Five trends for digital music marketing in 2018


There are three pillars for music marketing in 2018: what you do with social media; what you do with digital service providers (DSPs, principally streaming services); and what you do with your own platforms – mailing lists, most obviously, and direct-to-fan sales be it on your own site or something like Bandcamp.

But what are the trends around those three pillars? That’s something we think about a lot at Music Ally, particularly for our fortnightly Sandbox music-marketing reports, and that has influenced the programming for our upcoming Sandbox Summit conference in London. Here are five trends we’d pick out:

1. Shifting responsibilities between managers and labels

You could present this as a ‘power struggle’, but it’s more about a division of responsibilities – albeit one that sees more of those duties being taken on by managers. From social media posts and advertising to partnerships with streaming services to making sense of the analytics coming from DSPs and social platforms, managers are taking on more of the tasks that used to be the sole preserve of labels.

This *can* be a power struggle, but often labels – whose marketing divisions are juggling ever-longer campaigns with still-tight budgets and stretched teams – welcome managers taking on more of these duties. In fact, this transfer of digital-marketing duties can be key to a healthy label-manager partnership in 2018.

Our opening panel at Sandbox Summit will be discussing this, with TAP Management’s head of global marketing and artist development Hannah Neaves; ie: Music director Stephen O’Reilly; and Ignition Records director John Leahy.

2. YouTube throwing its weight behind artist marketing

The ‘value gap’ arguments around internet platforms and user-uploaded content are still polarising in 2018, as the recent European Parliament copyright-directive vote – Article 13 included – showed. YouTube is at the heart of these controversies, but the last year has also seen Alphabet’s online-video service take significant steps forward with its music strategy.

There’s the launch of YouTube Music, its on-demand subscription service. And there’s also YouTube’s production of original video with artists: its Artist Spotlight stories like Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monae, J Balvin, Camila Cabello and G-Eazy for example. Meanwhile, labels and artists have continued to explore the marketing potential of YouTube with their own content – music videos, but also more.

At Sandbox Summit, David Mogendorff from YouTube’s artist content and services division will be presenting ‘The Artist Story on YouTube’ to give the platform’s view on all this, and to showcase some of the most inventive and successful examples of how artists are using the platform

3. Labels are bringing advertising in-house

We talked in point one about managers taking on some of the digital-marketing duties previously performed by labels. But labels are also taking on new responsibilities: for example bringing their digital advertising and media buying in-house, rather than relying on external agencies to handle it for them.

Control of the data is a key part of this: owning the data and being able to use it for retargeting campaigns, rather than having to keep going back to an agency and paying essentially for access to your own artists’ fans. The tools are available to make this possible for a label, and a growing number are ensuring they have the human skills in-house to make use of them.

Music Ally firmly believes in this approach for modern labels and managers. We’ll be discussing the pros and cons with a panel of experts at Sandbox Summit: Universal Music Norway and Sweden’s commercial director Live McKay; Linkfire CEO Lars Ettrup; Domino head of marketing Brooke Salisbury; and Anjunabeats head of marketing Duncan Byrne.

4. Augmented Reality offers playful potential for artists

A couple of years ago there was a lot of buzz around virtual reality (VR) as the next big thing for ‘immersive’ music content. Yet now there’s a sense that it’s augmented reality (AR) that offers more opportunity for playful, creative artist marketing – on platforms that count their users in the hundreds of millions.

From Ariana Grande using a Snapchat AR lens to sell merchandise to Sigur Ros working with Magic Leap on an ambitious music app for its AR headset, to Years and Years previewing their new album as a Facebook Camera effect, artists and labels are exploring how AR can engage fans – and drive sales and streams in the process.

AR will be among the topics for our ‘The Good, The Bad and the Techy’ panel at Sandbox Summit, alongside VR, messaging bots, location technology, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Panelists Kara Mukerjee (head of digital at RCA Label Group UK); Claire Mas (head of digital at Island Records); and Chris Garrett (MD, Decimal) and moderator Nikoo Sadr (director of marketing and sales, Nordics at The Orchard) will be discussing what technologies can be genuinely useful for music marketing in 2018.

5. Flexibility is everything in the modern music-marketing campaign

How long is the average music-marketing campaign? How is budget apportioned to it? The answer to both questions is ‘it depends’ – and what it often depends on are events during the campaign itself, that can be anticipated and prepared for, but never guaranteed.

Songs can suddenly spike on one or more streaming services despite not being the intended single; an artist can do something on their own that makes waves – of the positive or negative kind; opportunities can arise for quickfire partnerships or pieces of content that weren’t planned for at the outset. Fast decisions and flexible strategies are key to all of this.

At Sandbox Summit we’ll be exploring some of this in a special ‘Campaign Surgery’ panel. Speakers Dan Griffiths (The Orchard’s director of digital marketing); Rachel Stoewer (head of digital at Cooking Vinyl Records) and Patrick Ross (director of digital strategy at Music Ally) will be challenged to come up with campaign strategies on the hoof, in response to some common (and some less common) surprises faced by real-world music marketers.

…And one more trend for 2019

Want to know more about 2018’s gaming craze Fortnite? Ask a passing 10 year-old: although you’ll have to persuade them to stop flossing for long enough to tell you. Or tune in at Sandbox Summit for Music Ally’s Stuart Dredge’s talk ‘Game On: Fortnite, Esports and the Opportunities for Music’.

He’ll be exploring what the music industry can learn from Fortnite’s rapid rise – dance moves and all – as well as explaining how the booming market in esports (competitive gaming for audiences both online and offline) has opportunities for music marketing in 2019.

You can see the full agenda for Sandbox Summit at the official website, where you can also book your tickets to join us on 31 October in London!

Lead photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Music Ally

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