Striking the right notes with artist-focused advertising


Forget big-budget TV ads, billboard campaigns and radio promos. How can labels and other music marketers capitalise on new technologies to run the most effective advertising campaigns for their artists? And how will these techs evolve in the future?

That was the topic for a panel at the FastForward conference in Amsterdam today. Speakers included Abhishek Sen from NumberEight; Nikoo Sadr from The Orchard; Pat Carr of Remote Control Agency; and Sebastian Simone of Warner Bros Records. The moderator was Liz Stokes from Record of the Day.

“Advertising is a horrible word, but it does inform everything we do… If we don’t tell people about it [music] – if we don’t tell people about it in the right way, it doesn’t exist,” said Carr. “It’s important: a big responsibility for taking music and putting it in front of people in the right way.”

The conversation moved quickly to social media, with Stokes providing some stats: Facebook has 2.2 billion monthly active users – more than half the active users of the internet itself – while Instagram has 700 million, YouTube 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users and so on.

“With social media, it’s there to build relationships,” said Sadr. “People talk to each other. So good advertising needs to fit within the conversation of the platform: how people interact on that platform. It’s not always possible unfortunately, but you have to start with ‘how do we plan advertising that feels natural, in terms of people building a relationship?'”

She said that traditional ‘here’s my album’ style ads are still part of the picture, but the more interesting advertising comes in between those, building that relationship between artists and fans. “Good advertising blends in with the platform.”

Simone agreed. “A few years ago we were all quite guilty of making a TV ad and then repurposing it… but now you need to make sure the story you’re trying to tell with your adverts aligns with the different social platforms… It needs to be native to that platform in the way someone’s using it.”

Is Facebook working well for artists? Simone noted that the social network’s news feed has been favouring personal content from friends over pages’ content for some time, making ad spend a given to help an artist’s messaging cut through. But ideally focusing that spend on posts that fans are showing an interest in.

“It’s not practical to be putting spend behind every single post you put up, just to reach the entire audience: it’s about backing the things that are making noise,” said Simone.

Sadr said it’s vital to weigh up how much value a campaign will generate, whether that’s sales or some other form of results for the artist. “There’s no point in doing it just for the sake of it,” agreed Carr. “Spend £100, see how it goes. Make it work. Make it work hard! If you have to spend loads of money, you’re doing it wrong!”

“Quite often advertising isn’t about getting someone to click right now. You’re slowly just chipping away at somebody until they start to fall in love with your artist,” she added. “Music is inherently a moments-based kind of industry… It can be a small moment, but you have to have something to storytell, or you really struggle to make a meaningful connection,” said Simone.

When does traditional advertising have an impact in a modern music marketing campaign? Simone said it only really works for artists with “enormous familiarity… because the cost of product for music has got so low… Unless you’re A-list in the scale of things you’re doing, you’ll see less and less campaigns do TV advertising and outdoor campaigns.”

Sadr said that for certain genres – metal being one example – there are media brands like magazines that can be great partners for a campaign: although she talked about takeovers of their websites more than print campaigns. “I love a tube poster, myself!” said Carr. “But you’ve got to gauge your moment and your time… Flyposting? You can’t knock it: it gets in people’s eyes. But it’s all about being effective.”

Sen suggested that there are opportunities for posters to be jazzed up with augmented-reality features for smartphones, where people can point their devices at the poster and access music, video or other interactive content.

The label marketers on the panel were more measured in their enthusiasm for this particular option, however, questioning how many people will really get their phones out to interact with this kind of advertising: especially if they’re on their way to or from work.

The conversation moved on. “Advertising today is typically based on a lot of past information…You must have liked xyz in the past, let’s give you some more xyz,” noted Sen, who added that advertising on services like Spotify and Pandora also has plenty of room to develop.

“Users are enjoying the content on their devices, so you have to understand: what can I understand about this user?” he said. “And then tailor the specific advertising for that user, and make them feel special.” For example a script for an ad that might be based on their current location and the weather.

Do audiences want that, or might it seem too intrusive, wondered Stokes. “Yes, it has to be done tastefully,” said Sen, noting that people are already familiar with retargeting – for example seeing Netflix ads following them around the web. “We’re advertising people and creative works though. It’s fine if Netflix or holidays or insurance do it… but that’s where I think we’ve got to be careful,” suggested Carr.

What about the advertising on music-streaming services? Have they been effective for music marketing campaigns?

“If you’re advertising natively in the environment where people are listening to music, that’s great… but it’s also reported on a very top-line level where you can see the amount of people who’ve engaged with that ad. But what you want is to go on and see how many went on and listened to the track, saved it and shared it,” said Simone.

“We live in a global world. On Spotify, if I advertise in the Nordics it’s not going to have the same results as if I advertise in Latin America… that’s one of the best places we see the best results in terms of those types of ads,” said Sadr. She added that the best audio ads on streaming services come when an artist gets involved: for example recording a message for fans.

Will there be advertising opportunities on smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo? All three music marketers on the panel said not, although Simone said he expects them to show some potential in the years to come. “You’ve got to be really careful with those voice-activated things in your house: super-careful about the intrusiveness of it,” said Carr.

The panel talked about how they get to know a band they’re working for. Sadr said that as well as listening to their music, she tries to understand their audience by seeing what they’ve been sharing and commenting on around the various platforms. “How do they actually connect to each other and how do they connect to the music?” she said.

Carr said one challenge can be that artists “don’t like being marketed” – they may not want Facebook ads on principle, for example, so there needs to be a conversation that ends up with them fully on board with whatever platforms and ad formats are used.

Do any of the panel trust the metrics from the advertising platforms like social networks? “Without an alternative you kind of have to,” said Simone, but he suggested a music marketer needs a level-headed interpretation of those results.

“With any data the most important thing is firstly to have it, and then what you do with it. You can make stats say virtually anything if you want to,” said Carr. “It’s interpretation, as you say.”

“You can take it with a pinch of salt, but you’ll get a good indication of whether it’s working,” said Sadr.


Stuart Dredge

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