“Welcome to this week’s edition of Sandbox – the digital music marketing magazine. Just 18 months ago, pre-saves were a breath of fresh air for marketers struggling to stand above the cattle run of global releases on a Friday. But as they become ubiquitous, it is almost back to square one with everyone finding themselves lost again in the tumult. Our lead feature looks at what needs to be done beyond a simple pre-save to bring real added value here, asking if this is all less about pleasing fans than pleasing DSPs and considering what it will mean now that Apple has tentatively joined in with its own “pre-adds”. Our campaigns section includes: Deutsche Grammophon marks its 120th anniversary with a deep archive project; Beyoncé and Jay-Z give Tidal an exclusive on their new album for… a weekend; The Glitch Mob create an album edit just for TheWaveVR; and Marshmello is the latest artist to jump on the Fortnite bandwagon. Apple Music For Artists is still in beta but is being slowly rolled out to select acts and managers. In this week’s Tools section, we test drive it and speak to others who were onboarded early about what they like about it (heatmaps and milestones are the immediate standout elements) and consider how it stacks up against Spotify For Artists. Finally, Behind The Campaign: For the release of Puerto Rican reggaetón star Jory Boy’s latest album, Otra Liga 2, the plan was to drive pre-sales and reward super fans. Jeremy Da of Cinq Music explains where video-enabled landing pages were used to push singles and then the album, how fans were encouraged to bombard Instagram to reveal the album ahead of the “official” announcement and why this campaign is laying the groundwork for Jory Boy’s imminent gaming platform.”
Eamonn Forde, editor, Sandbox
Lead Feature: God Save the Streams
In 18 months the pre-save has gone from niche experiment to standard practice in marketing. But in that time, the thing that made it special – a way to stand out from the rush of albums every Friday – has been diluted by ubiquity.
Now that Apple Music is tentatively entering the fray with its own twist (termed “pre-adds”), the need to bring something else beyond a simple save mechanic has never been greater. While some marketers are already asking if this is more about pleasing the DSPs than the fans, there is still plenty of life in the strategy. We look at how it has got to this stage and where it needs to move next.
From Innovation to Ubiquity
It is a mark of how quickly the digital music industry moves that the pre-save campaign has gone from being wonderful novelty to standard marketing tool in the 18 months since Kobalt first debuted the concept in support of Laura Marling’s Semper Femina.
Inevitably, with this swift rise has come a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the practice, which lets music fans pre-save forthcoming albums and tracks to their streaming libraries and playlists (mostly, but not exclusively, on Spotify). Some marketers have complained, for example, that pre-save campaigns are an expensive distraction which generate little in the way of cut through.
“We’ve done [pre-saves] a couple of times, but can’t really see a major benefit to them,” says Mute head of marketing Neil Blanket. “If anything, they just seem to show that DSP that you’re engaging with them and driving traffic to that service.”
Another concern is the cost. Spotify in itself doesn’t have a pre-save tool, which means labels must either build their own – an approach favoured by the majors and large indies – or use a third-party tool. This can be expensive and one marketer recently suggested to Sandbox that it didn’t represent value for money for the impact it made and that some they had tested were full of bugs.
And yet the pre-save is unlikely to be going away any time soon. A recent campaign for Shawn Mendes’ self-titled third album was said to be among the biggest pre-saves in history – although Island, his label, did not wish to comment on this – while Apple Music quietly launched its own “pre-add” function for albums at the start of June.
Meanwhile, Domino’s campaign for Franz Ferdinand’s recent Always Ascending album turned the Spotify pre-save into an online fan club – an initiative that showed how the pre-save campaign can serve as a wider marketing tool.
“We wanted to do something a little more interesting with this [pre-save] other than save the album to Spotify or follow a playlist,” Corey Zaloom, head of digital marketing at Domino Recording Company, told Sandbox earlier this year. “We have seen pre-saves be a successful tactic when they’re a part of any campaign, but we just wanted to make it a little more interesting.”
Cindy James, VP of streaming at Island Records in the US, says pre-saves represent “a great way to incorporate our streaming partners into the pre-release marketing messaging”.
