Working in digital, by its very nature, is fast-paced and the trends change constantly. It certainly keeps life interesting and it has me on my toes most days of the week! Last year at Midem, I presented on future music marketing trends and as I prepare the same presentation for this year’s event, it’s incredible to see how much has changed.
Or as I like to call them: famous non-famous people. These are people on Instagram, YouTube, Vine or Snapchat who have large amounts of followers specifically through their online platforms (and not through fame in the “real world” as such). The obvious example is PewDiePie, the biggest YouTuber in the world. These “new age” celebrities continue to remain largely untapped (except perhaps by large brands and mega artists). However, in a world where blogs and online media both suffered a decline in traffic and revenue (thanks to iOS app store controversially allowing ad blocking apps last year) their importance in terms of “press” has only heightened.
The most challenging aspect of tapping into this resource remains finding middle size influencers who do not come with such a hefty price tag. My advice is they have already found you (they are following you, talking about you, taking photos at your shows, leaving comments on your socials): you just need to look out for them.
Short-form video continues to grow in importance and the music industry is still struggling to effectively tap into this trend. I continue to badger artists, managers and agents to use short-form video for any announcement: whether it is an album release (with a teaser video), a tour (with an artist shouting out about it) or a music video (using a cut down 20 seconds version for socials).
An interesting development in this space is that Facebook may become much more than just the largest marketing funnel, but actually a potential video destination (with their new video search platform) and source of income (the launch of their Rights Manager must mean monetisation is imminent).
The other big change since last year is the importance Facebook is now placing on Live Video. Mark Zuckerburg has stated they are investing heavily in this feature and this can also be seen by its push in the news feed and several new features. Live video seems to be the hot new format that we should all embrace to maximise our reach. Formats that can work are live video Q&As, sound checks, backstage, album teasers/pre-listen parties and live studio performances (to name a few).
3. Messaging apps
Messaging apps have only grown in importance over the last year. It’s unbelievable to see the growth in WhatsApp (now at 1bn users) and Facebook’s Messenger (now at 900m users) – up between 40-50% in one year! However, there hasn’t really been a shift in how these are being used for music marketing, with Line (top photo) still being the only real example of success in this field with their celebrity accounts (with Taylor Swift now at 23m followers).
What has developed has been the buzz about chatbots and also Facebook launching a messenger platform for business and content tools (inspired by the success of WeChat). Messaging apps are the most exciting whitespace for digital marketing and we are still to see how the industry can tap into this resource. The potential is huge, but so is the danger of driving consumers away if done badly as it still feels like a very personal space.
If you include Snapchat as a messaging app, its growth and relevancy to a younger demographic continues to grow. Look no further than the current tube ads that use “major KEY” as their slogan (inspired by the biggest snapchatter: DJ Khaled) for its impact on popular culture. This is definitely a platform to encourage your artists to build a fan base on if they are so inclined.
4. Digital advertising
Last year I focused on the increase in personalised marketing due to the various ways we can retarget people (based on website visits, but also YouTube remarketing and link clicks). This trend continues to grow with artists such as Adele releasing all of her content via her website to pick up maximum data (both emails and remarketing pools).
However, the most exciting development I have seen is the new ad formats. Video Click To Website and Carousel have both been introduced to Facebook and Instagram. And possibly the most exciting ad type is the introduction of Canvas by Facebook, which lets you create an entire story or world in an advert. The reason why this is so powerful for the industry is that it allows messaging to include all aspects of an artist’s campaign effectively. Why should the label and the promoter advertise separately (and often at the same time bidding each others price up) when they could both advertise concerts and the album beautifully in one advert? Holistic marketing (and messaging) that lets users decide their preferred way of engaging with an artist (vs. forcing them down our preferred way) is something I have been shouting about for a while. We now have more and more ways of achieving this.
5. Streaming marketing
The industry has been demanding access to actionable streaming data for a while now and we are finally seeing the tip of the iceberg. There have been several developments here: from Spotify launching a Concert tab and Spotify Fan Insights, to (most importantly) campaigns emailing super fans about an upcoming tour or album from an artist.
Listening data is about the most useful and accurate metric to identify real fans and can help us segment appropriate messaging depending on the level of engagement. However, the services are reluctant to open the data floodgates for fear that artist/labels/managers might (yet again) drive people away with spamming.
This said, listening-based rewards and campaigns could create an incredibly powerful positive reinforcement loop e.g. a campaign that let’s the top 10% of an artist’s listeners have first access to tickets, or deluxe limited editions – both identifying super fans and rewarding them, but also encouraging repeat listens.
Another shift we have seen in streaming is a move from holdouts (e.g. Taylor Swift’s famous holdout of Spotify) to one of exclusives with Apple Music and Tidal entering this space. The increase in exclusives is only going to get worse with the imminent roll out of YouTube Red. The exclusives have been successful for the 1% and therefore the trend may continue. However, I would argue that this is creating an incredibly frustrating user experience and ultimately works against the long-term goal of the industry to get more users to commit to a paid streaming service.
Spotify is the only service not playing the exclusive ball game as they don’t believe it is good for the user. Interestingly they have taken a strong stance on all types of exclusive including marketing/PR non-monetised pre-listens (such as NPR, Guardian etc.). In fact the current divide between marketing and consumption has become very blurry. With the new officially licensed iteration of SoundCloud putting its future as the industry’s universal player in doubt, it is fair to say that the streaming industry is currently between a rock and hard place when it comes to PR.
On the one hand using a SoundCloud player in a blog post now has an even lower chance of being playable than using a Spotify player. In the best case the song is monetised with ads (in the US or UK) if not clipped, and in the rest of the world it simply does not work. On the other hand, with no other alternative, I find myself having to revert to using static YouTube videos.
Considering the current uncertainty surrounding YouTube, it feels less than ideal to be building a followership on that platform. To add insult to injury, many blogs are still rejecting YouTube players and insist on SoundCloud as they care about HypeMachine charts.
However… we’re at a turning point
As a digital person it is frustrating to be constrained and forced to be jumping through ineffective hoops because of short-sighted decision making. At Music Connected, in a meeting with representatives for all major indie labels, I called for us to unite and decide on a best-practice digital conduct that prioritises user experience. We are in an incredibly delicate situation right now. With SoundCloud as we know it no more, the frustration with YouTube rising and major labels rumoured to have off-YouTube contingent plans and no single streaming service having the full catalogue of big releases this year, we could be in danger of alienating users (yet again).
In addition we are hurting the DIY artists who rely on communities based around services such as SoundCloud; communities that currently are having a very frustrating experience and may go looking elsewhere.
As music continues to fight to stay relevant and grow in the entertainment world, we stand to lose severely if we do not fix the currently broken user experience. The industry needs to get this right and fast.
More on these and other trends at Midem 2016, when Claire Mas presents “Digital Marketing: What’s Next for 2017?” (June 4, 12.30). She also speaks on Midem’s final Wrap session (June 6, 14.30) with fellow Midem Label Ambassadors from Warp Records, Absolute Label Services, The Orchard and Kobalt/AWAL. Check out all of our Label Ambassadors’ posts to date here!
Top photo: the music service of Japanese messaging app Line, © Line