From streaming playlists to lip-sync social apps, the environment for music marketing is constantly evolving. But how can artists and labels take advantage to reach new audiences – and make them care about their music?

A panel at the NY:LON Connect conference we organised with the Music Business Association in London this week explored the digital music marketing landscape. The panel included Zena White from The Other Hand; Hannah Overton, general manager of Europe for Secretly Group; and Alison Lamb from Prolifica Management. The moderator was Music Ally’s own Wesley A’Harrah.

The conversation started with Drip, the label-subscription service that Kickstarter is reviving. “It was a nice little service, and it made us small amounts of money every month,” said Overton. “Don’t necessarily know if it was worth it for the money it brought in, but…”

White was one of the subscribers to Secretly Group’s Drip, and suggested that the quality of the content is vital for this kind of service to work, citing one of her clients, Stones Throw, as an example. “The key to it is actually having a dripfeed of constant content,” she said. “It doesn’t seem like there are many artists doing a direct-to-fan Drip, and that’s probably because the number of artists with enough content to keep it fresh, are very few.”

Overton agreed, noting that there’s great pressure on artists and labels to come up with original content for a range of partners, streaming services included. “When you’re doing a global marketing campaign, if an artist was giving original, exclusive content to everyone that asked, they’d have three albums worth!” she said.

Lamb talked about one of the artists she works with, Maximo Park, who are running a pre-order campaign for their latest album, and funnelling their original, exclusive content towards those fans.

What kind of high-value content can artists be creating for fans, asked A’Harrah, that will let them support musicians in new ways? “Fans really like unique things,” said Lamb. “I don’t think we have to be extreme: a handwritten lyric booklet with some meaning about the tracks. Something like that goes a long way.”

The conversation moved on to Snapchat and how it can be used for artists: for example, creating geofilters around venues.

“We struggle with Snapchat because of our demographic, and we also find our artists are very, very resistant to engaging,” said Overton. “We do have a young audience as well, but maybe because we’re in the credible alternative-music zone, our artists balk at the idea of getting involved in Snapchat… we really struggle with it at an artist level.”

“You can’t force a platform onto your band, you’ve got to use what’s natural to somebody,” said Lamb. “It’s obviously interesting with Ed Sheeran recently launching his teaser track through a [Snapchat] filter, but you can’t force the behaviour.”

A’Harrah noted that this kind of campaign would cost $15k for one territory for one day, while Sheeran’s global campaign would have been considerably more expensive. He turned to a question about how marketers are driving ticket sales.

“We found Dice really great for helping us launch new artists. When we’ve had new American artists come over for the first time, for example, Dice have been able to put on free shows, and use their database to have queues of people and waiting lists, and make those first shows really exciting… We find them really good. It’s a new platform, and it’s growing,” said Overton.

She also talked about Spotify’s fan-first push notifications for artists’ followings on the streaming service. “It helps in the holistic thing about getting a band’s new music out there and getting people talking about it,” she said.

Run The Jewels have also run marketing campaigns through Spotify, with White saying that it worked “really well” allocating 20% of pre-sale tickets to the people identified by Spotify as fans of the band. She noted that there can still be tensions in this area: for example, wanting to use Dice for an artist and being told to work with Ticketmaster instead.

The conversation moved on to secondary ticketing. “Nobody wants to be ripped off,” said Overton. “Somebody might be able to spend £200 going to a gig, but your average fan can’t afford that.”

Finally, playlists on streaming services like Spotify. White: “It’s probably last year’s news that you get on by any means necessary: a combination of management, distribution, label and actually radio teams now. But there’s a lot of chat about what overall impact playlisting is having.”

Overton said that Secretly has good relationships with the playlist curators, but suggested it’s tough for smaller labels working through distributors. “It’s getting more and more difficult now,” she said. “We’re okay, because we have those personal relationships, but the independent music industry is going to be suffering as a whole.”

“But Spotify are really supporting their own editorial and not that of Topsify and the major label-owned editorial companies. But we’ve got this Catch 22 where a big track gets big because it’s on lots of playlists, and when it’s big it gets played more… and you’re in the trap of the same music being played over and over again. There’s less room for new music to come in. It becomes homogenised.”

White works with a lot of American and emerging artists, and said that labels are working hard to build the direct relationship with the editors in services like Spotify, almost like the traditional PR/journalist interactions. “I’ve seen editors become fans of bands, and that’s how we’ve seen bands shoot up playlists,” said Lamb.

Overton had some less positive views about Apple Music, however. “They’re recruiting incredible music fans to do their genre playlists. On the ground level they’re brilliant and very supportive of independent artists,” she said.

“But further up at the top level of Apple, they don’t give a shit about independent music. That’s where you see the Apple Music festival having no independent artists there at all last year.”

She went on to note that Apple did give Christine and the Queens a support slot during its festival last year, but the panel agreed that Apple’s headliner decisions sent out the wrong message to the independent community – labels and fans alike.

“It’s terrible programming!” said White. “In order for Apple to stay relevant and an exciting service for people to listen to, they need to keep their eye on the prize of who is going to change future music,” concluded Overton. “It’s not going to be Elton John! He did back then [in the 1970s] but they need to find the next Elton John.”

The NY:LON Connect conference was co-organised by Music Ally and the Music Business Association, in association with Armonia.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

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Stuart Dredge

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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1 Comment

  1. Apple recently hired Steve Savoca to head up Indie Artist Relations, so that’s going to change as far as the festival bookings. I’ve picked up so many new artists as a result of listening to their radio. Seeding influencer playlists to me is the same as payola on radio.

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