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Tools: Smart links roundup


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Using smart links is now standard practice for artists of all sizes and, as a result, competition among smart link companies has increased exponentially. Because of this, they are all trying to develop and innovate in ways that make them unique and that help them stand above their competitors. 

Here we overview the latest updates of the key platforms in the space. 

 

Linkfire 

Linkfire, one of the leading smart link providers for the industry, has just announced not one but two major updates to its features. 

Earlier this month, it launched a new link type called Artist Bio Link. While the traditional smart link helps artists and their teams to drive audiences to a single link where they can pick their preferred listening destination from a list, the Artist Bio link helps to link out to various promotions from one microsite. Fans will find links to releases, merchandise, social media profiles, tours and other content. 

Because many of the major social media platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok, only allow for a single link within the profile bio, this type of link helps take away the burden of having to decide which destination to drive to, especially if promoting a new album, tour dates and a new merchandise drop all at the same time. The bio link microsite features different sections (called ‘tiles’), which can all be customised by the artist. The following tiles are available: Promoted; Music; Store; Tour; and Favourites. 

The Promoted tile will be featured at the top of the link and should ideally be used by artists to highlight their current priority promotions. You will be able to upload an image to go alongside it, keeping it in line with the artist’s current branding and visual aesthetic. Within the Music tile (that you can rename as Latest Releases or Releases, for instance) you will be able to link to releases, pre-releases and playlists for links that have already been created on Linkfire. 

One of the highlights here is Favourites – the section that’s most customisable. Artists can drive attention to up to five links, including recent interviews, music videos, playlists, websites and any other content that is not covered in the other tiles, making this link truly feel like a modern EPK that is optimised for mobile. 

Shortly after launching these artist bio links, Linkfire announced its latest attribution deal with streaming service Deezer, allowing users to access data on what music listeners do after following one of its smart links to the streaming service. This marks another important step forward of the company’s plans to be able to eventually attribute 100% of its traffic, as Linkfire’s CEO Lars Ettrup explained at our Sandbox Summit conference in October 2019. 

Linkfire also has deals in place with Pandora, African streaming service Boomplay, Middle Eastern service Anghami and Apple Music – a move that has seen some criticism within the industry because of the fact that Apple Music needs to be at the top spot of the link in order for users to be able to see its analytics. 

Linkfire is the only smart link service that offers these kinds of insights, which are a hugely important source of information. Traditionally, marketers would only know where fans were coming from and how many fans clicked on a specific service; now they will be able to see which songs were listened to and how many times. This feels like a crucial step in achieving more transparency and optimising ROI spend based on which channel drives the most streaming activity and which songs are the most popular for each of these audiences. 

 

ToneDen 

ToneDen already offers one of the most comprehensive suites of digital marketing tools tailored for the music industry. Besides features like viral contests, automated streaming and social growth campaigns, the platform has also been offering all sorts of smart links: fanlinks for releases; podlinks for podcasts; event and tourlinks; as well as its very own version of Artist Bio Links (called Biglinks) which launched in 2019. 

Amidst the growing importance of livestreaming sparked by the global pandemic, the platform has now added StreamLinks to its arsenal of smart links. Noting how platforms like Twitch and YouTube require live streamers to hit a certain number of concurrent viewers to actually generate revenues from their livestreams, ToneDen highlights the importance of building a concurrent viewership. This can be a difficult task with the flood of livestreams happening across the web, and many artists have experienced zero views or a drop-off in viewership from stream to stream. 

The company further explains, “Livestreaming still has a discovery problem. If streamers want to maximise concurrent viewership, they need to make their streams easily accessible and platform agnostic.” 

With the new StreamLinks, artists can create landing pages showcasing all of their upcoming livestreams. From the URL, viewers will be able to RSVP for notifications by providing their email address. This will then also allow the artist to reach out directly to fans for upcoming broadcasts. 

Tools like this really help to professionalise the promotion and execution of livestreams, moving away from the oftentimes spontaneous nature of, for example, an Instagram Live session to a more strategic approach that allows artists to use live streams as a fan-building tool. You could even use the list of fans who have sent an RSVP in order to create lookalike audiences on Facebook, targeting these potential new fans with an engaging piece of the artist’s livestream. 

At the same time, sharing StreamLinks incentivises cross-platform growth as fans can follow the artist on the social and streaming platforms where the upcoming streams will be available. They’ll receive an app push notification on their preferred DSP, helping drive mobile viewers directly to the artist’s stream when they go live. Fans can also add the upcoming streams to their Google, iCal, or Outlook calendar, which already gives fans a feeling that is much more akin to planning to go to a real live event. 

 

Beatchain 

Beatchain is the platform that is trying to become an all-in-one solution for distribution, marketing, promotion and analytics. Acknowledging the fact that the various tools and platforms that artist teams are dependent on can mean a hefty financial outlay each month, the company offers not only music distribution but TOOLS also website building, email marketing and now smart links (or Hypelinks in their phraseology) for one monthly price. 

While numerous free options for smart links exist now – such as those offered by Linkfire, Feature.fm or ToneDen – what differentiates Beatchain here is the ability to place a Facebook pixel onto the Hypelink for re-marketing purposes. This kind of feature is typically reserved for the premium tiers of most smart link providers as the ability to retarget those fans that have interacted with a smart link is key to building fanbases. 

However, the branding capabilities are limited, which is one drawback of the solution. For £14.99 a month, artists can get unlimited distribution of their music, a website, three Hypelinks and mailing list features. As a comparison, most smart link tiers are around the £10-15 price mark a month, but for smart links only.

Marlen Hüllbrock

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