How Reddit Helped One Indie Band Boost Streaming Numbers & Attract Fans: 'It's Really Paying Off'

Ryan Nau of Act Nau Productions


Washington, D.C.-based group Sub-Radio never expected a discussion website like Reddit would be their saving grace in a worldwide pandemic. Like many other artists, Sub-Radio took to Instagram Live in the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak trying to keep fans engaged and quickly realized they weren't gaining any traction -- the only fans they were reaching were the ones they already had.

It wasn't until guitarist Matt Prodanovich was scrolling through Reddit one evening watching individuals broadcasting themselves experimenting with beats that he realized Sub-Radio could livestream on the site and do it bigger and better.

"One of the things that struck me was the sheer amount of people watching," says Prodanovich, who explains that these simple videos were attracting 4,000 simultaneous views and around 300,000 total views by the end of a performance. "I thought maybe we could perform for a couple thousand people and that would be a great substitute for a tour. I had no idea the audience was going to be as high as it was."

The six-piece group started livestreaming from Prodanovich’s basement on Reddit’s open access live-streaming platform Reddit Public Access Network (RPAN) in October, using equipment it had already invested in for its Instagram shows. That first night garnered roughly 2,200 views and since then Sub-Radio's sets have been seen by over 7 million unique viewers on Reddit.

"It's not something that other bands we've seen take advantage of," says lead vocalist Adam Bradley, adding that he and his bandmates put in time perfecting their sound for the broadcast with mixers and various camera angles. "We’re one of the few acts on Reddit that seems to be making that kind of effort. It’s really paying off."

As the months have gone on, they've continued adding elements to their performances from strings of Christmas lights to an inflatable tube man dancing in the background. iPhones are scattered around the room so fans can see each member as they enthusiastically play the upbeat playful tunes.

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"Based on the Reddit streams and all the new fans that have flooded in, it's a huge shot of positivity and joy in their week. That is missing in a lot of people's lives," says Bradley.

The band currently has the second most upvoted (Instagram equivalent of likes) stream of all time on r/redditsessions. (A jazz trumpeter who goes by Michaelopalypse is No. 1.)

"Over the last year, we've seen a host of RPAN performers bring entertainment, cats and community to Reddit users in these unprecedented times," lead product manager of RPAN Deborah Hsieh tells Billboard in a statement. "Even among this talented and eclectic group of performers, Sub-Radio has stood out as truly exceptional."

Reddit, which is owned by Condé Nast parent Advance Publications, declined to comment on whether or not the platform has licensing agreements with any performance rights organizations, but the site's user agreement states: "We have a policy that includes the removal of any infringing material." Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the company is covered by safe harbor protections so long as it "expeditiously" removes infringing content and doesn't receive a financial benefit such as a advertising directly attributable to the infringing activity.

Sub-Radio's growth has translated beyond Reddit as well. Their new singles have attracted 10x as many listeners as before the Reddit streams and their Spotify monthly listeners have gone from 25,000 to 88,000 (an increase of more than 250%) over the course of a few months.

Sub-Radio is one of a select number of independent acts who have managed to breakthrough all the livestream noise during the pandemic. Austin rock group Band of Heavens hosted weekly shows via Zoom called The Good Time Supper Club, taking requests and tips from fans. By November, the band sold more than 300 private virtual concerts at $100 each for a session with frontman Gordy Quist or $200 for Quist and bandmate Ed Jurdi. For six months, Grace Potter livestreamed Twilight Hour concerts every Monday via Facebook, attracting over 300,000 views — more than 13 times the number of fans she would have reached concluding her live tour in 2020. Indie band Underoath developed a three-part virtual series and worked with local promoters to sell tickets and share profits. One of those shows alone generated more than $500,000 through merch pre-sales, limited edition vinyl and livestream ticket sales.

Since Sub-Radio launched its Reddit sessions, the band has signed with agent Dan Boyle at APA and landed a distribution deal with Symphonic Distribution. With new music coming -- including their latest release “Out of My Mind” out Tuesday -- the band is eager to get back on the road with even more success than they anticipated before the pandemic.

"If you had told me last year that we would have an APA agent booking us, I would have thought you were crazy," says Prodanovich. "But you know, this past year’s been wild."