Use Social Sharing Platforms Like A Panel

More and more artists are embracing social sharing platforms like YouTube (video), SoundCloud (audio), Wattpad (storytelling) to get their works out and connect with fans. We have invested heavily in this category and both SoundCloud and Wattpad are USV portfolio companies. Another benefit of these platforms is you can use your followers/fans on these platforms like a panel. If you assume that the millions of followers you have on SoundCloud are more or less a representative sample of your entire fan base, then their behavior is more or less a reflection of the behavior of your entire fan base. If they like a new song a lot, it will probably be popular with your entire fan base. If they aren’t so excited about it, then maybe it won’t be a hit with your fan base.

SoundCloud announced a new feature for creators today that is a great example of this. It is called “Top Cities”. This is how SoundCloud describes it:

Plan your next tour, release strategy, and get better at connecting with your fanbase, by knowing exactly where they are β€” just click the β€˜Top cities’ tab in your stats dashboard.

I recall seeing startups crop up from time to time where this was the entire business plan – figuring out where artists fans were so they could plan a tour. It turns out it wasn’t a great business. But I do think its a great feature. And just one example of how you can turn your followers on social sharing platforms into a panel that will allow you to understand them and connect with them better.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JamesHRH

    That is one of the all time Entrepreneurial Judgement Calls – is this a Great Business or a Great Feature?

    1. pointsnfigures

      I think Fred’s right, that is a great feature.

      1. William Mougayar

        many startups succeed at being a feature with lots of traction, then they get acquired.

        1. pointsnfigures

          Yup. But, generally they aren’t blow out billion dollar businesses

          1. William Mougayar

            It depends. I think the range might vary. Was Instagram a feature when they were acquired?

          2. pointsnfigures

            Good question. Depends on your perspective.

          3. pointsnfigures

            Of course, like a good politician I couched my comment with the word “generally”. If we look at the Craigslist wall, we can see lots of unbundling that became businesses.

          4. William Mougayar

            yep. that was a great chart.

          5. JimHirshfield

            Twitter. It started as a tweak to SMS. Definitely a feature.

          6. LE

            If you get mainstream media attention and celebrities on board any feature can become a company. If you get Oprah on board you can become President.

          7. LE

            What? You come to me as authoritative the opinion of some someone who was in middle school when the internet started. And hence has a much different world view based on that framing. MSM has tremendous reach that goes way beyond even their audience. And influence. It’s like comparing the influence of Manhattan vs. Chicago [1]In all seriousness though mainstream media attention or mainstream celebrity “Justin Bieber” aka “someone your aunt has even heard of” becomes the kernel of the thing that leads to tremendous reach of who you are and the message you are trying to deliver. Not to mention the fact that it adds to legitimacy in the minds of large groups of people.Why do you think the (fucking [2] ) Kennedy’s are still masturbated over a half a century later? Because of constant attention all stemming from main stream media and political celebrities (as well as news people). And it never stops. It’s an ecosystem.Along those lines, since you are in bus dev (right?) I think you should get nbcnews on board with disqus. That way Brian Williams will say “and visit our website to comment on this story” instead of just mentioning twitter all the time.[1] Manhattan has less people but way more influence in the World.[2] And drinking. Funny huh?

        2. ShanaC

          its a healthyish path in an enviroment with not tons of of rd budgets

          1. William Mougayar

            well, it’s one option.

    2. fredwilson

      VCs have to make that call as well. we have done a decent job of that in some murky situations (Twitter was called a feature in its early days). but we have also blown that call a bunch.

      1. William Mougayar

        yep. some companies can start as a feature and make it a real business. others stay as a feature and can’t get out of it.

      2. JamesHRH

        40 HRs in 600 at bats makes you an All Star.You get to blow that call a lot, fortunately!

    3. Richard

      I think you mean “first entrepreneurial judgement calls”

      1. JamesHRH

        Not sure what you are getting at, but the Feature v Business call is really tough, from inside a startup. Its only a little easier from outside.The reason is that customers cannot tell you if it is a feature or a business, you have to decide on your own.The ‘first entrepreneurial judgement call ‘ is ‘who do I do business with’ which should be a lot easier judgement call.But, its not one that people think about enough ( ‘ Hi, my name is Doc Rivers…….. ‘ ).

  2. JimHirshfield

    Feature Friday already!! Can’t wait to sleep in tomorrow morning! Wait….wut?

    1. ShanaC

      such is life. wish I could have slept in today – rain in NYC sucks

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Such a difference in perspective — probably because I come from a place with minimal precipitation. I’m on Long Island today (back home tomorrow) and have loved the rain today. But mostly through my hotel window while working.In NY on a focused parental mission so not very social — felt strange being here without reaching out to my pals. But you found me on 4sq I see. πŸ™‚

  3. JimHirshfield

    So, this here AVC community is also like a panel. Where are your fans located?

