How to Get People to (Want to) Listen to Your Mixtape
by CJ Milli
We’ve all been there, triumphantly uploading your masterpiece of a mix that is the culmination of your entire career as a DJ, only then to have NOBODY listen to it. It’s hard to pinpoint why you’re not getting plays and reposts, or why no one seemed to notice your "feel v blessed, up in the studio, check my mix, big things coming, on my grind" post on Facebook. To help out my fellow DJs, I put together this guide to maximizing your play potential, raising that embarrassing number of followers, and help avoid you finding yourself in your mom's kitchen drinking straight from the milk jug with an angry look on your face, wondering why everyone's hating so hard and no one's warming up next to your hot fire.
1. COME UP WITH A CONCEPT.
The best mixtapes have a purpose. Coming up with a theme/concept that runs throughout your project, including the cover art will greatly increase the artistic value of your release. If your mixtape has direction, as opposed to being a collection of random tracks, it will attract the right audience and allow your listeners to take more away from it. Part of your concept should be the choosing the right cover art to represent your mix. Imagery is a powerful thing, and the first chance you have to make an impression on a potential fan since it is the first thing that people will notice. If it's missing altogether or poor in quality, people won’t click that play button. Unattractive artwork will be and associated with bad music, if your presentation looks sloppy, people will assume your music is the same way.
Since many people download mixtapes based solely on the cover art, it's a great idea to commission a graphic designer to make a mixtape cover for you. If you don't have any particular artists in mind, YoungBlood Design is great at working with artists to create logos, graphics, and cover art that fit their specific personality and musical style. Regardless of whether you make a cover yourself, hire someone to make one for you, or use a random picture you found on tumblr; make sure that your cover art represents your style of music and draws people in.
2. GIVE YOUR MIX A NAME THAT STANDS OUT.
After looking at the cover art for your mixtape, the next thing people will notice is the name. Forget the boring, regular names you hear all the time. Think click bait! Funny doesn't work for everyone, but funny mixtape titles are a great way to engage your audience before they even press play. This type of title definitely won't work for everyone; but as an example, one of my favorite and best received mixtapes was titled "Same Sex Marijuana."
3. ADD A TRACKLIST.
Adding a tracklist to your mixtape increases visibility by allowing your mixtape to show up in Google search results. For example, have you ever been Googling the shit out of a hard-to-find track, and one of the only results is a link to a mix on Soundcloud that contains your coveted tune? Chances are, if you love that song, you’ll assume that DJ has good taste (or at least taste similar to yours) and want to check out the rest of their mix. Set out to make your mixes of a superior quality with left field sounds that will have other DJ's listening just so they can poach your tracklist (which they won't be able to because you dig deep for hard to find gems, rarities, and unique edits right?) tl;dr: adding a tracklist means that some people who wouldn’t normally press PLAY will because their interest is piqued by your immaculate selections.
4. ADD CUSTOM DROPS.
Another great way to make your mixtape stand out is to add your own custom drops and tags. DJ drops let the listener know whose mixtape they’re listeting to, and can add a professional cohesiveness to the finished product. You can use your favorite DAW to record them yourself- audacity is a super simple, free program for recording/editing. OR for only $10 you can get your very own custom drops by CJ Milli!
Adding drops to your mix also helps to ensure that your mix won't get removed on Soundcloud due to copyright infringement. It's a good idea to put drops/tags over the songs that are really popular and likely to be in the Soundcloud illegal tracks database. Soundcloud's copyright checking is a surefire way to get your account deleted and make sure your mix is DOA, so find creative ways around it. It can be done!
5. NETWORK!I can directly attribute my success as a DJ to the time I've spent networking online. As nice as it may be to dream of the day a big name stumbles across your soundcloud and decides to lift you from obscurity, it's just not going to happen. You've got to make opportunities happen for yourself- and you can do this by networking. An easy way to start is to go through, track by track, and message the different producers who made each song in your mix. You might want to skip the super famous artists- the ones who you know will probably never see your message; but the smaller known artists are just like you and I and most of them are more accessible than you think! Start looking at them as your peers, because they are - and most people love hearing that DJs are playing their tracks. Ask them for feedback, build a network of support. Real recognize real (realm recognize realm), and true talent will resonate among those who can see it. Build up your network by reaching out to DJs and producers who inspire you.
6. SEND YOUR MIXTAPE TO SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BLOGS.
Another way to get your mixtape seen in the cyber realm is to contact your favorite blogs to see if they’d be interested in you making them an exclusive mix. Having your mixtape hosted by someone with an established name can help it get noticed by a whole new audience, while also giving you free promotion.
7. TAG YOUR MIXES.
Possibly one of the most important things to promote mixes on platforms like Soundcloud and Mixcloud is that you learn how to tag. What a tag does is add a stamp on your mix to ensure that people searching for a certain type of music can find your tracks. It’s like the label for a package they have yet to open. Make sure your mix is tagged with at least two or three music genre tags - it's a main factor listeners consider when deciding whether it's their cup of tea. Find mixes you respect that are similar genres and see how they have them tagged. Find your lane and fit in where you belong!
8. MAKE A VIDEO.
Make a video to accompany your mix and upload it to your Facebook Page and Youtube (if you can pass their copyright shits). Even if people might not normally be interested in listening to your mix, a cool video can change their mind! To do this you don’t have to be a professional video-ographer. For one of my best-received mixes I put together a video containing clips from videos made by some of my favorite Net-artists. I gave them credit in the description- and the artists + other people loved it! Check it out below.
9. POST YOUR MIX ON SOCIAL NETWORKS.This last point may seem obvious, but I included it for you non-professional internet surfers. You should be blasting all your available social media leading up to, and immediately after, the release of your mixtape. If people like what they hear, they’ll share it with their friends, increasing your audience and name recognition. If you haven't already, make a dedicated artist page on facebook. Spammy self-promotion from your personal account is never a good look.
And that concludes the CJ Milli Cyber Hustling Academy guide to how to get people to (WANT to) listen to your mixtape. Stay tuned for my next post, “Life after Soundcloud” where I’ll give you tips on how to keep your mixes from getting taken down, and where to head to when you’re finally ready to give up your Soundcloud profile. Good luck, and may your transitions be smooth, your tracklist flawless, and your MP3's 320. ♪