When Nashville-based sisters Caitlin and Sid started Neoni, they decided to name themselves after the Scots Gaelic word for “zero,” because they had “zero idea and zero fans and zero songs.” Like most new artists, the duo didn’t know what they were doing; they just knew they had to get music out into the world.
Songwriting was always what we wanted to get to—having original music that impacted people's lives.
As teenagers in the 2010s, Neoni honed their live performance skills playing open mic nights and busking around their hometown of Denver, Colorado, with the same 30-minute set. Eventually, that nine song set turned into 58 songs, which gave them the material they needed to play three hour sets every weekend and tour the western portion of the United States.
I think we played a hundred shows, probably like 55 shows over a three month period of time. It was insane. And we made $0. When you're a startup band, nobody makes money. It’s going to gas money. And I had to pay the drummer ‘cause he was a grownup and he had bills. We stayed at Quality Inns. We played a festival and pulled up next to a huge touring bus and it looked awesome. I pulled up in my Honda Pilot with a U-Haul. If you don't have those experiences, then as an artist, your character isn't built.
In 2016, the duo connected with Nashville-based producer David Spencer, with whom they collaborated over skype and on occasional trips for the next two years. In 2018, they packed up their bags (with mom and dad in tow) and moved to the songwriting capital of the United States. By the following year, they were continuing to find success performing covers on YouTube. With 90K subscribers, their YouTube channel was doing well, but Neoni had this urge to connect with their audience on a deeper level. So, they started transitioning from covers to writing original music, all the while trying to penetrate the Nashville licensing market in order to jumpstart the attention their music would get on streaming platforms.
It was really hard at first. Yeah, because I think focusing on DSPs with your own music with absolutely no background of success, it's tough to get attention. It's really tough to get attention. Nashville has a very vibrant licensing scene, writing for movies, TV ads, all that kind of stuff. So we really dove into that, writing really exciting, hype-you-up kind of stuff. That's how our cover of “Carry On Wayward Son” ended up in the series finale of Supernatural two years later. I cried because I've loved the show since I was like 11 years old…. But going back to 2018, we got involved in the licensing scene, and we found some success there. We had some placements that were cool—sports ads, stuff like that. But then into 2019-2020, and there's no more TV. Nothing's really in production, nothing's coming out. We couldn't really work in person with anyone. So all of our producer sessions that we were doing every day, all of that kind of shut down.
Instead of getting discouraged, Neoni persisted, capitalizing on every opportunity that came to them, including a random email they got from a YouTuber encouraging them to collaborate with his friend and DJ, Besomorph. When they looked Besomorph up, they realized he had 400K+ Spotify monthly listeners, which was roughly 8x more than they had at the time.
We jumped on the song, we wrote the song, and that kind of snowballed into us doing like a year and a half of releases every other week. So we released 50 songs in two years. And half of them I would say, within the EDM community. And that was an incredible way to get attention, just because the EDM space is so open-minded, even though our music leaned more Alternative Pop, they were excited to hear something new in the Dance space. Within a year, we went from 50K listeners to 400K+ listeners, and that was wild. Wild. And it was 2020. I didn't leave my house for three months at one point in quarantine. We were just working from our home studio recording vocals. And so what our strategy was that whole year was one collaboration and then one of our own songs with our main guy here in Nashville.
While collaborations were fruitful for them, they also wanted to establish their own voice and put forth their own artistic vision, so they released the album Wars in a Wonderland in 2021. By slow-dripping the release of the album from January to August, Neoni were able to consistently build up their Spotify monthly listeners, ultimately changing the trajectory of that metric for the next couple of years. And then, something unexpected happened.
And so we go into 2022, the album's still doing great, and then all of a sudden “DARKSIDE” just starts really popping off. We're like, I don't know whats going on. It was all based on one TikTok video that had gotten like 15M views. Our tracks, I think, have 1B views on TikTok altogether, and most of those come from “DARKSIDE” and “Royalty.” “DARKSIDE” went from getting 10K streams a day to 250K streams a day within a week. And it still gets over 200K streams a day to this day. And I mean, this is a year after it's released? A year plus. It was a wild ride. We’ve always been an independent artist from when we started 10 years ago to now, but we went from never having received a major label offer to receiving like three in one week. And it was wild. And we didn't necessarily know how to react to it.
Fortunately, Caitlin and Sid have super supportive parents, including a dad who is very data-oriented, which helped Neoni react in a measured and self-determined manner. Instead of speeding down the major label highway and potentially signing their rights away, Neoni developed their own data-driven strategy, which has helped them continue steady, sustainable growth and see more of the money that their music is bringing in.
Using data, obviously with Chartmetric and stuff, seeing that reaction and then it bleed into the rest of our catalog was just insane. Last year, we focused on a lot more self-releases to focus on ownership in our catalog. And we've seen our catalog grow. I think we almost tripled our Spotify monthly listeners and streams last year. This year, we have a lot of plans for some more self-releases and collaborations and focusing on ownership and growth overall. You know, we didn't know what we were doing and now somehow we've gotten here, so we’re happy to be here.
While it certainly helps to have a business team in place to take care of the things that artists don’t typically like to do, the digital era has also opened up so many more means and opportunities for artists to take control of their own careers. Chartmetric is one of the tools that Neoni has relied on to break down the barrier between industry and artistry.
As indie artists—I know I am artist-y too—but we also have to focus on the business side, because we are our own teams. So, having the visibility and the data that Chartmetric can provide has been honestly one of the biggest turning points, and I think why Neoni has grown. We've focused on being data-driven instead of just being artists. Of course we are artists, but you know, being able to incorporate a business side like mind to what you're doing just really helps you stay focused. And tools like Chartmetric and, you know, Spotify for Artists and stuff like that, that is what's made the difference.
It's important, of course, to remember that so much of an artist's success, independent or otherwise, comes down to the music, so that should always be an artist's No. 1 focus. Chartmetric is just a tool that helps artists make the connection between their music and their audience.
If you're an artist considering Chartmetric, we're always available to answer any questions; just DM us on socials or email us at [email protected]. You can also check out some of Neoni's tips for using the platform below. When you're ready, sign up for the Chartmetric Artist Plan here, which is now FREE for 6 months and just $10/mo after that.
Appendix: Neoni’s Go-To Chartmetric Features
Track Page -> TikTok/YouTube
My first go-to is the top TikTok videos and top YouTube videos. You can go through and see what's getting the most views. You can get your comments on those videos. You can stitch those videos, duet them. It gives you a lot of visibility to what's already working so you can hop on that and you can capitalize on it.
Artist Page -> Playlists
Another thing I love looking at is in the playlist section, you can just go to your Spotify algorithmic playlists, where you can see artist radios and stuff that shows you where the algorithm is putting your music. It lets you have visibility into who’s hearing your music without you necessarily going out and promoting it. Who is naturally hearing your music, and how can you accentuate that and work with that?
Artist Page -> Social & Streaming Stats -> Neighboring Artists
One of the things that stands out is you can also look at who, size-wise, you're around, like who should you go and connect with to try to see who you should collaborate with, producers you should work with, helping you connect with other people in your space and around your metric range.
Artist Page --> Social & Streaming Stats
I could go on for way too long about data, but being able to see your growth trajectory and the area under the curve kind of gives you a good idea of where you could be in a year and where you could be if you maximize some of your opportunities. And if you have a random hockey stick, that's something you can't necessarily count on, but seeing, okay, well, I know where I am today, I know my growth trajectory—this is where I can imagine I'll be in five years or next year.