“With the data we’re currently receiving from our streaming partners, it’s difficult to quantify a one-to-one, click-to-stream relationship, especially tracking a click that takes place off-platform to consumption that happens as a result on that platform,” she adds. “However, based on the number of pre-saves, newsletters that are opened and click-through rates, we believe this is quickly becoming a valuable conversion marketing tool.”
Getting Maximum Impact
So how can marketers make the most of the ubiquitous pre-save to ensure their campaigns stand out in 2018’s crowded market? Music Ally director of digital strategy Patrick Ross co-created the idea of the pre-save campaign with David Emery (now at Apple Music in the UK) when the two worked together at Kobalt. He says that many of the people running pre-save campaigns these days are missing the point of the exercise.
“The reason that we made the pre-save was that Spotify used to notify you about stuff,” he explains. “When you used to follow an artist, every time that they did something, you got a notification. Now you are beholden to the algorithm: occasionally you get notifications. The idea was: ‘How do we go back and put in the features that their notification system used to put in?’”
One of the key benefits of the pre-save, Ross explains, was to give marketers an “end point” to which they could drive music fans around a campaign, much like a physical album once represented. “With a release, as soon as we have got the record delivered, we actually have an end point for people to go to connect with,” he says. “In digital marketing, if you are self-aware, you know people don’t see your whole campaign. More than likely you hit people once in a campaign. The idea is that when you hit them once, make sure there is a quick place they can go, do one action and they are done.”
With this in mind, Kobalt made sure that fans who signed up for their pre-save campaigns had the option to enter their email address. This, according to Ross, is the most powerful part of the pre-save mechanism. “When the record comes out it sends you an email notification,” he says. “People going into their email, open up and, ‘Oh, what is in there? Cool, I will go and listen to that now,’ on the Friday that it was released, driving a whole bunch of streams on day one.”
Ross believes that by adding email capture, labels can significantly improve the quality of their pre-save campaigns. “The big miss that some labels don’t do,” he explains, “is you spend this marketing money to drive someone to this pre-save before a release, you go on there, you click a button or tick a box and sometimes you don’t even get an email notification.”
Jeremy Da, director of marketing at Cinq Music agrees. “The reason why we do pre-saves here is to get emails,” he explains in Behind The Campaign in this issue of Sandbox. “It is a very valuable data capture mechanic. We have built fanbases and got super fans thanks to this.”
The Value of the Value Exchange
Oliver Muoto, founder of Nashville social media marketing specialist Metablocks, which operates its own pre-save platforms, says that many labels expect pre-save campaigns to work by themselves, with nothing in the way of additional support.
“We say, ‘Little incentive, little action; no incentive, no action,’” he explains. “People are not pre-saving purely for the novelty of pre-saving any more. We ask people running campaigns, ‘What is the value proposal?’ Over the last two years, our platform has evolved into more of a marketing tool, as far as building incentives into pre-saves.”
The idea of a value exchange is important, as marketers start to create extra incentives for fans to sign up to pre-save campaigns.
The Always Ascending fan club offered exclusive photos, videos and lyrics from Franz Ferdinand; Kylie Minogue fans who pre-saved her recent album on Spotify were entered into a competition to win a signed copy of Golden on vinyl and Camila Cabello ran a T-shirt competition for fans who pre-save her debut album, Camila, on Spotify.
Zaloom told Music Ally that Franz Ferdinand fans “were really rewarded for committing to save the album, staying engaged and checking back for updates”. This included a neat email campaign to thank fans for their loyalty.
“When [Always Ascending] was released, we segmented our email lists,” she explained. “The general email list got a standard message about the album being out that day, with links to hear or buy it as well as links for the tour dates. The pre-saving fans got a handwritten note in the email from the band thanking them for saving the album and for following along.”
Guillaume Crisafulli, co-founder of customer data advertising platform Make The Link, says that marketers should be creative when rewarding fans.
“What works well is the pre-save campaign tied with an incentive – such as release party access, gift card or signed vinyl,” he says. “For example we’re currently running the Lecrae & Zaytoven Let The Trap Say Amen pre-save coupled with the chance to win a $300 sneaker gift card in the US. And that then makes sense to ask for an email address for the fan to be contacted in case they’re the lucky winner.”