    1. William Mougayar

      I think it’s more about what the (fans) commenters say that’s probably Fred’s compass, to some extent.

      1. JimHirshfield

        For sure. A panel any way you look at it.

    2. fredwilson

      ask and you shall receiveargentina surprised me

      1. Drew Meyers

        What are the top cities?

        1. fredwilson

          My guess is NYC, SF, LA, Mubmai, Bangalore, London, Toronto, Berlin, Chicago, and Sao PauloLet me go see now

          1. jason wright


        2. fredwilson

          here is the list. i was close, but missed a few big ones like Boston, Seattle, and Austin. i should have known Boston. that was a brain fade.

          1. Drew Meyers

            Cool, thanks for sharing. and Go seattle!

          2. JimHirshfield

            “fade” <—auto-correct for “fart”?

          3. Donna Brewington White

            Although would have expected Boston to be higher on the list — and surprised that Los Angeles is behind London. Does this reflect what you see in the startup scene or are there other factors influencing these stats?

          4. Nate

            @fredwilson going on tour?!

      2. jason wright

        “argentina surprised me”you blog about bitcoin, hence their interest in avc.

        1. Jim Canto

          This begs the question; If the data is a result, does that make it a good indicator?

      3. William Mougayar

        Bitcoin is big in Argentina too πŸ™‚

        1. jason wright

          great minds think alike. i think your connection is faster than mine πŸ™‚

      4. JLM

        .Don’t know why but the low number for Canada surprises me.Isn’t Canada an English speaking country except for Montreal?I want to merge Canada, Mexico and USA.JLM.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Surprised when factoring in that Canada is 1/10th the population of the U.S.?

          1. JLM

            .Damn good point. Well played.I love Canada. Punches way above its weight class.JLM.

          2. Matt A. Myers

            I can fully get behind this comment. πŸ™‚

          3. JLM

            .Don’t go Obama on me, lead from the front.You’re the Fifth Column, pal.Make it happen.JLM.

          4. LE

            So does Austin Tx.

          1. JLM

            .Haha, really well done.As a former balaclava wearer (cotton, mind you), I love that Canada claims them. I used to wear a certain kind of balaclava as a condition of my work. Bad working conditions, I might add.Eh?JLM.

      5. William Mougayar

        I think Canada dropped slightly. It used to be 4.8%.Time to get you up there again πŸ™‚

        1. jason wright

          i thought the ice was melting

          1. William Mougayar

            no yet. 42F today. i think it will be all melted by June/July.

      6. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Interesting. Any thoughts on why the popularity in Argentina? Is there a strong startup culture there or is this just randomly interested people in AVC. Thanks for sharing!

  4. William Mougayar

    It’s the dis-intermediation of everything.Unbundling + Crowdsourcing + Large Networks = Dis-intermediation 2.0 Services

  5. Richard

    Skate to where the puck is going. Make the feature predictive.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      “It looks like you’re getting married soon with all those mixed tapes you’re sharing with Cindy. You’ll probably move in with her soon, so you probably should start getting used to listening to: ______, ______, _____ ….You’ll likely also have some children soon based on your lack of buying condoms and Cindy’s lack of using birth control and the increased proximity of the two of you. We suggest you suggest listen to _____ while you have the time, and might as well get used to Britney Spears for when your kids become teens.”

      1. JimHirshfield

        And I thought your startup was still in stealth mode!!

        1. Matt A. Myers


      2. jason wright

        is that Led Zeppelin?

        1. Matt A. Myers

          It should be!

    2. ShanaC

      You need huge datasets for that.

      1. Richard

        maybe not, you could combine data or use a K-means algorithm to combine data, create a time series and you might have a prediction. So if you are a brooklyn band, it doesn’t help much knowing your fans are in brooklyn. Knowing that your fans will soon be in DC might be useful.

    3. Emily Merkle

      Relativity Media is an extremely successful pioneer of predictive modeling of this sort.

  6. jason wright

    “If you assume that the millions of followers you have on SoundCloud are more or less a representative sample of your entire fan base, then their behavior is more or less a reflection of the behavior of your entire fan base.”Led Zeppelin.

    1. JimHirshfield

      Non sequitur. Please unpack your thoughts.

      1. jason wright

        Mr. Wilson will be keeping you behind after class for extra homework.

        1. JimHirshfield

          If there’s a bustle in your hedge row,Don’t be alarmed now.It’s just a sprinkling for the May Queen.#homeworkdone

          1. Jim Canto

            I’m so lost. #knuckleheadexposed πŸ™‚

          2. jason wright

            you’ve come to the right place. all will become clear on here.

          3. Jim Canto

            Thank you, Jason.

    2. ShanaC

      the question is are they representative in the first place?

      1. jason wright

        ‘repre’ is diminishing.

