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Making The Most Of Spotify's Canvas Tool

Thanks to its Canvas visualization tool, Spotify will be seeing a good deal more looping videos in the near future, something which bodes well for artists looking to give their music a little visual boost. Here, we unpack how bands can make the most out of these 3-8 second clips. ____________________________________ Guest post by James Shotwell of Haulix There are going to be a lot more looping videos on Spotify in the near future, and that’s good news for everyone. Spotify is taking further steps to empower artists on its platform. This week, the streaming giant is expanding its Canvas visualization beta program to more of the ‘most active Spotify for Artists’ users. The company claims that adding a ‘high-quality [clip] to a track can increase streams, saves, artist profile visits, and shares.’ Canvas allows artists to create and feature looping visuals in the “Now Playing” area, which Spotify says is the most-viewed location in the Spotify mobile app. The clips last 3-8 seconds and can be updated as often as the artist desires. Here’s a Canvas clip in action for reference: According to Spotify, “adding a high-quality Canvas to a track has increased streams by up to 120% and saves by up to 114%, in addition to lifts in artist profile visits and shares.” The company adds, “It’s a way to get noticed and build a vision — and an excellent way to share more of who you are with your listeners, hopefully turning them into fans.” But what makes a Canvas good, and how can artists on tight budgets compete with stylized visuals major labels can provide? Here are some tips to get you started: Vertical video is king Canvas uploads will be viewed by people holding their devices as they use the Spotify app. With this in mind, make sure the clips you upload are formatted for a vertical video presentation.  Do not use your song title or artist name That information is already present on the screen. There is something to be said for emphasizing your branding, of course, but Canvas is not the place to make that a priority. Canvas uploads should reflect the aesthetic of your music. Think of it as an extension of the music itself. It’s an expression of who you are as an artist, and you shouldn’t waste the limited space available to you with restating information that is already clearly available on the screen. Avoid footage with talking, singing, or rapping. Canvas clips are 3-8 seconds in length. If your clip features mouths moving they will rarely, if ever, sync up with the music. That could distract people, which in turn will make them lose interest in the song.  Keep rapid cuts and flashing graphics to a minimum. There are a number of people with sensitivities to strobe lights, as well as people who feel overwhelmed by quick edits. You want your Canvas to be as appealing as possible to as many people as possible, so try to avoid anything that might make people sick or otherwise uncomfortable. Try telling a (very short) story. 3-8 seconds is not very long, but there are many ways to make something that grabs and holds listeners’ attention in that amount of time. After all, .gifs are equally as short and they’re widely considered currency in internet culture. Take up the challenge of creating content that seamlessly loops, or perhaps string together all the Canvas clips for your album to tell a single story. Think outside the box. Be weird.  People love a theme. If storytelling is not your strength, try using canvas to tie your music together with a theme. Pull from your artwork or branding to create visuals that leave a lasting impression on viewers. For example, if you have flowers on your cover art, try using flowers throughout the Canvas loops created for the individual tracks. Focus on the middle. What people see at the edge of your Canvas clip will depend on the device they are using to view the loop. With this in mind, keep the most important content of your video centered in the frame. That way, everyone who views the clip is guaranteed to see what you created in full. Update often. Canvas loops should not be considered a one and done scenario. Some artists have found success by changing their loops every week, while others rotate visuals on a bi-weekly or monthly basis. Keep listeners on their toes by giving them new content to discover on a regular basis. Don’t be an idiot. People of all ages, genders, and ethnicities use Spotify to discover music. Creating Canvas clips containing violence, sex, or anything insensitive will get your content pulled and limit the potential reach of your music. In certain cases, Spotify may even delete your account.  James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.

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