The One Thing

Stop focusing on streams—focus on this instead

Published 8 months ago • 3 min read

Streams are vanity numbers that are easy to fake.

It takes very little effort or money to rack up a slew of streams on Spotify, and while those big numbers may look good to the untrained eye, any discerning individual can tell exactly where those streams are coming from.

It’s not difficult to track.

And what’s more, those hollow streams do absolutely nothing to advance the career of the artist who paid for them.

Now, if you’re after a quick money grab from Spotify’s payout pool without actually building a career as an artist, then more power to you—do your thing (though I would argue there are a lot easier ways to make money).

But if you’re interested in actually building a fanbase, a career, and creating a catalog of music as an asset that grows and earns for you while you sleep, then chasing streams is a bad deal.

There is something much more fundamental we need to focus on.

Streams as a measurement

Focusing on streams as the primary metric to gauge the efficacy of your marketing is like wading into the shallow end of the pool up to your knees and claiming you learned how to swim.

I mean, sure, you got in the water, but let’s not kid ourselves here—you still don’t have a skill you can depend on when you need it.

Much in the same way, a bunch of streams without actual listeners fails to build a dependable fanbase you can rely on to continue showing up.

Social metrics like streams and views are surface-level numbers that can be easily manipulated to look good, and because they can be easily manipulated, they fail to be an apt measure of success.

But genuine streams that haven’t been manipulated are simply symptomatic of something deeper—a fanbase.

A fanbase listens to your music and will drive streams to your catalog, but streams from just anywhere won’t create a fanbase.

See the difference?

Focusing on streams is putting the cart before the horse.

But if we focus on the right end goals, the streams will come, and so will everything else.

The real goal

The true success of an artist lies not in earning streams but in earning fans—real people who love our work and love supporting us along the way.

Build an engaged fanbase, and everything else will follow.

If we can earn true fans of our work, we will earn the streams, the views, and the sales on the other side.

This is why it is so important to prioritize marketing channels that actually give you access to your listeners, not so you can extract more value from them, but so you can give more value to them.

If we can’t find the people who are listening to our music, how can we ever hope to connect with them to deepen that relationship?

The relationship is what matters—the other stuff is secondary.

A fanbase can move mountains.

Marketing methods to use

I only prioritize marketing methods that allow me to access my fanbase, both for myself and for every artist I help.

Fortunately for me (for all of us, really), there is one primary method that accomplishes this—content.

Whether paid or organic, content is the single biggest needle-mover for creating and connecting with a fanbase.

Content means photos, videos, and, yes, even music.

Create more. Earn more.

With a single post on Instagram, we can engage with fans in the comments, boost the post to a wider audience, retarget viewers of that video to send them to Spotify and retarget those who click through to Spotify with an offer for music or merch.

And it’s the same on every other platform—TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, you name it.

The mechanisms don’t change, only the atmosphere.

If someone discovers our music through a blog we paid to be featured on, a playlist we paid to be on, or even another social profile we paid to be reposted by, we have exactly zero access to those people after the fact.

No fanbase-building opportunities, only hollow views or streams that boost our vanity numbers but do nothing to further our efforts on a larger scale (and that’s if those things even translate, which they usually don’t).

So whether it’s ads or organic (ideally, we’ll use both), content is king because it is the true top-of-funnel experience for a much richer and more vibrant fanbase and career as an independent artist.

Now go make some stuff and earn some fans.

Whenever you're ready, there are four ways I can help you:

  1. Read the Newsletter: Read previous issues of The One Thing to learn at your own pace and upgrade your marketing knowledge for free.
  2. Book a Consultation: Schedule a one-on-one call with me to improve your marketing across paid advertising, social media, and more.
  3. The Spotify Traffic Accelerator: Join the hundreds of artists who have successfully learned to automate their growth on Spotify using paid ads on Instagram.
  4. Become a DuPree X Artist: Hire our team to manage your marketing across streaming platforms and social media so you can focus on what matters most—making music.

The One Thing

Tom DuPree III

One high-leverage idea to scale your audience (and your business). Delivered every Tuesday.

Read more from The One Thing

Three of the most effective places for artists to monetize their music are also the three best places to promote it. Succeeding as an independent artist is a delicate balance of marketing your work, serving your fans, and earning money. Because it’s tough to balance everything as a team of one (or only a few), it makes sense to double down on the things that can check more than one box for us. Especially when we’re just getting started. The beauty of music streaming, selling merch, and...

6 days ago • 3 min read

Where we choose to advertise makes a significant difference in the performance of our ads. If we go too tight, we might experience a much higher cost per result (and fewer overall results for our ad spend) than we want to see. If we go too broad, we might waste our money on results that don’t really count for much in the long run. That whole “if your audience is everyone, your audience is no one” thing. So how should we think about country targeting when it comes to sending traffic to Spotify...

13 days ago • 5 min read

Music marketing is about so much more than playlisting vs. advertising. And certainly about more than just creating content and getting streams. It’s about connecting with others and creating a fulfilling path to earn our freedom and a life of meaning through art. Too much emphasis is put on the mechanics of marketing, while not enough is put on why we do the things we do. Why do we release music? Why do we post content? Why do we run ads? Why wouldn’t we do those things? Well, we’re going to...

20 days ago • 4 min read
Share this post