  7. Laurent Boncenne

    mhhh maybe i’m the only one here, but when I initially loaded the article’s page, some sound/video autoplayed but I can’t seem to find it in the page, am I the only one?

  8. Jim Canto

    Any insight is good insight?

  9. LE

    If they like a new song a lot, it will probably be popular with your entire fan base.I’m not exactly a music guy but I will highlight a phenomenon that I had noticed from back in the day of albums and later tapes then for that matter cd’s. I’ve mentioned this before on AVC. It has all but disappeared because of itunes and I’m guessing soundcloud.It’s what I call “anticipation halo”.Whereby there are typically 2 or 3 really good catchy songs on an album and you play the album in order. Because you had to back then. Say on a car ride with a tape or CD. Or in your bedroom with the Ohm speakers hooked up to the amp while your parents are away and your girlfriend is over. If you had one. Otherwise it’s just that Billy Joel song.Anyway if you play the album enough you begin to notice that songs that you never thought you would like you begin to like. Especially the song that comes right before the song that you really like (the 2 or 3 winners on the album). Then you even begin to like the song after the winner songs. Pretty soon you like about 80% (arbitrary) songs on the entire album. When, in fact, when you first listened to it that was definitely not the case. Because the love has spread.So I guess the danger here is that what you are talking about with “If they like a new song a lot” is just an extension of “the grey whistle test” [1] where the songs that are popular are the usual suspects that are so good as to have a wide following. And other good songs get passed by.[1]…Unrelated to topic but good:

  10. Matt A. Myers

    We’ll have a Top Cities section, feature as well, though initially is very rudimentary.If it was May 1st I would link to the page. πŸ˜‰

  11. Jon Michael Miles

    Is it a business, or a feature? Great assessment advice.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Yeah, isn’t that such an important distinction? But probably trickier to figure out than it looks from a distance.

  12. Cody Breene

    Next Big Sound ( has a robust analytics platform for tracking fan behavior. They came out of TechStars.I’m not sure that their entire business revolves around planning tours based on fan demographics, but it might be one of the businesses you’re referring to.

  13. Demian Brener

    So I guess this is what the guys at A16Z are doing with their endless Twitter streams right?

  14. Salt Shaker

    Ah yes, a modern-day band development index (BDI) by city. Nice B2B play. Since many bands these days make their money through touring and merch sold at venue (t-shirts, CDs) I can def see some benefit here, assuming a particular band’s panel on SC is large enough and there are discernible/actionable skews in the data (NYC indexes at 125 vs. 85 for Phil). Of course, there’s danger in relying too strongly (or solely) on Soundcloud as a projectable sample of a band’s appeal (what is SC’s user base truly representative of?), though it could be an interesting analytic tool for artist management and tour scheduling, used in tandem w/ other data.

  15. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    Another thing that platforms like Soundcloud and Wattpad provide is the level of interest your followers have in your profile. This is key process to start identifying your biggest advocates who can help spread the word of mouth

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Good point Abdallah. Social media is a microcosm of sorts.

      1. Abdallah Al-Hakim

        Thanks Donna! Your comment reminded me that I wanted to ask you a career question – Expect a message via LinkedIn.

        1. Donna Brewington White

          I wondered when you were going to get back around to that. I look forward to hearing from you.

  16. Dan Staub

    This is a big reason why artists take to crowd-sourced platforms to see where the people who are REALLY interested in their work are and then in turn plan a tour to go to those fans.

  17. jason wright

    “If you assume that the millions of followers you have on SoundCloud are more or less a representative sample of your entire fan base, then their behavior is more or less a reflection of the behavior of your entire fan base.”umm, if the entire fan base isn’t on soundcloud then isn’t that fact reflecting two different behaviours….?

  18. Mark Mc Laughlin

    Fred, the real benefit from a feature like this is control. If an artist is selling tickets via Ticketmaster then frequently they won’t share the customer data with the artist (or the promoter) or at best case scenario they have equal access to the customer data. The problem with this is that Ticketmaster can use that customer data to sell competing shows in future so their interests aren’t aligned.The more functions the artist takes in house, the more control on pricing and the ability to up-sell to their fans they have. In the US artists can sell 8% of tickets as pre-sale / fan club tickets (it can be closer to 15-20% in Europe) but frequently they let Ticketmaster handle this thus losing the opportunity to exclusively own the customer data for that pre-sale.Where features like this really start producing interesting data is where the fan has actually made a purchase (a ticket, a t-shirt etc…) as it’s easier to click like or follow than it is to get a fan to purchase. At Ticket ABC we try and connect the social and transaction by enabling the fan to purchase direct from a promoter or artist Facebook page. Taking that data the artist or promoter can see where the customer has purchased a ticket from and who their top fans are with Fanalytics….Most artists, venues and promoters don’t know who their top fans are as they forfeit that right by outsourcing the transaction to Ticketmaster.I wonder using an API would it be possible as a next step to see how many Soundcloud followers have purchased tickets for an upcoming tour by linking their profiles.ThanksMark

  19. fredwilson

    because soundcloud is free and global, it has a huge user basethey have 250mm montly listeners around the world…that compares to Pandora’s 70mmi agree that you need to be big to be used as a panel. youtube is big. soundcloud is big.