However, Crisafulli cautions against over-selling them. “You need to be careful and organised with the type of content [you offer], concrete follow-up [strategic planning] and exclusives you’re delivering,” he says. “Be clear with the fans on what to expect. Over-promising marketing has been seen too often in that game.”
Pre-Saves for Artists not Albums
Ross links the idea of the pre-save fan club to the streaming artist subscription that Kobalt developed for its pre-save campaigns, whereby fans subscribe to the artist themselves rather than just pre-saving a particular album. “We had these pre-saves and we realised we had this second level. If you are subscribing to one thing, in this case a track or album release, why can’t you subscribe a level up and make it the actual artist?” he explains. “We realised there was the same functionality; but in this case, instead of it being a specific product from an artist you subscribe to, it is every product from an artist.”
Kobalt used this mechanism for acts including Aqualung, NVDES and Lauv. Under the banner of “streaming subscription”, Aqualung’s pre-save page promised: “Subscribe for free to automatically add all new releases by Aqualung to your Spotify Library when they come out,” adding in the small print: “By subscribing you will automatically follow the artist on Spotify. If you allow access to your email address this will be passed to the artist and their team.”
Ross believes artist subscriptions can offer lasting value. “There is stuff I have subscribed to a year ago and I still get notification every time they release so I am still up to date every time a new track comes out,” he says. “I don’t even use Spotify. I go and listen to it in Apple Music. But it works either way.”
Ross says that the artist subscription idea works well for both new and catalogue artists. “I used it with NVDES, a frontline artist releasing new singles and EPs. That is good for him because he has got a lot of flow that you have to keep checking back for,” he says. “Take Aqualung, a re-release campaign for a catalogue artist where we have multiple albums coming out in the next year: how do we keep people in touch, without having to keep messaging, ‘Next album, next album?’ It was a one off, ‘Hey subscribe to this to keep up to date’.”
Language is Key
As you can see, the language used around pre-saves is also important, with the “pre-save” name more an industry term than a consumer proposition. “A lot of the success of a pre-save comes around the copy used in the communication telling people to participate,” says Music Ally head of training and development Wesley T. A’Harrah. “Saying ‘pre-save this music’ is not the same as ‘listen later’ or ‘be the first to hear it’.”
Messaging around pre-saves should also reflect the passing of time. Ross explains how Kobalt pre-save tools would change their messaging to “save for later” when the album in question was released. “We started using ‘save for later’, which is what all pre-saves from Kobalt will turn into,” he says. “Automatically, on release date the pre-save changes to ‘out now’ and pulls in the Spotify widget, so you can actually play right from the page.”
This, Ross adds, extends the life of pre-save campaigns indefinitely. “We would say, ‘Use that URL everywhere and shout about it as much as possible because it never becomes irrelevant.’ If you click on it and the album is out, it is very clear that it is out now. There’s literally a button to play it, there is still a functionality to go, ‘Boom – add it to my library’, without having to follow it, take it into Spotify and manually add it to your library.”
By taking these steps, Ross says pre-saves can continue to drive day-one streams, which in turn help artists onto Spotify’s all-important algorithmic playlists. “That was so fascinating to watch – the things that we did pre-saves on, how they would dominate the algorithmic charts and the dynamic charts, things that are recommended to people,” he says. “From being released they had a spike of people listening to them within a very short time span. That is how you game the algorithm.”
So far the idea of pre-saves has been largely focused on Spotify, which makes sense, given its vast user base. But Deezer also allows pre-save campaigns and Muoto says these can be big in certain territories. “We work in Latin America and that is where you are going to see Deezer traction,” he says, citing a recent campaign for a Brazilian group where Deezer pre-save numbers were half that of Spotify’s – a very respectable result. With Apple Music now slowly moving into the same territory (see box), the future looks very interesting indeed.
