Essay: Music Industry Social Media BLUEPRINT
Who is this essay for: music artists, managers, and labels.
The objective of this essay: Provide a strategic blueprint (including 18 actionable tips) for artists, managers, and labels to 1) turn social media into a robust music marketing and distribution system, and 2) successfully launch a single using TikTok and IG influencers with the goal of generating playbacks and positively impacting music rankings.
21st April 2020
1. The Evolution of the Music Industry
Since the beginning of entertainment history, the music industry has been taking the first step in marketing and technical developments. This is mostly because audio files are small-sized, easy to share and transfer.
It all started with vinyl and cassettes, then CDs and DVDs appeared in the market and finally, the digital era came along with iTunes and the ability to purchase albums and songs digitally. Recently, streaming services like Spotify have become very popular and established a new way of listening to music.
Attention is the new currency and the time invested by users in consuming content is very valuable. In this sense, the historical shift from albums to singles to playlist as a revolutionary way of consuming music doesn’t come as a surprise.
In the actual scenario, the world situation is wreaking havoc on the music industry on one side (with the disruption of live shows), while causing an explosion of creativity on the other. This is deepening the digital transformation affecting not only the usual business model but also the way the music is consumed, letting the future of the music industry on a new world to be discovered.
2. From Stars to Creators, and now Influencers
In the digital content world, influencers replaced celebrities. And in this era full of overproduced profiles and feeds, authenticity and truthfulness became certainly valuable.
This is how social media changed the music industry. Bands and artists used to show themselves as “stars” not only up on stage. They created a whole new and interesting personality to show to the world. That’s where social media became a problem.
People want to see the “stars”’ everyday life, story, tastes, thoughts or even their artistic vision and creative life. They urge to see the real person behind the star beside the unreachable personality. This is the way the gap between the music artists and their followers winded and the music business model reached a dead-end.
Artists sometimes have other artistic interests or talents that could result in very engaging content for social media.
It’s not about displaying a musician’s life as a reality show but to show the things that are really interesting or relate to their passion.
3. The Rise of Influencers: from Fandoms to a community of Followers
Influencers’ success not only comes from their knowledge about content creation and platform management, they also build a special relationship with their followers by really understanding them. That’s why a video made by a content creator with a smartphone can gain more views than a studio production with a big budget.
This unique communication between influencers and their fans cannot compare to any other form of media. It’s important to understand that influencers can sometimes have a bigger impact than a worldwide celebrity on the same audience because they share personal and daily content that people relate to.
Although every industry has their own influencers, we have seen that in the music industry, there are not many successful examples of artists (with some exceptions in the newer generations) who really know how to make excellent use of social media and create relevant content for each platform while keeping the audience hooked.
Content creators and influencers are still standing out in social media over the music industry by approaching multiple verticals, keeping a deep interaction with followers and reading each platform's audience analytics to reconfigure subtle content changes, while staying authentic to his/herself artistic or personal journey.
Artists’ interaction with their followers should be transparent. Only ask them questions if there is a genuine interest in the answers.
Try answering every comment, message, it takes time and effort to actually build an audience and community.
Data from analytics platforms and comments are useful information about followers’ interests.
On the difficulty of performing live shows (due to different COVID-19 circumstances), playing live home concerts through social media works as a usual resource. This should be addressed not only as an alternative plan, but also as an important element of showing the artist´s authentic side, creating an intimate empathic experience, and keeping a frequent connection with the followers.
4. From One Hit Wonders to a Multiple Videos Strategy
The music industry always looked for coming up with a “hit”, and every hit needed to have “one hit single or one-hit video”. Today we live in an algorithm era where there is limitless content available, therefore producing just one piece of content does not make sense anymore.
A few years ago, Youtube replaced MTV as the main platform for watching music videos. Youtube became a source for musicians that could start uploading their own videos and getting views. These were the cases of Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Charlie Puth and many more.
In those times, the Youtube algorithm was different from what it is today, and was actually an external factor (participating in a TV talent show, being discovered by a music manager, or sharing a song with an established celebrity), what really boosted their career.
