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Today’s episode and memo are about SoundCloud and the future of superfans. Will Page, the author of Pivot, former Spotify chief economist, and friend of the show, joined us to talk about his new report, SoundCloud Rockonomics. Will recorded this episode live from TYX Studios.
You can listen to the episode here or read below for an excerpt from the report on how Lil Uzi Vert’s true fans changed the game.
how Lil Uzi Vert grew revenue from true fans
In 2015, then-unknown Philadelphia rapper Lil Uzi Vert uploaded their ‘Luv Is Rage’ EP onto SoundCloud. Met with instant fanfare, Lil Uzi Vert quickly built a cult audience on the platform. The hype around ‘Luv Is Rage’ would help the rapper secure a record deal with Atlantic Records, and later a number one debut on the Billboard 200 with their highly anticipated 2017 sequel ‘Luv is Rage 2’. Lil Uzi Vert would go on to repeat this feat in 2020 with ‘Eternal Atake,’ garnering 250,000,000 global streams in the first week from release.
At the time of writing, Lil Uzi Vert stands among the global top 200 most streamed artists on Spotify, with more than 20 million listeners and 180 million monthly streams. Chartmetric, which specializes in social and streaming analytics for artists, shows Uzi’s cult-following being relatively evenly distributed across platforms, including Instagram (16 million), Spotify (13 million), Twitter, and YouTube (both ~9 million). Lil Uzi Vert’s omnipresence across singular platforms may be attributable to their regular release cadence as well as their relentless collaboration (nearly half of their 500 releases to date being collaborations with other artists, with Uzi holding either a primary or featured artist designation). While research shows that hip-hop’s meteoric growth as the most consumed and culturally dominant genre may be slowing , Uzi’s die-hard fan base maintains its global primacy on and off the SoundCloud platform.
Like a boomerang, Lil Uzi Vert returned to SoundCloud in the summer of 2022 to exclusively release “Space Cadet” ahead of their then-forthcoming Red & White EP, opting into FPR teasing both releases on Instagram before the drop. For one of SoundCloud’s most-followed artists, the month-on-month impact of FPR was clear: more of Uzi’s listeners became true fans, and those true fans made up an even greater proportion of the overall revenue. Beyond the direct impact of the new release on aggregate reach and bottom-line revenue, Lil Uzi Vert’s reignited fan base also drove significant activity back to their catalog, representing that a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’.
A true SoundCloud native, Lil Uzi Vert has always used the platform to engage with their fans via comments and messages. Now, with the help of Fan Powered Royalties and Insights, they can not only identify their dense contingency of superfans – a concentrated 6.5% of their millions of listeners that makes up 72% of their earnings, a tenth of whom exclusively listened to Lil Uzi Vert – but more easily target, leverage, and monetize their fan segments.
Of the millions of fans listening in the second month from release, two-thirds were there in the first month, whereas one-third were new. Among those new fans, a tenth is deemed by SoundCloud’s monetary thresholds as ‘passive’, a quarter is ‘engaged’, and the remainder is true fans.
By the third month from release, this deeper knowledge of fan categorization will enable Lil Uzi Vert and their team to apply different tools and strategies for engaging each subsection of fans and monitor the effects on volume, value, and affinity.
You should definitely listen to the full episode! We also talked about:
– why comments and intimacy build the fan-artist relationship
– why fraudulent click farms don’t work on the user-centric streaming model
– what the rest of the industry can learn from this