A lot of digital ink has been spilled this week about Google’s new music search. As per usual, the commentary has been how it will affect business, competition, etc. What gets lost is what it actually DOES for your music. If the prognostication proves true that major amounts of music discovery will shift to Google, then what one needs to do to make sure their music gets discovered must also shift. Interestingly, most of what needs to be done has already been outlined in Futurehit.DNA.
Let’s take one song and the journey for music discovery to see what YOU can do to make sure your songs are more discoverable via Google Music Search. For purposes of example, I’m going to use Rihanna’s new single “Russian Roulette”, since this is a new, highly sought-after track that could benefit greatly from Google.
RELEASE YOUR MUSIC EVERYWHERE
Island Def Jam’s strategy was to get people to her website by only posting the single there. Of course, it goes everywhere due to fans, but this meant that Myspace, iLike or Lala (Google’s streaming partners) do not have the single. This means it is not streamed thru Google Search. Making the hunt difficult usually means people will be more likely to NOT hear the new music you are interested in promoting. But even if her music was up…
NEARLY ALL SONGS ARE ZERO PLAYS
From spotchecking multiple artists, most artists are full song streams. From your own experience, you already know that 30 second samples are annoying so you want full song streams. This means that there’s one big place where nearly all song experience starts with a “zero play”. This phenomenon is outlined in Chapter One of the book, which can be downloaded for free here. But the REAL interesting part comes when you attempt to play the song a second time. To encourage sales, Google limits full streaming to one play, with 30 second samples thereafter. But for most services (such as iTunes), the 30 second sample occurs at a random portion of the song (usually the one minute mark). In Google, it’s the FIRST 30 SECONDS.
So, were Rihanna to be available on Google, the first play is difficult to be embraced quickly because the intro is 26 seconds long. Short attention spans, coupled with the slow tempo, would probably have a difficult time drawing listeners in. But even more concerning would be the SECOND listen. Since it’s only the first 30 seconds, the listener would only hear the intro plus one lyric line and nothing else. Hardly the second listen to entice a purchase.
NEW SONGS WILL BE HARDER TO DISCOVER
Most people search just for an artist name. They only use other searches, such as song name, artist+title, etc. if they are really passionate or aggressive in finding what they’re looking for. But the Google Search, for logical reasons, posts the Top 4 most popular songs for an artist. When you’re an artist with a catalog, it would likely take at minimum several weeks based on normal discovery patterns for a new song to show up there, if ever. By then, the freshness by which most people searched in the first place will have passed. Hopefully this will be fixed in the future.
This is not as big of a problem for indie artists with limited catalogs. Since they’re are few songs to choose from, the new ones are likely to be surfaced via search. But artists, especially hit ones with sizeable catalogs, will have a hard time promoting.
To show you how wide the gap is, look at searches for Rihanna terms related to her new single. Nearly every related search term for the new single is dwarfed by searches for “Rihanna”. This means it will be more difficult for people to hear/find the new single.
MOVE AWAY FROM COMMON TERMS AS SONG TITLES
In this new search world, Google tries, but does not always delineate what type of search you’re looking for. When you type in “Apple”, are you searching for the computer company, the fruit, or the Beatles record label? Song Searches would operate more in the same fashion. And the more generic the title, the more likely it might not even pick up the song search. This is also important because a lot of people don’t remember artist’s names, even though you may think otherwise.
In Rihanna’s case, the second biggest search term after her name is “Russian Roulette”. But when you type in that term, Rihanna’s song shows up in one Youtube link and a couple of the song links. But it’s intermingled with the dangerous gun game and a movie from the 70s. And with the song unavailable, it does not have a song link. Users looking for the song and seeing nothing might get frustrated and not listen to the song. However…
YOUR COVER VERSION MAY SHOW UP
The difficult thing about Google Search is what to do with multiple songs that share the same title. A good example is the song “Let’s Dance” which has many many artists who have recorded a wide variety of songs with that title. Yet Google Search only surfaces the David Bowie song, arguably the most popular. Yet, search for “Let’s Dance Lyrics”, and the Miley Cyrus song shows up.
A similar issue happens with the Rihanna song. Search “Russian Roulette Lyrics”, and the song by the band 10 Years shows up. A smart artist who is more adept at SEO and Tagging might be able to gain exposure from sub-search terms that the hit artist didn’t exploit. Chapter 12 of Futurehit.DNA covers more ground on the benefits of cover songs.
Google’s claim that 2 of the top 10 search terms are music related is fairly accurate. Yet, the most surprising thing about Google’s music search is how many of those terms that are NOT covered. I would suspect that this will change in the months ahead, as Google is very adept at learning from their user base. As they do, I will look into how it affects the music that is created. But for now, the trends I’ve been seeing for the past year regarding music creation hold even more true for Google Music Search.