Nowadays, people mostly use the platform to find artists and songs they already know. A study shows that 76% of Youtube users listen to songs that they are familiar with. One of the reasons official music videos have so many views is because of a significant amount of paid media, but this will no longer be a relevant metric as Youtube announced its Youtube music chart will only count organic views.
There are certain music genres such as reggaeton, trap, hip hop, and Latin that invest a huge amount of money on music videos and they pay off. But others, make an investment in a music video expecting views that, in general, don’t happen. This explains the phenomenon of song and video collaborations, with different artists being featured as guests, to scale up the investment and increase the chances of “a hit”. But from a platform perspective, sometimes it’s better to make more and simpler videos than expending a big-budget only in one.
Social Media platforms tend to favor those who publish content frequently as it keeps users returning to watch more. In this sense, Youtube is designed for those who upload multiple videos, and in this way can gain authority in the algorithm, positioning them in the recommended videos section. And as Youtube is not commonly used for searching for new music, this is very important.
That's why, when an emerging artist uploads a music video, it does not gain many views as they don´t have SEO relevance. For them, Youtube it's just a video hosting site. However, those who have millions of views on their videos are generally a consequence of paid media, having a widely known name or due to an important viral success in other networks.
Today, discoveries and viral phenomenons usually come from Spotify Playlists, or other social media platforms such as Instagram or TikTok.
Create content that shows the steps of the musician's journey (from the initial inspiration or ideas to the rehearsals, stories, tours, recordings, hopes, feedbacks).
Just do it. Don’t wait to have the ideal technical tools and knowledge to start creating content. You will get better with time and in the end, what usually makes an artist stand out in social media platforms is consistency.
If the artist is very good at vlogging or has multiple interests and content formats ease, it's important to motivate him or her to increase the production of that type of content, but always knowing what is better for each platform, scheduling the content and respecting the release days.
Focus on one simple idea per video.
Creating collaborative content between artists has been at the core of the music industry. In a social media era, this is more important than ever, because they can share their online audiences. Collaborate not only with other artists but also with other types of content creators.
5. Instagram and TikTok as free UGC engines
There´s an impossible volume gap between content to be made by musicians (music videos, live videos, interviews or documentaries) and the universe of content made by the general public (called UGC for “user-generated content”), which could involve using music in many different ways, like cover songs, lip syncs, dance choreographies, and even influencers talking about and analyzing other artists’ work.
There´s a lot of meaningful content to be created and shared around the musician’s life, songs and work, mainly because his music journey is fundamental. Ideally, the content itself must be interesting for followers and non-followers.
Knowing the types of music and non-music content that works well within a musician´s art and career is essential to shorten the gap within the followers and the UGC.
Musicians and Labels should consider building an influencers relationship program.
Make sure Influencers and Digital Celebs are invited to press events around a song or album releases, promo tours or concert backstage coverage.
Instead of making one video and expecting people to watch it and share it, it is better to make many and simpler videos (without compromising the artistic vision) suited for each social platform, thinking about fans' consumption, interaction, and the possibility of repurposing, making memes, etc.
6. The Need of New Music Video Formats: From Music Clips to TikTok
One of the most important factors in video platforms is the Watch Time. In this sense, calling and maintaining users’ attention throughout a whole video is crucial to its success. In TikTok this is essential because people can watch videos endlessly as they keep scrolling.
In the past few years, songs have been shortened mainly due to the reduction of attention spans and the habit of skipping and swiping content. On the Billboard Hot 100, the average song length was shortened 20 seconds between 2013 and 2018 and fell down to 3 minutes 30 seconds. For example, last year Lil Nas X’s viral multi record-breaker hit Old Town Road was less than 2 minutes long.
Streaming services pay artists per play, regardless of how long a song lasts. This certainly affects song duration. The mentioned change in song length and the shorter attention span led to the rise of new music video formats. According to The Drum, the supremacy of mobile over desktop usage led to mobile-friendly format and vertical videos replaced horizontal ones. In addition, the emergence of TikTok and short video platforms has made this process even more profound.