Extra Content 1: The Music Ally checklist for pre-saves
Make sure your pre-save campaign:
• Saves a selection of back catalogue to user collection upon signup
• Follows an artist’s owned-and-operated playlist upon signup
• Follows artist upon signup
• Subscribes to mailing list (artist + brand/label, if possible)
• Sends email on day of release
• Saves track on day of release
Extra Content 2: Patrick Ross on the power of Apple Music’s “pre-adds”
Apple sort of had an in-built pre-save function. It wasn’t great, though. Apple still lists things like Spotify used to and like iTunes does. When a new record is not out, but there are two tracks out from it, on Apple Music you get all of the tracks greyed out apart from the ones that are available. They are still called instant grats in the system. You can nominate these when you deliver something with Apple.
On Apple Music you have always been able to add that album to your collection – and as the new things comes out they are in your collection. Spotify used to list albums like that, greyed out, but people thought that they didn’t have the rights to the track. So they pulled that function.
On Spotify you have to put a new song out as a single, then when the album comes out, all the previously released tracks are in it but the album is a brand new product. On Apple Music you have one product for that album and you put the “singles” live within that piece. What Apple Music has now done is if you add this album to your collection and it doesn’t have these tracks, it will send a notification to your phone to tell you that this album is now released.
The power of Apple’s tool is it is native. It is less about having this conversation: “Go now and pre-save through some third-party tool”; you can literally send an Apple Music subscriber a link. If I were running a campaign these days, I would make a Linkfire, drop in a Spotify pre-save from wherever that comes from, such as a third-party tool, and that would be the link I would use for Spotify.
But for Apple Music I can literally link to the same product. So now I can talk about both platforms; but for Apple Music’s you don’t have to go to a third-party tool – which, for an indie, you have to pay for or, for bigger labels, you have to maintain yourself.
Tools: Apple Music for Artists
Much talked about but rarely seen, Apple Music For Artists is slowly being rolled out to the artist and management community. At the same time, the service has quietly launched its “pre-add” functionality (akin to pre-saves on Spotify) and so we look at what these significant changes mean for marketing on the second-largest music subscription service.
When first landing on the dashboard, you see a few overview topline stats (streams, radio spins, song purchases, album purchases). There is more flexibility with time overviews as this dashboard allows for better tailoring in time views. In comparison, Spotify only allows for data views in three time brackets: the last seven days; the last 28 days; and over lifetime. Crucially Apple Music combines historic iTunes data with Apple Music streams in the overview and allows users to click through to graphs showing the evolution of each data set. Beyond being able to view data at a specific point in time, there are a few other differences between the stream evolution graphs on Apple Music For Artists and those on Spotify For Artists. While Apple Music For Artists has a series of milestones on the Overview page, Spotify incorporates some limited playlisting milestones on the graph itself. Spotify also allows the user to compare the evolution of streams, listeners and followers to other artists, a feature that Apple Music has (so far) decided to not include on its dashboard. The milestones are also a feature that stand out here. These milestones come from the aggregation of iTunes sales data along with streaming data. Also, the quantitative nature of these milestones is interesting and differs from Spotify For Artists, where the only milestones outlined are shown when a track has been playlisted. Apple Music For Artists seems to focus on simplicity and the visual impact of data reporting, with a lot of weight put on comparative analytics. Milestones seem to embody this perfectly and are useful to assess the impact that new tracks are having on an artist’s streaming strategy. Another original feature of Apple Music’s dashboard lies in the data filters. You can tailor and filter your data by, for example, choosing to view the streams (called “plays” on Apple Music) and their evolution by gender, age group and/or location.
Managers already using Apple Music For Artists have spoken to Sandbox about their experiences here and have sung the praises of the milestones and the heatmaps features. While milestones are not completely new to DSP dashboards, the way heatmaps are set up on Apple Music for artists are a first. With this tool you can view where streams are coming from at both a country level and a city one. Clicking on each city or country opens up a list of the most-streamed tracks in that area, showing specific stream numbers for the top 10 tracks. Marketers have already been keenly using these heatmaps to extrapolate more granular data about listeners around the world. Combining this with geographical data coming from airplay or Shazam can became a key new identifier of new and existing audiences, something that can spill over into live and touring for many acts.
