Gaining success in the music industry in 2018 is all about clout. You know it, I know it and so does every musician with a tummy tea/toned ab guide side hustle on Instagram. It’s no coincidence that the best-selling artists and breakout superstars of this year all tend to be the most viral. Drake, Cardi B, 6ix9ine, Bhad Bhabie and Lil Pump, if nothing else, have plenty in common when in comes to having a strong online presence and you only have to look at the Billboard charts to see how well it translates. It also means that now, up-and-coming artists can market their personalities, build real connections with their fans and come across more relatable than ever before.
If you’re wondering how we got here, well, you’ve got to hand it to the Soundcloud revolution for this one. The platform changed the way musicians could reach their adoring public by giving control over the times and terms, often with a lot more ease than the newer streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music.
Time was: you could whack a song on Soundcloud, take one cool press photo (just one!), easily get a couple hundred reposts and then watch the A&Rs come sniffing around. But as Soundcloud and its algorithms have been muscled to the side by the big Spotify playlists (Rap Caviar, et al), the last few years have seen a new wave of promotion tactic take hold – one favoured by the lower-rung rappers starting out rather than anyone that’s been extended an invite to DJ Khaled’s yacht.
It’s called the Twitter invoice and if you’ve had even a cursory look at your Twitter feed this year, you’ve probably seen it. The concept is simple: find a completely innocuous but widely relatable viral tweet (or make your own), then attach another tweet with the URL of whatever you want to promote on it, which people on the further reaches of Twitter will see when they inevitably go to check the replies. You might have read a couple of these: “While ur all here… my Soundcloud is / paypal me $5 / etc.”
The completely fair questions we should be asking, of course, are how well does Twitter invoicing actually work and how effective a marketing tool is it? Surely… nothing happens. Right? We spoke to three different up-and-coming Soundcloud artists to find out what happens when you spend your non-music making hours hitting up other people’s Twitter accounts for clout.
Liv, 15 – Sydney, Australia (@liivmiddleton)
Noisey: I saw you plug on a viral tweet you did. How many times have you done that?
Liv: I’ve only plugged it under my one viral tweet so far! I was lucky enough to go viral and I was highkey embarrassed to plug at first. But I did and what I found interesting is that people were replying, retweeting and quoting all surprised, as if no promoted Soundcloud they’ve ever clicked was any good.
I guess what you do is kinda left of what people would expect to see under a tweet too which is why they gravitate towards it? Like, you’re not a rapper, for example.
Yeah for sure! It was actually kind of scary, because at the same time I didn’t want it to flop.
Did you see an increase in views/follows off the back of that?
Yes! I gained a solid like 45+ followers, and about 60 Twitter followers too. My daily average this week was around 450 listens per day, and once the tweet took off it was at 900 that day.
Nice! It’s funny talking to Twitter users your age because lot of people say that Twitter is a dying platform for young people. Would you say that’s true in your experience?
Absolutely not! There are lots of young people on Twitter. When I was younger I never really saw a point to Twitter because what’s the point if you aren’t a fan account, near famous, or have a really entertaining daily lifestyle to tweet about. But there’s much more to it and I think lots of teens are realising that too.
Iman, 17 – Youngstown, Ohio (@freshmaniman)
Noisey: How much buzz have you been getting on social media for your recent song "Silver Clouds"? I saw someone post it in the thread of a Kanye tweet.
I think I’ve gained a few thousand followers on Twitter and just gotten a lot of good feedback in my messages and in the comments section with people supporting me which is great.
The term “Soundcloud artist” used to be a diss and now it’s something that a lot of popping musicians have embraced. Is that something you relate to?
Yeah I know what you mean, there was a huge wave of new rappers from SoundCloud and that really represents where music stands right now and how powerful the internet is.
How do you strike a balance between music and your personality on social media?
Well, I want to be relatable. To do that I think it’s best to be an open book. Sometimes I want people to feel like they aren’t alone. So I try to be genuine and to be myself at all times, even on social media.
A lot of people go the route of getting viral attention before releasing music as a byproduct. Do you worry this might become the normal thing for the next generation of musicians?
I think that’s just a part of how the world and technology evolves. It’s helped me out so much and I can only respect it. I don’t really have a problem with it as long as what they’re making is genuine and from their heart.
Dante, 24 – Southern California (@sinpassion)
You did a cover of “Star Shopping” by Lil Peep that went viral and then you put your SC underneath it. Was the idea to use to viral content to draw people into your own stuff?
I never thought it'd get as much attention as it did but it's kind of just what I do. I'm really dedicated to my art and I'm always making videos and doing covers. I share them on all my social platforms as a form of expression. Especially as an independent artist, it’s tough to get noticed in today’s industry unless you have mad clout but if you work hard enough you can do it on your own.
Do you think there's an overlap between the Twitter and Soundcloud community?
There's definitely an overlap but they serve different purposes. Soundcloud is a hub for music enthusiasts so when you distribute your content it's sent directly to the audience you would want to tap into. On the other hand, there’s an overload of other information on Twitter. It’s like a cannon you can put your content in, and if you pair it with an aesthetically pleasing video or photo it can really take off.
Do you think using a combination of social platforms, like Twitter and Soundcloud, is the way of the future then? In terms of developing a meaningful connection with fans without the need for industry middlemen?
For independent artists, Soundcloud and Twitter will continue to be important platforms to tap into the audience they seek. It’s definitely a way of the future but the future is now. It’s already happening.
You can find Alex on Twitter.