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6 Smart Things I Did To Earn Over 140 Million Song Streams in Under 8 Months (With No Marketing Budget)


I've been a musician for the better part of my life now, and have gone through many phases of my artistry. I've always enjoyed and appreciated an eclectic variety of music, though my personal performance taste has always been anchored in more of the pop/R&B vein. After experiencing many different seasons of life, weaving in and out of prioritizing making my own music with being on the business side of the music industry, I released my first children's album last year - inspired by having my own kids and desperately desiring songs that didn't drive me crazy! (You can check it out here on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, or just search "Toddlers Songs (That Don't Suck)" by Xtine Elise on your preferred music platform!)

As a large facet of what I do running my own business, I professionally coach and advise recording artists with the best ways to create and release their music. Over the years, I acquired an incredibly versatile skillset, which coupled with my music business education from Berklee, allowed me to fuse my industry know-how and talent in a way that is pretty unique.

Putting this album together was purely for the joy of doing it, and making good quality, appropriate, and fun music for my kids that was also educational, was the only goal. I know more than anyone that I missed the boat on being born at the right time to make bookoo bucks as a singer-songwriter in the music industry, so money was never the motivation. Thus, I never planned on spending a dime on advertising, and wanted to handle the entire production (beginning to end) completely on my own. If you've got the skills and are willing to put in the time and learn along the way, it can totally be done, and allow you to at least enjoy a little ROI after all is said and done. I made an effort to really strategize how to maximize the potential for my little 5-song album debut, and safe to say, it's seemed to pay off! In just under 8 months, my songs have earned more than 140 million streams across all platforms, worldwide. Do you even understand how many listens that really is, literally? It's wild... especially coming from someone who did it all completely independently, and as a "brand new artist" with no substantial following or lucky viral component attached to it. Here are six smart things I did to help make it happen:

#1 - Released the album on all platforms, big and small

Sure, the obvious players in the distribution game are Spotify and Apple Music, but did you know there are literally hundreds of different platforms all over the world that people use, with new ones being added all the time? When choosing my distribution partners, I kept in mind that I wanted my music to be shared as widely as possible - and that meant through paid services, unpaid, and everything in between. My logic here was that gaining as much exposure as possible for my music would be the best way to grow my following as an artist. And the diversification of my tunes is what made it spread like wildfire ultimately, with the majority of revenues generating from apps like TikTok that I'm not even personally a user of!

#2 - DIY-ed the entire project

My "bread and butter" is in the performance and business departments. I've been a professionally-trained vocalist for more than 20 years, and know all there is to know about being on the back-end of artist development and releasing music. The gap in my education was in some of the trenches of the creative process, where most singers historically require the most intervention. Thanks to the pitfalls my commercial recording studio fell victim to during the pandemic shutdown, I rose to the unexpected task of learning the ins and outs of advanced levels of songwriting, arranging, and music production during that time. It wasn't easy, but it did get better over time and brought me to where I am now - very comfortable behind the mic and the mixing board. I have endless contacts and resources to help me in every area of the music industry, but I wanted to challenge myself and put my skills to the test to bring these songs to fruition from beginning to end, completely by myself - a feat most artists do not even attempt, much less accomplish. Look no further than the credits on any song you've ever known; check out how many people were involved in bringing it to market! For reference, Beyonce's album "Renaissance" utilized more than 170 different people just for the songwriting aspect! That doesn't even include any of the producers, engineers, assistants, musicians, A&R, or label personnel. Making this strategic choice helped me control all aspects of the creative process, to produce songs exactly as I'd envisioned them, and release them the way I felt was the best fit (and most cost-effective).

#3 - Strategically titled all songs

Coming up with names for your songs can be a pretty personal process. Some people like to be super deep with this aspect, and others prefer it to be very obvious, like the main theme or repeated word(s) in the chorus. I tackled this with a very specific mindset, curating songs about topics that felt most relevant for my desired audience. I kept it simple, and made it easy to be found. Picking subjects and titles like "Playground" and "Dance With Me" meant I would come up organically in search more often than not when people were randomly looking for music to fit that idea or setting - whether to enjoy listening to or using for the background of their social media content. Even the album having the words "Toddler Songs" as the main title was completely and totally by design. When a parent or caregiver is looking for music for toddlers, what do you think it is they're searching? Well, "toddler songs" is probably the most obvious and utilized search criteria for someone looking to find music like mine, and it worked!

#4 - Maximized my opportunities for getting saved & playlisted

By creating songs to fit different themes and purposes for kids, I vastly increased my opportunity to not only get found, but have my music be saved and added to playlists regularly. Making tunes that helped teach the ABCs or introduce basic language translations (like English to Spanish on my track "Party Fiesta") meant that the songs were not only fun, but were providing real value to adults and the children they were playing them for. On YouTube, I took the time to create custom and engaging lyric videos to go along with the music, so kids could also make the visual connection between the words and meanings along with the music they were listening to. The platform crossover opportunity was also a good move, and made all the time invested worth it.

#5 - Created songs designed to be listened to repeatedly

Listen... I sought out to create toddler songs that don't suck, and I suppose based on these metrics I've got, that they definitively do not! (LOL) My whole point in writing this music was to make songs that were easy for the parent or caregiver to listen to, too. Not everything needs to sound like a nursery rhyme or rudimentary in instrumentation. Kids like good music as much as adults do. Why not make songs that everyone can enjoy, that sounds like real music, while still checking all the other boxes to make it age-appropriate? Well as it turns out, people really do like that! And I am proud to have made songs that can be listened to repeatedly without them driving anyone crazy, like most other toddler songs in the market! And of course on the other side of this is the business angle - songs that are a joy to listen to will inevitably get played more often, and more plays equals better analytics, more exposure, and more revenue. A win-win for all!

#6 - Spoke to a need in the marketplace

Piggybacking off the previous point, I made sure to identify a true need in the current digital musical landscape. I could have written songs for any audience about anything. I've done music my whole life. But I felt called to do this, because I, too, was suffering from the void in the marketplace. I was honestly having so much trouble finding palatable music to share with my kids, let alone songs I didn't have to have concerns about content-wise. So if I, as a professional musician, was having a problem doing this - surely everyone else was too I thought! It's always a good idea to think strategically about what you want to make, when you want to make it, and who you want to make it for in order to make sure all of those initiatives line up before you start a new project - whether your intention is to have mass success or not. Making "music for you" is fine for some folks, but if you're going to invest the time and money into doing this in the first place, it's best to just do it the right way the first time I think. Why not give yourself the best opportunity for a hit? Seems silly not to. Always take the time to come up with a "business plan" for your release, from beginning to end, to give your music the best chance to be heard by the people who will appreciate it the most.

Want some guidance on making your own music?

Hey, I do that! Whether you're thinking about embarking on a career in music, need help setting up a home studio, want some feedback on your songs, or just have some questions on what to do next to improve your craft, I've helped guide and coach people along their music industry endeavors every week for the past 13 years. You can sign up for your own one-on-one music business consulting session here on my booking site, or apply to become a member of Lock City Music Group for regular, recurring training and custom artist development services year-round. There's nothing I love more than sharing my vast knowledge, experience, tips and tricks with other creatives looking to grow in their artistry, too!


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