When looking at playlisting reporting, Apple Music For Artists has also taken a different approach in the way it shows playlisting data. While this DSP’s dashboard allows users to see the evolution of plays attributed to each individual playlist over a period of time with a graphical representation – something Spotify For Artists doesn’t do – you cannot see data on the number of followers that each playlist has. This is an important figure to be informed on as it puts the number of plays attributed to each playlist into context. It is not the same to receive 100 plays from a 100-follower playlist than it is to receive 100 plays from a 1,000-follower playlist. This is an important number to miss out on, especially as you cannot calculate the per-head stream frequency. The only figures you can see regarding playlists are the streams the playlist has generated for your track in the timeframe you decide to view, along with the previous period, revealing the percentage change from one period to the other. Furthermore, Spotify For Artists informs users of the playlist type, sorting them in personalised, editorial and listener playlists. This information is not given by Apple Music For Artists; you can basically only see the title of the playlist your track is on and the number of streams it has generated for you. On a more positive note, we must praise the tailoring and filters available to view the data. You can choose specific timeframes and even view playlist evolution by gender and age. Apple Music for Artists generally seems to have focused its efforts as a platform on comparative, visual and tailored data. At Sandbox we particularly like the visual aspect of the data reporting that the new Apple dashboard provides. Evolution data, particularly when represented visually, allows users to sift through the copious amounts of data they already receive in the digital world.
Spotify has been the go-to DSP data dashboard since its launch. Recently though, with rival players coming in the space and the launch of Apple Music For Artists, Spotify’s analytics dashboard has been put under increased scrutiny. Spotify For Artists, however, still remains strong in some of its core value offerings, such as playlisting data.Hopefully Apple Music For Artists can catch up with the playlisting data aspect and incorporate functionalities revolving around comparison with other artists. We are very much looking forward to seeing where Apple Music will take this dashboard, especially seeing as the initial impact has been highly positive.
Campaigns: New Music Marketing Projects
Deutsche Grammophon is 120 years old this year. It was set up by US-born Emile Berliner – inventor of the flat-disc phonograph record – as the German arm of his own Berliner Gramophone Company. It has a storied history and has become a byword for a certain quality in classical music. To mark this anniversary, it is digging deep into its plump and varied archives and has no shortage of treasures there as it has witnessed literally every twist and turn in the evolution of recorded music. There are a series of concerts planned for the rest of the year, but it is what is happening digitally that is of most interest to Sandbox readers. The label, now part of Universal Music Group, has partnered with Google Arts & Culture for a rolling archival project that will see obscure gems in its vaults digitised for the first time. Under the umbrella of The Shellac Project (no, nothing to do with Steve Albini’s hardcore band), it is taking rare Galvano metal masters recorded in the early 1900s and making them available online. Around 400 shellac records will be digitally updated and they include historically important recordings such as Russian author Leo Tolstoy reading from one of his novels as well as early recordings by jazz pioneer Louis Armstrong from 1934. On the classical side there are also rare recordings from Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin and Austrian violinist/composer Fritz Kreisler as well as a 1927 recording of Pietro Mascagni conducting members of the Berlin Staatskapelle. “As inventor of the gramophone and founder of the world’s oldest record labels, Emil Berliner brought music into everyday life,” said Philipp Justus, VP of Central Europe for Google in a statement. “We are excited about Deutsche Grammophon’s collaboration with Google Arts & Culture to digitise hundreds of the world’s oldest records, and to make this important chapter of music history more accessible to people everywhere.” Classical is a genre that we cover in Sandbox only occasionally, but this partnership is proof that classical labels can absolutely twist digital to their advantage and will serve as an important bridge into classical music online for consumers.
