THE HISTORY OF THE GATE
Depending on how long you’ve been working as a musician, you may already be familiar with Download Gates and Fan Gates in general. Years ago it became common practice to install a 3rd party tab to your Facebook artist page and offer an incentive to new fans for following. For example, you would see a tab that says Free Download, and once clicked, if you weren’t already following the page, you would be prompted to follow it for a track or album as a free download in exchange. Over time, Facebook did away with allowing 3rdparty plugins to use their API in that manner, so it left a void that needed to be filled.
As far back as I can remember, ToneDen and Hive were some of the first websites to pop up allowing people to create their own custom download gates. What these websites would give you control over is “fan-gating” a listener to be able to download a track or album for free in exchange for following the artist’s Soundcloud. The use of social media platform’s API allowed for growth beyond just Soundcloud and ended up expanding to the concept of “Tweet for a Download.” Instagram and YouTube would begin to be added by many fan gate platforms, and even more popular now is gating Spotify.
HOW TO USE THE GATE
With how fleshed out Spotify’s API has become, fan gates are able to become more and more creative with how they portray analytics and to what extent you’re able to gate. For example, even though I may be distributing a single to iTunes, Spotify, Beatport, and others, for sale and streaming, I could still create a download gate to offer that particular single for free download in exchange for digital currency (and this digital currency is in the form of a follow of some sort). Maybe I’ll allow the listener to download the single for free in exchange for following my artist page on Spotify, following my Spotify Playlist that contains my discography of work + friend’s music I enjoy, as well as favoriting the track within Spotify. The beauty of Spotify’s API is that everything is automatically done once you accept the terms; the listener doesn’t have to jump through hoops.
The beauty of using fan gates is that you can be as creative as you’d like in your execution. There are many blogs that are turning to promoting on YouTube, reposting on Soundcloud, and adding tracks to their growing Spotify playlists. One of the things that these blogs can do if they’re savvy enough is to have a Google Form or JotForm for the submission, but then “gate” the submission form by requiring a follow on a particular set of platforms, and then rather than linking an audio file, you would simply link to the webpage where the submission form is hosted.
And Now, The Top 9 Fan Gates (In Alphabetical Order):
What Sets Artist Engine Apart: They keep the flow of their platform clean and simple to use. Upon entering the site, they’re proud of letting everyone know that they are 100% free to use. Once signed in, gating SoundCloud and Spotify accounts is seamless. Artists and Labels have many different needs, so if you don’t care about in-depth analytics, but want something simple to set-up, then this is the one for you.
What Sets Artist Union Apart: They really try to portray themselves as a social media platform. Once a gate has been created, as your gate usage goes up, so does your ability to chart on the platform. Their hope is that not only will users creating the gates engage with other users, but that listeners in general may come across great new music as well. They also have a neat Powerscore tool that will analyze your influence on Soundcloud. They are also a 100% Free platform where listeners can donate via PayPal.
What Sets Click.DJ Apart: They’re proud of their Follower Sync Technology that allows the listener to only have to agree to one set of terms for the API to do its thing, rather than a new set of terms for the listener to have to agree to per social platform. They also offer a Free subscription for up to 5 campaigns and only $9.99 a month for ability to create unlimited gates.
What Sets Hive Apart: Hands down the prettiest platform in terms of navigation and how the gate can be customized, and rightfully so, since they were one of the first fan gates on the scene. In turn, they are also one of the more expensive options with the “Starter” subscription costing $79 per month. Don’t get me wrong, although pricy compared to what’s on this list; Hive provides incredibly advanced analytics, ability to setup contests by which entries can be gated, unlimited gates, and much more.
What Sets Hypeddit Apart: Similarly to Artist Union, Hypeddit takes pride in maintaining a chart of Top 100 Free Downloads as well as new releases that have been submitted for use with their download gate platform. They offer a Free “Rookie” subscription with the ability to create 3 gates. Unlimited gates will cost you $19 a month.
What Sets The Husk Apart: They’re the newest kid on the block and the platform is incredibly simple. No pretty animated wallpapers when you enter the website, just a button to connect your Soundcloud account, and begin creating your first gate. There are no subscription fees of any sort, but they inject their social media URLs into your gate to maintain a 100% free platform. Although the platform doesn’t have the bells and whistles that the others on this list have, they are the first to allow you to monetize your follows. You heard me right; you will accrue $0.10 per unique follower to your gate. If one of your new singles ends up getting you 500 followers, that’s $50 in your pocket for simply using the free platform.
What Sets ToneDen Apart: Similar to Hive in that ToneDen has been around since the advent of fan gates, this platform is very clean. With many features like FanLinks, Contests, and their Lasso system, this is possibly one of the most fleshed out and intuitive gates. They allow you to start with a Free account with limited access to creating gates, but then their unlimited access begins at $50 per month.
What Sets TuneBoost Apart: Combining the best of what several gates have to offer (100% free model, discovery factor, and even monetizing followers), this gate is powerful, yet simple enough, for everyone to use. Additionally what sets this platform apart from the rest of the pack is the ties that TuneBoost has with EDM Joy by means of their free BoostEDX submission. With BoostEDX, you allow TuneBoost to add EDM Joy’s social links into your gate, and in turn, they will promote and repost your gated tracks over SoundCloud.
What Sets Tunebula Apart: At first glance upon visiting the website, it looks very pretty, much like Click.DJ, and once you’re logged in and creating your first gate, it too looks similar to Click.DJ. What sets this platform apart from the rest though, is in their allowing the user to sign-up for SoundCloud Monetization directly from within the account. (This type of monetization is how you can collect on ad revenue from monetized tracks, as opposed to the platform paying you per follower).
You can use fan gates to be as creative as possible. Maybe it’s simply to offer a song or album for free in exchange for some following. You could use it to offer behind the scenes footage to a music video that was shot. For a 4-track EP, you could set up four separate fan gates to be linked from each single, with each gate requiring following a different platform. Really, the sky’s the limit. Do you prefer any fan gates to the eight mentioned above? Are there any “gating” strategies that have worked well for you?