You do get an email address for everyone who downloads, though. This is where the value comes in.
How I use it – and how to be successful with it
I’ve captured thousands of email addresses using NoiseTrade. That means that thousands of people have downloaded my music through the service. It sounds kind of strange to say that. Some of you might read this and think that “thousands” is no big deal, but for me it sure seems like it.
I have done six releases through NoiseTrade so far. Some of those have been singles, some EPs, and one full-length acoustic album. For me, it went like this:
I released my Strings EP with NoiseTrade in 2010.
At that time, NoiseTrade was pretty new, but they had just made the service free. I just threw the album up there. I had no real way of steering people to it, but over time about 100 or 200 people downloaded it (can’t remember for sure).
My Things EP was finished up in late 2010 – just about a year ago.
I decided to release that through NoiseTrade as well. This time I had a couple hundred email addresses from my last release. I used MailChimp to manage my little mailing list and sent an email to everybody who downloaded the Strings EP, letting them know another release was waiting for them. A few of them downloaded it, plus a few more people. Eventually I built my mailing list up to about 400 – and almost all through NoiseTrade.
Fast-forward to June 2011. I recorded You Have Rescued Me, a full-length acoustic worship album.
At this point I was still getting a few residual downloads from my other two releases, and my mailing list was at about 500. This is when the magic started happening. I sent the email out, and a hundred or so people downloaded the album within a few days. This caused my album to jump up to the coveted top downloads page.
By this time, NoiseTrade had become a pretty popular service, so my album was exposed to a bunch of new fans. I got lucky and a few blogs linked to it as well. In all, the album spent about a week’s time sitting in the top 3 or 4 downloads, and over the span of a few months, I had 1500 or so downloads of that album. At this point, my mailing list had grown to about 1800.
My current strategy
These days I’m trying a strategy where I’m releasing one new song every month. I’ve released three singles so far. Of the three, two of them have spent time on the top downloads page. My Things Single was in the #2 spot for a few days. With each release, I’m gaining a little more exposure, and adding fans to the mailing list.
One note – I’ve found it’s a good idea to create a new account for each release. NoiseTrade is pretty generous in their ranking algorithm, and it allows a person like me who has a couple hundred downloads in a few days to get some precious time in the top spot, even though other albums up there might have racked up thousands of downloads. It has to do with how quickly those downloads come in. If you just refresh the songs on your current account, you might have a fan download your new material, but if they had downloaded the old stuff as well, it only counts as one download. I hope that is clear – basically it’s harder to move up the rankings if you re-use the same account for multiple releases. This gets a bit hairy with multiple email addresses, but it’s worth the effort.
Patience – and what to do if you don’t have any
You might have noticed that building this momentum has taken well over a year for me, and I’ve released six things in that time. That’s a lot of patience, and a lot of work writing and recording quality material. If you don’t have that kind of time, you can apply for the NoiseTrade partner program. Your music has to be approved, and you have to pay for it, but if you’ve got a bit of a budget it would probably be worth it for you in the end.
Some final thoughts
NoiseTrade is run by some great people. It was co-founded by Derek Webb who is sort of a music hero of mine, and one of the founding members of Caedmon’s call.
There are a lot of Nashville peeps on it, and the styles that you see a lot are folk, rock, singer/songwriter, worship, folk-pop (I call this genre “quirky”), etc. Luckily, my music falls pretty nicely into that genre, so people that look for music there won’t be too startled by what they hear from me.
They integrate with social media extremely well. Part of why you get exposure with them is that people tweet about your music and post to facebook.
Honestly – I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t use NoiseTrade. Sure, you are giving your music away for free, but exposure is worth a lot of money. Here are my thoughts on giving away music for free. Plus, I’ve made a few bucks on tips.
Now go release some stuff so I can download it and spread the word!