To coincide with their joint tour, Beyoncé and Jay-Z (listed as The Carters) surprise-released a new album, Everything Is Love, on Tidal on Saturday 16th June. But by the Monday, it was everywhere else – Apple Music, Amazon, Deezer, Pandora and even SoundCloud. It was, however, only initially available to Spotify premium users; but it is understood that it will just be windowed for a fortnight and then will be open to users on the free tier. So it had an extension of sorts to its “exclusivity”. Much media mileage was drawn out of a line from ‘Nice’ on the album where Beyoncé – referencing her 2016 album that remains a streaming exclusive on Tidal – sings: “If I gave two fucks about streaming numbers, would have put Lemonade up on Spotify.” These are lyrics that will dog the marketing around the album as it seems Tidal – given Jay-Z is the face of the service – is not sure what to do with potential exclusives. As we noted in the previous issue of Sandbox, most services have washed their hands of exclusive albums but instead want bespoke tie-in content from artists so they have a point of differentiation from their rivals. Tidal was fast becoming an outlier – the only service taking a hard line on exclusives; yet some were fumbled (Rihanna’s Anti) or became a PR disaster (Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo). The only constant in all of this is Lemonade. So is Everything Is Love a fumble? Or a PR disaster? It certainly got Tidal more coverage on traditional media and social media than it has seen in a long time – but that quantitative uptick was not necessarily glowing. There was such limited time to draw in new subscribers or even trialists, so one wonders what the point was. And yet… maybe, just maybe, there is something else brewing. This could have been a warm up for something bigger, something bolder. If there is something more coming, this could be a great marketing sleight of hand. But if there’s not, then it’s the sound of one hand clapping.
The Glitch Mob
In the background, several music experiments in VR are happening. Many are simply shooting a concert and hoping people will don the requisite helmets or goggles to watch them. But then sometimes, although not very often, something a bit more interesting and substantial is pulled out of the bag. TheWaveVR has partnered with The Glitch Mob to build a VR experience around their recent See Without Eyes (note the keening irony of the title in this context). So what exactly is it? “A VR odyssey of shifting dreamscapes choreographed to a 20-minute custom mix of the album,” is how TheWaveVR ostentatiously puts it. Still none the wiser? Well, you can see it on TheWaveVR’s app for Oculus Rift as well as the HTC Vive headset; but if you don’t have the hardware, it is also available on the VR company’s Facebook page (although, obviously, this will not be the full immersive experience). “This show expands upon what we’ve learned from doing several others but goes much deeper into environmental storytelling and interactive design,” said TheWaveVR CEO and co-founder Adam Arrigo in a statement. “Part film, part concert and part art installation, the show explores themes fundamental to immersive technology, such as the relationship between isolation and social interaction in the digital world. It’s far and away our most ambitious endeavour to date.” It is – both visually and sonically – highly impressive and hints at a future for music to be properly woven into the VR experience rather than, as is too often the case, crowbarred in. It is all still early days here, but hopefully the creative pace is being picked up. Possibly, just possibly, this could be a new type of formatting for albums that warrant it – the standard edition and the VR-centric mix.
Unless you are a dedicated gamer or have kids under a certain age, then Epic Games’ Fortnite is probably something you only have passing knowledge of, perhaps from hysterical media coverage about its potential threat to The Youth Of Today. In short, it is a “co-op survival” game, where players can team up against opponents in a near-future world where most humans have been wiped out and zombie hordes are intent on obliterating the few remaining survivors. It was a slow burner on launch, but in September 2017 a standalone version was made freely available on PC as well as Xbox and PlayStation. Then it exploded. As Twitch and Pokémon Go have shown, as soon as there is a gaming hype, pop starts scrambling onto the bandwagon are never far behind. Drake (of course) has already hitched his deft self-promotional wagon to the game and earlier this month EDM star Marshmello took part in a “pro-am” Fortnite tournament in LA where he was paired with Ninja, a huge gaming star on Twitch and YouTuber (where he has 14.1m subscribers). Ninja (real name Tyler Blevin) and Marshmello (real name Christopher Comstock) stole the show and landed the $1m top prize, which went to charity. Across the three hours they played, Twitch reportedly had 1m concurrent viewers watching every move. The two had already played Duos together on YouTube (current views: 9m) so this was an inevitability. Obviously Marshmello can draw EDM fans into the game but, really, this was more about reflected glory for him. As far as the youth gaming community is concerned, Ninja is the superstar in this pairing and many might be left scratching their heads trying to figure out who this guy with the bucket on his head is. At the peak of the Rock Band/Guitar Hero franchises, music (mainly older acts) were the big draw. But in the live-streamed gaming world, the gamers are the rock stars. Artists jumping on board are smart to do so, but they’ll be smarter still if they understand and accept where in the pecking order they really sit.
