The Anatomy Of A Tumblr Audio Post
A lot of people ask what my secret is for the increase in Tumblr shares over the past few months. Basically “Why do your music and posts get reblogged so often?”
So this is an attempt to answer that and help out other people. Note: there are things like better song choices, better production, community growth, and better blog posts - which all lend to a higher visitor count. But this post exclusively will explain everything I did wrong from a design standpoint, and then I’ll explain what I’m now doing correctly.
In one of my earlier days here’s what my posts looked like:
This was very unacceptable for 3 reasons:
1.) The Thumbnail is un-readable.
2.) The blog post is incorrectly formatted
3.) The thoughts were part of the music post.
4.) It wasn’t authentic.
Let’s go over these 1-by-1:
1.) When browsing Youtube or Tumblr, it all starts with the Thumbnail. The Thumbnail is like the storefront sign that has to give you a desire to enter the store. Not only were my thumbnails visually ugly and unpleasing (as you can see above), but they also couldn’t be read from a distance. When browsing iTunes or Bandcamp, you were unable to read what song it was, which is a huge red flag when considering a lot of of my purchases were from random browsing searches. I always say that doing internet browsing for new content is the equivalent of window shopping years ago - you have to make the product behind the window make someone want to walk through the door. To me, walking through the door is visiting my website and pressing “play” on the song. Whether they buy it or not is completely based on the quality of the song and other factors. But it all first starts with the thumbnail.
2.) The format of the posts were wrong (as highlighted in red in the picture directly above) Everything looked great on a desktop, but I was completely forgetting about the importance of the mobile site and Tumblr app. The words “For Orchestra” might have looked good on my desktop (direct picture below), but it was months before I saw how others were seeing it on their phones and tablets.
In addition, in the first picture the links were listed vertically rather than horizontally. In a world where mobile real estate is limited, I started thinking of ways to make the user experience a better layout visually as well as functionally.
3.) Tumblr, and many social sites for that matter, usually take things better in small doses. This increases the likelihood of it being read and shared. But there’s also another important aspect to it - what I call secondary editing. In Twitter it’s called “Moderated Tweets”. It’s the idea of someone editing what you wrote before they reblog it to their community.
When I was including the “thoughts” of my posts (as pictured directly below) in with the music, people very commonly would erase all my words and just reblog the music. Little did they realize they were also deleting my Amazon iTunes and Bandcamp purchase links. Others didn’t reblog the music at all because it was too wordy - they probably didn’t even realize it was a music post!
So now I separate them. I post my “thoughts” the day prior to the song which keeps the archive untouched, allows the song to stand on it’s own, and also increases shares and purchases of my music.
4.) If two people, your uncle and a homeless man, asked you for $5 which one would you be willing to give it to? The answer is probably your uncle simply because you trust him and have rapport with him. As much as the homeless man may need it more, he has no connection with you, so he comes off as SPAM, unauthentic, and “creepy”.
As this community grows I’m creating a stronger relationship with everyone. I email, tweet, hang out in person, and do a lot of other cool stuff that is naturally allowing people to see that I’m a real person. In short: I’m not creating a fanbase, I’m creating a friendbase.
This transparency has to happen over time. It doesn’t happen in a day or a month. In fact, it doesn’t even happen from me. It usually happens from other people telling their friend about me. That’s a big difference because who are you going to trust more: your best friend or the random musician saying “check out this music”?
So the press is less hesitant to write about me because I have a good history of music and rapport, new members in this community feel welcomed, and I’ve grown a reputation of being trustworthy (and dare I say ridiculously fun!)
Finally, I’ve noticed that adding links to the other musicians has helped a lot. It first started last month with Kezinox’s Homestuck song shows transparency because people naturally want to help out independent painters, musicians, and directors. To say “Purchase this song and support me and the original composer” is a world of a difference than just saying “Purchase this song”. No man is an island - and when your audience sees that then they see you’re a team player and transparent.
5.) Meta-Tags are the thing I was missing out on. Everything you do on the internet is archived forever. While the archive will sit there forever, it doesn’t mean people will ever find it. An online product is like a tombstone hidden deep inside an Egyptian Pyramid, whereas the Meta-Tags are street signs saying “go this way to find the hidden treasure.”
The reality is that people search. A LOT. They search on Bandcamp, Twitter Search, phone apps, Google, iTunes Search, and even on websites. To reach out and find new fans is cumbersome is goes back to the SPAM idea I talked about above. Rather, if you allow your music to be found, then the traffic naturally comes to you. This frees up my time to do the true things I care about: like stay in touch with my community and write more music for them.
So the biggest takeaway is this: it’s never too late to start on your journey, but understand that it all takes time. The trick is to always be paying attention and think about improving every aspect of your product - from the design of a website, the edit of a film, the color scheme of a thumbnail, or even the technique of a brush stroke.
What Makes Something Beautiful?
I talk a lot on this blog about making things beautiful. From a composition perspective, it seems vague, so I wanted to explain what I mean by that.
While beauty is subjective, I think there’s an element to that word that people can all agree on.
The reason I don’t call streets beautiful is because there’s no love put into them. The measurements are all wrong, the paint jobs are careless, the lines aren’t straight, the area where the road meets the grass looks horrible, and the colors aren’t consistent. They’re unremarkable.
I don’t call houses beautiful because they’re lifeless. Not in the literal sense, but in the way they’re crafted (why are these lights off center by 1/2 inch? Who thought that door went with that house? Why is the shape so boring?).
Beautiful doesn’t mean good-looking. It doesn’t mean flutes, a solo violin passage, soft, or whimsical.
Beauty is in the mind. It’s about how something makes you different than you were before you saw, heard, or felt it. And it has no shape - it can be heavy, dark, lovely, fast, slow, scary, bright, soft, or anything in between.
It’s about creating a product to the point that it brings both the artform and the viewer alive. It’s the difference between ‘like’ and ‘love’.
In music, beauty isn’t in how it sounds, beauty is how it feels.