Download gates for free online music promotion - What NOBODY tells you!

Download gates for free online music promotion - What NOBODY tells you! play video
Written by: Dexxter Clark
How to promote your music online for free? Not with a download gate!

Before I wrote this article I did some research.
I asked in my community tab on YouTube if music producers ever used a download gate for their songs.
80% said no,
11% said yes with a positive result,
8% percent said yes with a negative result.

The amount of YES answers are pretty even.
Why does roughly half of the users have a negative impact, half positive?
What is going on? Are the NO sayers the wisest?

Let me explain why having a download gate could be the worst thing you can do for your growth on social media. 

What is a download gate?

A download gate (follow gate or fan gate) is a webpage on which you can download a song, but which forces you to do one or more of the following things for this:

  • like the Facebook page and/or Soundcloud track 
  • follow the producer on Facebook and/or Soundcloud
  • leave a comment on on Facebook and/or Soundcloud
  • repost the track on Soundcloud 
  • hand over your first born child 

Using a download gate is basically social extortion.
People leave a comment against their will in order to download the song

How do social media algorithms work?

Let take a look at how do social media algorithms work?
I also talk about this extensively in my book: What big tubers don’t tell you
A social media  algorithm promotes content based on a percentage of your followers that engage with your content.
Engagement is consumption, comments and likes pols etc.

A youtube video that is watched by 100 of my 1000 followers, 10% of subscribers consume my content.
That is the same engagement rate when 200 out of 2000 followers consume my content.
But when I gain followers (by buying them or forcing them via a download gate), I may grow from 1000 followers to 2000 followers, but my engagement drops.
When from my 2000 followers only 120 consume my content, my engagement rate drops to 6%.

The social media algorithm sees that as your content being bad (at least: worse than before), so it will promote less.
So you think you may have grown (you doubled your amount of subscribers), but you made it more difficult for yourself to grow in the long run.
You basically ruined your social media account, because recovering from that is really difficult.
Measuring engagement before and after the download gate is difficult (if not impossible) to do on social media.
This is why there are so many people see the increase of followers as growth (and not engagement rate).
It’s thinking two steps ahead and, to be honest, most people don’t.

This engagement statistic applies to Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, but less so on Soundcloud at this point, but Soundcloud is heading that way. 

Comment via a download gate is not engagement

The comments on download gated songs are mostly hollow comments, because they are extorted.
AI algorithms can pick up on connotations and emotions, like the natural language algorithm by Google.
The accuracy will only improve in the future.
The effectiveness of download gates will only decrease more over time, because algorithms will pick up on sentiment.

A download gate is unnatural subscriber growth

Unnatural subscriber growth is against the terms of service of ANY social media platform.
If it is not a problem now, it will be in the future.

Maybe Soundcloud is less strict at the moment, because their algorithms are not as developed as others.
But Facebook is up-to-date and has no problems punishing users for violating their terms of service.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the whole “like on Facebook and receive this”-technique wouldn’t work tomorrow.
Look up the terms of service of Facebook and Soundcloud, it’s in there. 

Download gates are endless

You need to keep producing songs regularly and keep applying download gates for every new song to keep up appearances.
If you use a download gate for five songs, you need to do it for the 6th 7th and 8th.
If song 1-5 has 10K likes and song 6 only 50, the algorithm thinks, this post is bad, and will promote it less.

Producers think they build social proof

But is it social proof? It`s a hollow group of “followers”…
If you want social proof for a record label for example, they take a look at how you get your followers, how to think that makes you look?
Immediately your credibility drops, you are basically tried to commit fraud.
You can be exposed! Do you want to take that risk?

Producers think that they create a fan following.

I hate to break it to you, but if someone likes one song, they are not a fan.
If someone likes ten songs, then they are a fan.
You need to rethink your approach, you want true fans.

You might think “but there are real fans amongst my non-fans”.
But your non fans become a burden in delivering your content to your real fans 

You are asking too much

You get paid by a social currency with a download gate, but is your track really worth three social media actions for an “unknown" producer?
Most songs I want to download are good, but not great.
Personally, if I see a download gate, I don’t want to go through the hassle, I just download another song.
Your competition is just too strong.
Don’t get carried away by ego.

Download gates often don’t work

One of the reasons I don’t want to use download gates is, because a lot of them don’t work.
I don’t want to go through all the work of liking and commenting only to find out, it was all for nothing because I still can’t download the song.

To test this theory, I browsed Soundcloud for five minutes.
Within five minutes I found about ten download links, three didn’t work.

Download gates rely heavily on APIs of social media platforms which not always work and don’t cope well with different browsers.
When you use Safari, when you have Javascript disable, if you have a popup blocker installed (or enabled in your browser) or have an ad blocker is installed, your download gate doesn’t work.
You exclude those people from downloading, including those who could become your true fans. 

What is Hypeddit?

Hypeddit is one of the bigger download gates.
In my experience it is one of the cleaner ones that don’t require a lot of social media action.
I didn’t have any problems with downloading from Hypeddit.
If you still want to go for a download gate, this one would be my choice.

What is The Artist Union?

The Artist Union is a download gate.
In contrast to Hypeddit, The Artist Union has a better name, but not a better functioning website.
I had troubles downloading from The Artist Union in the past, it gave me a blank screen, the website just wouldn’t load.
The Artist Union is also the site with the most  required social media actions of all download gates I ever encountered, at least seven.

One final thing:
When you look at the design of the website: is this the kind of image you would your fans like to get of you? 

What is the right way?

Make awesome music and grow followers on your social media organically.
So you know your following are real fans of your work.
There is nothing wrong with posting your socials on your Soundcloud.
If people are interested they will lookup your socials and follow you if your content is interesting.

If you want to know more about how social media algorithms, and the right ways to create true fans that are actually helpful to your career,
Check out my YouTube book: what big tubers don’t tell you about starting a youtube channel

If you are serious about DJing and want to take it to the next level on the CDJ,
you should check out my CDJ 2000 video course.

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photo author dexxter clark
Dexxter Clark
Music Producer / YouTuber

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