Behind the Campaign: Jory Boy
For the release of Puerto Rican reggaetón star Jory Boy’s latest album, Otra Liga 2, the plan was to drive pre-sales and reward super fans. Jeremy Da, director of marketing at Cinq Music, explains how video-enabled landing pages were used in different ways and at different moments in the campaign to push singles and then the album, how fans were encouraged to bombard Instagram to reveal the album ahead of the “official” announcement and why this album is laying the groundwork for Jory Boy’s imminent gaming platform.
Setting up a video-enabled pre-save page
We have been working with Jory Boy for a while. We distribute all his music, but this is the first record that I have marketed for him. I love to use Metablocks; I feel people don’t use it to their full capacity. I prefer it to Linkfire. I tested lots of services and, from what I saw of Metablocks, it was a one-stop shop for everything. For the landing page, we built a video background for the page. This is something I wanted to do at the company – making the coolest things in landing pages. It is just a segment of the video playing in the background, but you can make the videos as long as you want. It is a link that we create, we load the video up onto one of our company servers and then we send Metablocks the link. Within seconds they can activate the background and it shows up.
The only issue with this right now is that it doesn’t show up on mobile; it just works on desktop. But you can get a really good analytics page where you can see the percentage of people who actually use desktop. It’s probably around 40%, which is good enough for this [campaign]. This landing page was for the second single [‘Yin Yang’] which came out in April. The album itself came out on 15th June and we had an album announcement a few weeks ahead of the release – so it was all fresh information. That was all in preparation for the album coming out. There was a separate landing page for the album when it came out. Everything is self-serve on their [Metablocks’] platform – except for the video part. So with the video, I sent the actual video file to our video team. They edited the video so that it rendered well because of the landing page strip in the middle of the screen [with links to various DSPs]. Often with videos, everything is centred. That would have meant that the singer’s face would appear behind the strip and that would look bad. We edited it to look good with that setup – with that strip down the middle. We have done lots of these for different artists. We deliver the video with sound, but once it gets into the platform it shows up without sound. That is fine by us. We just want the images, really.
Pre-saves and superfans
The reason why we do pre-saves here is to get emails. It is a very valuable data capture mechanic. We have built fanbases and got super fans thanks to this. Super fans are invaluable to us. To me that is what the real driving force behind what the pre-save is. There are also ancillary benefits, obviously. A lot of artists still want to do an iTunes pre-sale. A lot of artists, especially in urban, have fans who still buy records. We try to promote as many platforms as we can; but for those platforms that actually offer a way to buy in early – we just don’t want to ignore them. It is also a way of showing Spotify that we are doing what we have to do – which is to show love to the platform. It is communicating with the major platform in the world and showing them that we are driving people to their platform. We do it all through Metablocks. It is our one-stop shop.
Using Instagram videos to power the album announcement
The general idea for the marketing behind Jory Boy was that I really wanted to put out stuff that was obscure first but also cool. The first single was ‘No Me Busques’ which translates as ‘Do Not Look For Me’ [and that became the motif]. What they did that was special in the video for that was they actually blew up a police car in Miami. No urban artist had ever done that before – so they were very proud of it. For the first teaser, I had these cars exploding everywhere. It was a black and white video with the instrumental in the background and all you saw was cars exploding. It went crazy. I feel we had good engagement for that so we decided for the next singles to do the same thing. For ‘Yin Yang’, which is very Asian and martial arts-based, we did a couple of mashups featuring Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme and they also got a lot of engagement. In the two weeks before release, I was taking the video and creating posts using more of the video content with the song. That was the progression of our release strategy for each of the singles. I tried to think of ways we could really make a big splash with the album announcement. At that point Jory Boy and his management shared the album cover with me. It was super colourful and I said we should do something to make use of all these colours. I took the cover and expanded it and had the idea of putting OTL2 – which is like a pseudonym the fans have for this record [in reference to Otra Liga, the previous album] – on it. That included the artwork, the title, the logo of the management and the artist and so on. I thought it would be good if each part was a separate video.