  20. JimHirshfield

    I thought that said Rabbi, oiy!

  21. Matt A. Myers

    I think it’s more likely marketing speak. It should be a representative sample of your entire fan base, wouldn’t that be nice – but for most it perhaps isn’t.

  22. IS

    Don’t get too hung up on “representative.” What’s important is that the sub-population of your audience that uses Soundcloud is actively engaged in online social channels (probably a decent assumption) and can play the role of amplifier/tastemaker and start pushing new tracks to their friends.How many times have you discovered a new song or band because of that friend with great taste who spends a lot of time scooping new music? That, at scale, is why Soundcloud matters for artists — and why representativeness is less of an issue.Figure out how to use the lead-user contingent of your fanbase as a sounding board for new tracks, deliver stuff they love, and there’s a pretty fair chance the buzz will ripple outside the Soundcloud community. After all, most good things in life happen … in real life and not within the narrow confines of an online community.

  23. JimHirshfield


  24. William Mougayar

    you’re funny today.

  25. JamesHRH

    it was a better version of facebook & MZ knew it.

  26. JimHirshfield

    Nope. Real quick. Flew right by. Feature Friday here before I knew it.

  27. JimHirshfield

    predictive of where Gretsky’s fans will be.

  28. ShanaC

    me too!

  29. LE

    I have domains that get nice amounts of traffic as a result of the same phenomenon. You’d be surprised how frequently the brain autocompletes like this.This is actually related to a behavior that I notice when in the printing business with proofreading. People tended to have errors in the easy words that they already know (their street address or town as only one example) but not in the more difficult words.Reason (I surmised back then) was the brain saw the easy words as a chunk [2] but for the difficult words it slowed down letter by letter to check.[1] This site owned by the NC Div or Revenue, is one of them that spins off traffic to me as a result of people’s visual errors. The “rn” looks like “m”. I mean it really looks like an “m”.[2] As in “nothing to see here, move along”.

  30. JimHirshfield

    Yes, all rabbis are capped. Head covering is mandatory in that line of work.

  31. LE

    Unrelated, just saw that Paulina Porizkova is 49 years old. And Kathy Ireland is 51. Wow and Cheryl Tiegs is 66.

  32. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Wait, isn’t Paulina married to Ric Ocasek? Did I miss a celebrity breakup?

  33. pointsnfigures

    or after a fifth

  34. JimHirshfield

    huh? you didn’t know what “oiy” or “oy” was??

  35. LE

    You calling me a goy!

  36. JimHirshfield


  37. LE

    A gift wreath for your door, attached below!And some random bubby says shalom!

  38. LE

    That’s kind of nominal I mean if you are planning to travel and tour wouldn’t $15 a month be sort of beer money?And with their pricing it seems to me that they aren’t taking advantage of a higher tier of success that would allow certain groups to pay way more than $15 per month. Not to mention that $135/year works out to only $11.25 per month.Lastly, not a fan of odd numbers, even endings work much better, at least that is what I’ve found. ($16 or $140 per year).Separately, the marketing on the soundcloud site, in terms of engaging certain groups that could turn soundcloud onto more business, is really not well done at all. This is surprising common at startups who basically seem to operate as if the only thing that will get them business, or that they need, is word of mouth.

  39. JimHirshfield

    I had to wait for the opening act to warm up the crowd. Thanks for that.

  40. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Ohhhhh. Thaaaaat Paulina. Had no clue.

  41. Anne Libby

    He’ll be here all week!

  42. JLM

    .And all of them could still start a forest fire with a look, no?JLM.

  43. LE

    I find typically that ordinary women are more beautiful than celebrity women almost without exception.Something about celebrity women doesn’t do it for me.Perhaps it’s the familiarity. You see them all the time and you get tired of they way they look.Or maybe the fact that it’s a total non starter in your brain. [1] [2] Similar to how blood related women are a non starter and so you don’t think of them in sexual terms. Keeping expectations in check is important for happiness.[1] I find this also with cars. Super exotic expensive cars don’t turn me on. Things that I could conceivably have (even if remote) do.[2] It actually took me a while also to realize that as a happily married man the fact that other women are attractive has nothing to do with desire. But more that they are just nice to look at! That it just makes you feel good. Like a sunny day vs. a cloudy one. I came to this conclusion over time when I realized that I’d also rather sit across from a good looking man than an ugly one. In other words eye candy picks you up period separate from sexuality or any other motive.