As streaming grows, so labels and artists are finding new ways to use platforms like Spotify in their marketing campaigns. A panel session at the Midem conference in Cannes this morning explored some of the latest trends.
The speakers were Olivier Dutertre, founder of TheSoundYouNeed; James Farrelly, head of trade marketing, UK and Ireland, for Believe Digital; and Rami Zeidan, head of marketing at Anghami. The moderator was Sammy Andrews from Entertainment Intelligence.
Andrews started with playlists: how are they being used and what does it mean for music marketing? Farrelly said Believe pitches key releases and catalogue to get them placed in streaming services’ in-house playlists, as well as other brands that have playlists on those platforms.
Believe is creating its own playlist brands too, including one focusing on French hip-hop and another on electronic music. “The majority of playlists that exist on services, their main function is to keep users consistently listening to music on a regular basis,” said Farrelly.
“Those streaming services aren’t that interested in making sure your commercial priorities are placed at the top of those playlists. They just want good, curated content… Don’t just think that ‘because this is a big commercial priority for us’, the streaming services need to put it at the top of their playlists. It needs to be good music.”
Zeidan said that streaming service Anghami *does* talk to labels about their priorities, stressing that communication ahead of releases is key, so that the service understands what they want to build into hits months ahead of time.
“For small to medium labels, one of the key things to do is create playlists from scratch, that work in a niche,” said Dutertre. “On Spotify, it’s way easier to create a playlist without having to create a brand. But you can’t just release an EP on the playlist every two months and expect that to drive traffic to it… You don’t have to own absolutely every content you put on your playlist either, you can add content from other labels.”
Anghami runs an initiative that involves choosing artists to cover specific songs, and then funding the recording of those sessions – “the artists own the songs, though,” said Zeidan – to create original content for the service. “We get to book them in advance, work with them on some marketing tactics, and get them to send us some material to promote them on our social system,” he said.
The panel talked about different marketing tactics on streaming services. Farrelly said that Spotify is now bringing in opportunities to send emails out to “key fans”. Believe ran such a campaign for Ciaran Lavery, who’s been building an audience on Spotify. Fans who’d played his music more than three times a month and saved his music to their own collections were emailed a promotion for his album and tour.
It’s a more direct – albeit still with Spotify as the middleman – communication between artists and their biggest fans. “We’re using streaming services almost as social networks in many ways, and I think we’ll see that go even further,” said Farrelly.
Are other streaming services doing similar things? “It’s only Spotify at the moment. Deezer we get great interactions with artists: if an artist has a playlist on there we see massive signup on there, much quicker than it happens on Spotify,” he said. “Spotify seems sometimes a little bit more of a lean-back experience.”
Dutertre talked about Apple Connect. “I don’t think it’s working very well,” he said, noting that for now it is aimed more at artists than brands (playlist brands included).
“I think Apple Music is going to grow to a point where it’s bigger or as big as Spotify. And at that point I hope they are going to remake Apple Connect, because that would be the best feature for any brand to create a profile, have a following and your profile could be linked to your playlists.”
Farrelly said Believe is using Apple Music Connect for some of its biggest artist campaigns, partly because “Apple likes them to be seen to be using it” but also for other reasons.
“They’ve got some really good tools, like the Music Memos app you can download onto your phone, create songs and upload them directly,” he said. “We’ve got artists on the road recording cool little snippets and uploading them direct to their Connect profile, which is getting really good feedback from fans.”
The conversation turned to data, with Zeidan stressing that it’s important for streaming services and artists to decide what they want to achieve and how data can support that, rather than blindly plunging in. Anghami doesn’t have a direct equivalent to Apple Music Connect, but it does encourage artists to invest time in keeping their profiles updated on the platform, as well as driving fans to those profiles from their social networks.
He talked about how Anghami uses push notifications to keep listeners engaged with its platform. “Push notifications for us is actually working really well,” he said. “One: latest updates from the artists you follow. Two: ‘here’s a stream with a million plays so far’ – that stimulates curiosity.”
The conversation turned back to curated playlists on Spotify. Farrelly said that diving in to analytics tools to find out what tracks off an album are doing well helps Believe decide which tracks to pitch to Spotify for, say, the New Music Friday playlist.
He also gave some stats: for the Your Favourite Coffeehouse playlist on Spotify, an artist can generate “hundreds of thousands of streams” over a period of time from being placed on it. Farrelly also said Spotify’s Fresh Finds playlists, which spotlight emerging tracks, are having an impact. One Believe-distributed artist’s song was generating eight streams a day on Spotify, then got posted to Fresh Finds and jumped up to 24,000 streams a day, ultimately topping the UK viral chart.
Middle Eastern service Anghami is currently streaming 400m songs a month to its listeners, said Zeidan, who said that partnerships with labels and telcos have been fuelling its growth: marketing campaigns for artists also work as marketing campaigns for Anghami. Those partnerships might involve promoting albums and encouraging telco customers to sign up for the service, or putting on concerts together where fans can win the prize of meeting their idols.
“The truth of the matter is unless you’re actively engaging with your fanbase and getting people excited about your music, and using core existing marketing techniques, you’re not going to see a share of that £9.99 a month,” said Farrelly, who went on to suggest that there is room for the playlist format to evolve.
“The playlist formula is actually fairly dull. How can you use playlists and what these services are offering you to do something more interesting? Whether you think Kanye is a nutjob or not: but having a living, breathing album developing from demo stage to a full product, and taking your fans on that journey… you can build it up as a playlist.”
“Streaming platforms are not magic boxes. You can’t just throw a song there and hope it sticks. And you can’t just throw it there and say ‘what can you do for me’ [to the streaming service]. Dude, it’s YOUR song!” added Zeidan.
Dutertre said that one problem is that many artists “just want to make music” so it may be tough to expect them to take a more pro-active role in marketing it on streaming services – which is where the team around them comes in, of course.
“What’s good about today, other than that streaming is becoming a big thing… is that you have many more people interested in finding new artists,” he said. “The key for the managers and the labels now is not to just do the same thing: release albums and expect to make as much money as you did before. Even EPs. I think artists will be able to make more money between albums by just selling tracks, even.
Should streaming services be doing more to market music? “Absolutely, but you shouldn’t rely on that,” said Farrelly, referring to artists and labels who build all their hopes for a release on getting it into big Spotify playlists. “If those editors decide collectively that they don’t like your track, you’re up without a paddle. You need to make sure you’re backing everything up.”
“On streaming we need to keep people coming back and back again. And have your messaging correct: to get people to add your music to their own collections,” he continued. “That’s driving a lot of streams.”
Andrews raised the idea of exclusives, where an album is available on one streaming service but not others. “I think it’s really damaging to the industry and to streaming adoption as a whole,” said Andrews. “Are we not going slightly backwards here?”
Farrelly agreed. “We’re approaching every campaign at the moment with pure parity, all content should be available to all users on all platforms at all times,” he said. “Unless you’re an Adele or a Drake or a Beyoncé or a Radiohead, most people are not going to change their direct debit to a streaming service just to listen to your album. You’re just punishing your fans. Even if you window it for just a little time, there’ll be that bitterness in their mouth.”
Zeidan is in favour of exclusives, but noted that “the strategy of exclusivity is a short-term strategy for us” – suggesting that for Anghami, exclusives are a way to encourage fans into the behaviour of expecting to hear an album first in its app, not via piracy. He also described these exclusives as “pre-releases” – so it’s more early access rather than post-release exclusives.
“For streaming to work for us, we have to nurture it. And if you don’t believe that, you probably shouldn’t be in this industry any more. We have to nurture it, or it’s fucked!” said Andrews.