That same week Jory was talking to me about video games. We decided to create old-school video games for each part [of the nine-square album artwork frame on Instagram]. I have never seen that before. We got our design team to build it. When it came back and everyone was excited about it, we decided we had to try and get as much of this content as we could. From that came the idea of doing a contest. At the same time we were talking to a company [Backstage Play] who do video games campaigns for artists. They can design any game. So the idea became that the winner of this competition would get to design the first official Jory Boy fan game. We spoke to Metablocks and put together a campaign around the pre-save that already existed. So if anyone used Spotify, all they had to do was pre-save the album, we would get their emails and we would know they were entered into the contest. There were two ways to enter: either you pre-saved or you just entered your email. The next screen you came to [after submitting your email] was with links to download each of those nine videos in that post. Jory Boy announced that he would let his true fans make the album announcement post before him – he would allow them two hours to do that. That was an extra little thing on the side just to show love to his true fans. They could announce the record before him. Then two hours later he posted it himself. The reaction was incredible. We got a few hundred people entering the competition, which is really good engagement for us. We also raffled off a few other prizes – and the winner got to design the official fan game. The competition part just had a nine-hour lifespan. We basically wanted to get Jory Boy fans to put this up [the nine video squares to make a grid] on their own Instagram accounts and to reach lots of people who aren’t necessarily fans of Jory Boy. Rather than have them put up one video, we wanted them to inundate Instagram with all these videos. That meant people in their feeds would get one of nine videos and, if they liked that video, the algorithm would start to feed them the other eight parts. The whole point was to populate Instagram with as many people and fans as we could get and to reach as many other people, who aren’t necessarily fans, as possible. We made it a nine-hour window – running from noon to 9pm. Once 9pm hit, the contest was closed. The content was on his official Instagram and you could repost it, but after that point you could no longer download the videos. Fans who uploaded the videos to Instagram were told to tag Jory Boy so we could enter them into the contest. Android users can download video content to their phone super easily. We knew ahead of time [we would have issues with iOS] but we circumvented that. On the web page before you entered your email and got to the download page, there was a checklist and you had to tick the boxes in order to be able to pre-save and go to the next screen. There was a series of instructions about asking you to tag Jory Boy and explaining how the different videos would be numbered. There was also a note telling iOS users that it was much easier to download the videos from their desktop and then email the videos to themselves. Unfortunately we had no choice; we had to do that. I honestly don’t think it hurt our engagement all that much because those instructions were there and we had thought ahead. But I have to be honest and I am sure we give up some engagement because of that. The files were maybe 30-40MG in size and were only 30 seconds long [and so would download quickly]. They were simple video games in 8-bit. This was directed at superfans – fans that we knew would go out of their way the post nine videos on their own Instagram account. Those guys we expected would read all the instructions.
Leading into the album
We had a focus track [‘Tu No Sabes’] come out when the album was released. So when the record came out, we would have a third single with a video. The tricky part here is promoting the record – the album, the pre-save, all that stuff – and also promoting a single off the record that drops on the same day. We don’t want to mix the messaging too much and confuse people. We want to separate them and keep on the same lines as the previous two singles which were these obscure posts.
Gaming as the next phase
Gaming really drives great engagement. I think it is the future. I really believe in video gaming becoming a big part of marketing for artists. I am really happy with what we do with Backstage Play. They’re able to build any game. I am going to segue out of this record into pushing the gaming side as hard as I can. That nine-square post on Instagram was the precursor for getting Jory on the gaming platform, pushing that through to his fans and getting everyone excited. That was the whole idea – building momentum around the gaming angle so that, when he launches his gaming platform, more people will be engaged and excited about it. Getting a fan to design the first official fan game was also part of that whole idea.
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I came into this industry without any prior knowledge or connections. I learned so much from Music Ally’s articles and the Sandbox magazines – so I owe Music Ally for that.Sung Cho — Founder and CEO, Chartmetric