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In the age of TikTok, it was impossible to ignore the worlds of influencers and short-form video at our Sandbox Summit Global conference last week.

Sessions included a fireside chat between Warner Records associate director of influencer marketing Jen Darmafall and Songfluencer CEO Johnny Cloherty, focusing on trends in the way labels and artists work with social stars.

“I would say TikTok these days is definitely the bread and butter of where we’re focusing most of our attention. It’s a big focus for us,” said Darmafall, adding that the clear correlation between TikTok success and spikes on music streaming platforms is the key reason for that.

However, Cloherty suggested that an emerging trend is for labels to not judge their influencer marketing campaigns purely on the streaming uplift.

“Yes, we want sales and streaming at the end of the day, but where influencer marketing really comes in is looking at the global picture of an artist and overall consumption: different platforms and different fanbases,” he said.

“There’s different ways to view consumption and different ways to view success. You want the streaming obviously, but where I think we’re getting to as music marketers is: influencer marketing can be a long play. It can be about fan acquisition strategies as opposed to saying ‘I need this song to go viral!’”

Darmafall agreed, talking about the increasing sophistication of influencer marketing campaigns for labels, driving awareness for artists as well as pure consumption.

“You don’t want to force a trend: you want to experiment and play around,” she said, before talking about the structure of these campaigns, and how they should not just be focused on the biggest influencers you can afford.

“You do have to make sure that you are building out a pyramid effect: you’ve got the big [influencer] people, the middle tier, the small people. And you’ve got to play into the data, looking at that… that’s where my head is at when I’m building out a campaign.”

Earlier that day, Music Ally’s Marlen Hüllbrock offered a ‘Learn Live’ presentation on short-form video, talking about some of the best-practice tips for music campaigns.

She stressed that it’s a multi-platform ecosystem, rather than dominated by one. “We have seen short video explode, not just on TikTok but on Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, as well as emerging platforms like Triller,” she said. “Content travels across these platforms. Often a trend takes off on TikTok first, and then travels across.”

Hüllbrock also outlined one of the key differences between short-form video and previous social apps: the importance of their algorithmic recommendation feeds, like TikTok’s ‘For You’.

“This is really the key way to grow on these platforms. These short-form video platforms don’t work in the same way as regular social media platforms, where we are [just] posting something to our followers,” she said. “Here, every post has the chance to reach organically a very large audience.”

Hüllbrock explained how these algorithms often are geo-focused initially, pushing out your videos to people near you, and then more widely if that early engagement is good. The majority of a video’s reach comes shortly after it is uploaded.

Best practices include not just repurposing video created for other social networks or music videos. “Music’s traditional glossy promotional assets really don’t tend to work here, because it’s simply not the type of content that people in these platforms tend to engage with,” she said.

Fun, meme-like videos are a hit, but so is educational content. Structure is key though: Hüllbrock said that storyboarding videos with a beginning, a middle and an end “with a setup that hooks the viewer, and some kind of payoff” is helpful.

Editing is important too: matching song transitions with visuals by using cuts and effects, and checking what effects and filters are currently trending on the various platforms.

She also advised keeping videos short, rather than feeling obliged to fill the 30 or 60 second maximum length. Completion rates are an important metric in the algorithms, after all.

Hüllbrock also said that artists can get a sense of what makes these platforms tick by signing up and engaging with them as a viewer. “If they go onto these platforms and they engage with content they like, they will be fed the content that they are into, and they will be able to tell what is working on the platform.”

It’s also good for artists to engage with the community: not just posting their own videos, but using features like duets/remixes; responding to fans’ videos (including liking and commenting on them); reposting them on their own profiles; and using user-generated sounds.

The day also included a session from Vevo, whose growth strategy manager, artist and label relations, Sarah Hall and VP, creative content and programming, UK and international, Claudia de Wolff, talked about connected TVs and music metadata.

On the former, de Wolff noted that around 60% of the UK population – “approximately 20 million households” – currently consume some form of ‘CTV’ content. “And that number is only set to rise.”

Vevo has seen its viewership on connected TVs grow by 44% year-on-year, which is partly the result of its work signing up 27 partners to carry its music videos, and partly (it thinks) because those videos are well suited to the platform.

As for metadata, Hall talked about the value of the DDEX standard MEAD, standing for Media Enrichment and Description, which adds categories like related artists, lyrics, historical chart data, influences and more to the metadata accompanying music and music videos.

“Metadata is only at its most effective when everyone is defining it the same way,” she warned, before showing how Vevo is using this metadata in its programming (among other areas of its business).

One example was a playlist of music videos from the early 2000s that had been heavily shared by 25-34 year-olds in the US, with Vevo’s algorithm using the metadata to pluck from its catalogue videos by the likes of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Jimmy Eat World, Say Anything and Alkaline Trio.

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