By Neil James
You just finished playing a show. Chatting up a friend at the bar, you ask how your band sounded.
The response you hear 99 times out of 100 – “you sounded great, bro!”
If post-show feedback was the truest, most objective standard of quality, we’d all be polishing our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame acceptance speeches.
Deep down, you know that you’re probably not as good as the “Great Show, Man” chorus suggests. But by how much? Is everybody just telling you what you want to hear?
The good news is that if you’ve got $35, now you can find out!
Audiokite is a web-based service designed to give you honest, objective reviews of your music. For $35, Audiokite gets 100 people to listen to a song that you upload for at least 40 seconds. These people then provide quality scores and feedback.
By getting 100 people to review your music instead of a blogger/reviewer whose critique may depend on how long its been since they last ate, you can get a more accurate of sense of how good your music is relative to others in your genre.
As a guy who does market research for a day job, one of the limitations of Audiokite is that 100 people is still smallish for a sample size. To feel totally confident about Audiokite scores, you really should have upwards of 400 people reviewing your music. Surveying just 100 people gets you in the ballpark of where your music sits, but if you were to repeat a 100-person Audiokite review for the same song multiple times, you would likely see some swing in the results in both directions.
In fairness, you can pay Audiokite more money to survey more people, but that’s going to cost quite a bit more than $35, defeating one of the principal advantages of the service.
To get around this limitation, we ran four tests, paying $140 to have four songs reviewed. We would expect to see some fluctuation from song-to-song, but by having 400 people review four tracks from the same CD, we could figure out approximately where our sound on a whole sits on the quality scale based on the range of results.
After a few days, we received our Audiokite reports. To say you get a lot of information is an understatement – for every song, you get a rating on a 10 point scale, written feedback, an analysis of commercial viability, licensing recommendations, listener sentiment, critique of individual elements and geographic segmentation.
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff.
If I swap my musician for my market research hat, I can comfortably say that not everything Audiokite gives you is useful. A good general rule for determining whether information is useful is whether or not knowing it causes you to act differently. Knowing that our music would be a much better fit for use in an action/adventure movie versus romance, for example, isn’t super helpful. Even if that wasn’t patently obvious to us, it isn’t as if one of our problems is that we’re wasting time trying to license our music in inappropriate places.
But acknowledging that some of what you get from Audiokite is fluff, there’s still plenty of really helpful intelligence to be gleaned.
All users who review your music are asked to rate it on a 1-10 scale. After getting our reports back, we found uur song The Accuser had been rated 7.5 out of 10. Stay Forever was rated 6.9 out of 10.
In a vacuum though, that’s hard to draw conclusions from. Some people will look at 6.9 or 7.5 out of 10 as a failure. Some will view it as success.
The more useful metric is where your music sits in relation to others. At 7.5 out of 10, The Accuser was rated in the 99th percentile of all music uploaded to Audiokite, meaning that for every 100 songs reviewed by the service, only one received a higher score.
Now that’s pretty good! We can feel alright about that.
In fact, of the four songs we uploaded, the lowest rated (Embodied Chaos) placed in the 75th percentile. Stay Forever and Seasons hit the 87th and 94th percentile respectively.
Knowing that all four of the tracks from Metamorphosis fell within the 75th to 99th percentile of submitted music, we can feel good about the decisions we made recording our latest album. Our choice to work with Eric Blomquist, Ian Combs and the team at RiverRock Studios – Minneapolis Recording Studio was an objectively good one. The extensive pre-production work we did was also time well spent. And we can also feel confident that our artistic decisions were sound as well.
Here’s our rating score for The Accuser.
What Do People Like And Dislike About You?
It’s one thing to know where your music stands on a 10-point and percentile scale. It’s another thing to know what you should do differently. Is there something your band is really good at? What do you suck at?
One of the ways you can learn answers to these questions is by reading the written feedback that reviewers leave about your music.
Frustratingly, you’ll find that a lot of the feedback you receive is contradictory. Consider both of these reviews of Embodied Chaos:
That sort of stuff is irritating, but that’s not Audiokite’s fault. You could ask 100 people to review a classic Metallica song and probably run into similar contradictions.
What you need to keep an eye out for as you’re reading feedback is trends and recurring themes. Unsurprisingly, people don’t dig our band name.
And while there were plenty who loved that our singer is female, that ended up being a turn-off for others.
In each of these instances, people don’t like artistic choices we’ve made. That happens – you can’t please everybody. But at least we can feel more confident that if people don’t like us, it’s because they’re not on board with the parts of our band that aren’t going to change – not because we’re grossly deficient in some part of the craft. And besides, even if we were prone to overreacting to criticism, we can look back on where we fit in the percentiles of reviewed music – at the scores we got, we’re doing a lot more right than we are wrong.
Besides the aforementioned sample size issues, the more niche your music, the less useful Audiokite is likely to be. When prompted to select a category for our music, nothing seemed to fit better than “hard rock / metal.” Even that feels like a broader audience than we’re trying to appeal to, and we’re a lot more accessible than many other metal bands. If you’re a death metal band, Audiokite is not going to be very representative of the audience you’re trying to appeal to, and your scores will reflect that.
Another limitation of Audiokite is that you don’t get a great sense for how you compare against bands who are successful. Our music definitely over-performs relative to the base of competing independent music uploaded to Audiokite. But where does it sit against actual signed acts? Audiokite does provide a chart that shows how we rate compared to songs in the Billboard 100, but it would be nice to get a clearer idea of how far our art is from touring acts in our genre.
Is it worth it?
Is Audiokite perfect? No. The cost needed to obtain statistically significant sample sizes is a little prohibitive. The more niche or extreme your genre, the less useful the reviews will be. And the data tends to err on the side of being overwhelming and unhelpful.
But $35 to get 100 people to review your music and get a directional sense of where your music sits in the marketplace is a pretty good deal, and one that I would recommend most bands invest in. If you can learn just one thing that helps you improve your art and your craft, it’s pretty safe to say your money was likely well spent.
Check out the Audiokite reviews of Cwn Annwn music:
The Accuser on Audiokite
Stay Forever on Audiokite
Seasons on Audiokite
Embodied Chaos on Audiokite
Check out Audiokite – Market Research For Every Musician