In today’s modern music age, we’ve reached a stage whereby if you want to listen to music wherever you are and whenever you want, you can, instantly. Give or take the occasional dodgy 4G connection, the battery being dead on your mobile, or leaving your headphones at home, it’s more or less a given in 2015. This is the stage we’re at with music consumption today, thanks to the proliferation of digitalised music formats, vast advances in mobile technology, widespread accessibility of internet and mobile data, and initiatives in music streaming. If this is the current status quo, then the music fans of today are digitally savvy, always online, and want to access and listen to music immediately – it’s up to the artist then to play by these rules.
Fans expect to find information online; whether it’s to listen to an artist’s new track, find out what albums they’ve released, or where they’re playing live next, artists need to make this journey as seamless and as quick as possible. Working in digital marketing for music, one of my favourite tests on any artist is to play “how quickly can I find you online?”. Imagine you know nothing about the artist, only their name – how easily can you find and listen to their music online? Your first port of call may be Google, or you may search their name directly in Spotify, or even ask Siri to see if he knows? Whichever way, you should be able to find them in less than 30 seconds, and if this seems a little OTT, it’s not, because after 30 seconds you’ll no doubt be distracted and already responding to an email or watching cat videos on YouTube. Ensuring an artist has a fool-proof online presence is now a fundamental practice in music marketing and provides the foundations for promoting them in the digital space.
Let’s start with the essentials: where can a fan listen? It seems an obvious proposition but you’d be surprised how many artists make it difficult for fans to benefit from the sole purpose of music: listening to it. Gone are the days when you had to buy a record to hear it for the first time. Streaming has happened and it’s here to stay – it’s now the primary source of digital income in 37 markets with a 39% increase in revenue last year. The choice fans now have when it comes to listening to music online or on mobile is endless, and having a good digital distributor is key to covering all bases on this front. A release strategy that is now becoming more popular is to make a single available on sign-up streaming platforms like Spotify, Rdio, and Deezer as soon as it’s been launched online via free-to-access platforms like SoundCloud and YouTube. Fans don’t necessarily see the difference between SoundCloud – arguably still a promotional platform from an artist’s perspective – and Spotify for example, so they should be approached in the same way when making music available to listen to online.
Streaming is first and foremost about music discovery and fan acquisition, and second about longevity. The common old (physical) vs new (streaming) hypothetical analogy is this: a fan discovers an artists’ vinyl in the deepest, most cluttered corner of a record store that is bursting at the seams. Instead of paying for it at the counter, they take the record home and play it; the artist is then paid. The fan loves the record so much they play it twice a week for the next year; the artist is paid each and every time the vinyl spins on that turntable. It’s an attractive analogy, but obviously one that can be easily opposed in terms of the low revenue per-stream issue. But streaming platforms should be treated as hotbeds for music discovery and therefore goldmines for acquiring huge fan-bases over time (as mentioned in my midemblog interview). Other revenue streams can then develop from this initial discovery stage; once a fan has streamed an artist’s music they could invest in gig tickets, physical and digital products, or merchandise. Then there’s of course the additional bonus of generating income over a longer period of time. Streaming platforms are fertile digital ecosystems for artist-fan relationships to blossom, so making music accessible online via this route is fundamental to being discoverable as an artist.
Another area to look at when considering an artist’s presence online is optimising the routes to purchase for the fan. Turning fans into consumers is not always easy, but there are plenty of tools out there to encourage this from happening by making the user-journey as simple as possible. The most effective thing an artist can do is to make sure those bridges are built online to open up the route for the fan. For example, always linking relevant social media and web content to points of purchase is vital. Communicating the availability of an artist’s music and the places they can purchase it allow the fan to make that step if they wish. Link-tracking tools like smartURL and found.ee are the best way to provide these routes and also collect valuable data to analyse a fan-base and re-use for remarketing through online advertising. More forward thinking platforms like Linkfire take it a step further when it comes to catering for user-choice in the fan-to-purchase journey. Placing the decision back with the fan, Linkfire allows the user to choice their preferred store, acknowledging the plethora of choice and diversity we now have when it comes to consuming music.
If we look at live music and ticket buying, popular platforms like Songkick (10 million users) and Bandsintown (15 million users) provide accessible store-fronts for artists to showcase touring dates and quick-routes to ticket purchasing. What makes them so favourable is the ability for an artist to then host this across social media through apps on Facebook, embeddable widgets for web pages, and clever integrations with streaming platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud. Not only is this creating a highly accessible portal for fans to make gig ticket purchases, the integration aspect relates back to the point of using platforms like Spotify to encourage the upsell of further products. Songkick’s integration with Spotify makes this occurrence even more likely to happen.
There are a thousand and one different steps a fan can go through when converting themselves into a paying consumer of an artist’s product. The diversification of digital channels and routes to market now allow for multiple ways to consume music, meaning these journeys are near impossible to fathom. So covering all bases in music marketing is key. It’s always best to look at it from a fan’s perspective: each and every one of us has our own unique journey attributable to music acts we’ve discovered. Think about the last music act you discovered and about the steps it took for you to become a fan. The steps you went through could be any number of different combinations. Here’s an example:
A year ago I was listening to a band I like on SoundCloud. After the track finished, that band’s latest “hearted” track automatically began to play. I listened, liked it, and then most probably got on with my day. A week later I saw the same band featured on one of my go-to music blogs. Chuffed with the connection, I read the article and clicked on the hyperlink to the band’s Facebook page where I made that all important social commitment and hit “Like”. A week later I was scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed and see the band have posted a link to their new video on YouTube. I clicked through and watched; in the description of the video there was a conveniently placed SmartURL link indicating that the single was available on iTunes. Intrigued, I clicked the link and viewed the product. At this point I was feeling frivolous and decided I wanted to buy it! After purchasing the track, I loaded it onto my iPhone ready to make my walk to work more enjoyable in the morning. It stayed on repeat for a good week; it’s safe to say, I’d become a fan. Fast forward to the current day and I’ve since accumulated two single downloads, one vinyl, multiple album streams, and four gig tickets – this band have now won my wallet and my allegiance.
This is one possible music discovery journey of many – but everybody will have a different route by which they discovered an act, and it’s only made harder to interpret by the numerous ways we can discover and consume music in today’s digital landscape. Ensuring an artist is fully optimised online in terms of their accessibility to be discovered, listened to and consumed through download and streaming, is now so important. With the plethora of music out there, artists have to conform to the current rules of digital accessibility to cut through the noise and be heard.
This is the latest in a series of posts from leading label executives, who’ll be posting regularly here on midemblog between now and Midem this June. The posts are sourced and curated by Motive Unknown‘s Lucy Blair; and you can find them all here!
Top photo via The Sweet Setup