Pre-release, which platform is cutting the mustard most for jazz promo and how?
Changing all the time for now labels certainly do things differently even on the same platform by harnessing the power of sharing most of all via professional, DIY media, and not forgetting viral or near viral informal fan networks.
Take Bandcamp: some jazz labels put their releases up there in their entirety before release, not just one track only.
By doing this they are being very transparent and generous certainly. However while labels are bound to lose some sales just as newspapers who put all their content up for free on the Internet without a paywall lose some of theirs what they gain is easy profile at no PR cost at all and actually get the unconvinced music fan – the potentially new fanbase – to listen without any commitment. This amounts to a long game strategy full of risk and hard to quantify at first but a clever one in some ways as it is hard enticing people to commit to a new band without hard evidence. Decide not to do this and the chances are not being able to listen results in not believing enough to engage. It won’t work all the time no one is saying particularly if the record is a dog.
Elsewhere YouTube-type promo tracks with promo written all over them are less effective, certainly for sharing. YouTube single tracks with either audio or video and no ad lines are better (audio only is completely fine) so the listener can try out without feeling they are in the middle of a slick sales pitch. Online communities are definitely more likely to share the more organic it is.
Soundcloud for me is now worse than it used to be because the ads are more intrusive and the tech itself clunkier than it could be, the layout not as straightforward as Bandcamp. I am reluctant to share Soundcloud tracks on marlbank these days mainly because of this. A few years ago most tracks shared on this site were via Soundcloud so that is a big change in favour of Bandcamp.
Putting a single track on Bandcamp doesn’t do a great deal for me or serve you dear readers particularly well because jazz is such an album art and you are learning little and typically the track selected is unrepresentative of the whole (it tends to be the most accessible or a cover). Labels of course can take their albums down from Bandcamp after a while if they want to concentrate on CD or vinyl sales rather than downloads and once the promo is done. However if this becomes standard certainly I’ll be more reluctant to share Bandcamp tracks because when future readers come back to look at old stories they will find that the tracks have disappeared so that spoils the effect. I hope this doesn’t happen wholescale but already I have seen it a little particularly when major labels are involved.
As for Spotify most of what I have noticed recently is that tracks do not go up on Spotify ahead of the release date so as a promo platform it is not really so relevant for jazz as Bandcamp or YouTube. It is different in other genres. Also in jazz certain labels boycott Spotify because of their low royalty rate.
Excerpting, wrapping up this brief look at a big subject, amounts to the least satisfactory way of product sampling and is fast becoming the exception rather than the rule. By that I mean putting clips up as say Amazon do, 30 secs of each track running on an automatic loop which used to be a very handy feature but is now old hat really. Qobuz do this a little better in terms of sound quality however it is still far from ideal if you want to gain enough accurate insight before you make the listening or purchasing leap.