New music video formats should:
Grab the viewer's attention within the first seconds.
Have most of its action on the center of the screen.
Use the vertical format, or be “vertical friendly”.
Be able to adapt to a gif or loop format as it’s ideal for future social media shares.
7. TikTok: The New Hit Maker
Why was it successful? It was mainly because the trend started in TikTok, which led to Youtube where people only viewed the video so they could hear the song. The video production on Youtube didn´t matter. The whole phenomenon was social and happened outside of Youtube. People listen to the song by streaming the video on Youtube while they are doing something else, they don’t pay attention to the image. In fact, there are no comments regarding the picture or video. They all focus on the music.
Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus stayed at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 17 weeks breaking the record. It all started when he uploaded the tune to TikTok in February, starting a meme where creators drank "Yee Yee Juice" and transformed into a western character. Many influencers set the trend on fire while making it a UGC phenomenon.
8. The rise of Tik Tok as a music hub
TikTok is a social media platform that enables everyone to be a creator through videos centered around an audio track. It’s a short-video community powered by music, it has an official sounds and music library, but users can also upload their own audios which will be immediately available for anyone to use. Most videos last between 15 seconds and a minute, and they loop until the user scrolls and jumps to another one.
Influencers, content creators and the general public use music to create choreographies, challenges, lip syncs, vlogs, humor and memes imitations. We can expect that the type of content that we can find today at TikTok (funny, catchy, entertaining) will vary in the near future as the audiences’ interest changes very fast.
9. TIK TOK is an earworm generating machine
In our time, music hits are born on social media, and TikTok is increasingly showing to be the best platform to make a hit due to its music-centric core particularity: searching new sounds, making choreographies, lip-syncing, doing challenges, or imitating music memes.
The key component of UGC is vital: most content is made by people with the artist’s song.
Songs are used as a way of sparkling creativity and entertainment as well as a form of expressing their passions and identity.
Moreover, in TikTok songs are constantly looped by users as they watch videos again and again until the next one is selected, being an ideal earworm emergence scenario.
So much so, that Music Raking platforms are increasingly looking into TIkTok’s data. Chartmetric, a music data analytics firm, recently published their 6MO Music report, displaying the biggest gains in TikTok video count, and showing this platform’s ability to break new music around the world.
Artists and labels should invest less money in music video production, and traditional media (including Youtube) and more in TikTok, Influencers and Content Creators.
10. TATAM’s TikTok Strategy Blueprint for a Single Launch Campaign
We believe there is a marketing opportunity for establishing a music hit via Tik Tok. This is our blueprint towards a coordinated influencer’s upload in TikTok, in one or multiple markets at the same time. By making this essay available for free, any artist, label or producer can implement it.
Two well-known TikTokers publish a video with the single as the audio track, doing a choreography, humor, or lip-syncing, introducing and promoting a #Challenge.
From Day 2 to Day 7
A larger crew of coordinated TikTokers join the #Challenge. The artist starts sharing content
generated by influencers and fans on their IG & TikTok profiles with the hashtag, giving their fans recognition.
The artist announces special prizes for some of the users who participate in the #Challenge:
1) Meet & greet with the artist.
2) A TikTok Video duet with the artist reacting to the fan video.
3) Tickets for the artist’s next show.
Day 8 onward
As the artist continues to share UGC, the single distribution moves from the TikTokers to the
Campaign Goals: Metrics for Success.
Labels, Musicians and Marketing teams should aim for:
Positive rank evolution in Billboard's Social Chart.
Positive rank evolution in Chartmetrics top charts.
Positive rank evolution in Kworbs top charts.
Getting into TikTok’s Trending, Viral, or Hits lists.
Key OPERATIONAL Points
It´s favorable to have more mid-tier influencers with thousands of followers, than just a couple of mega influencers that gather millions of followers. Generally speaking, the engagement rate is lower in big influencers and works better in mid-tier influencers.
Based on some own estimations, the number of “song views” would be equal to 40% of the number of the influencer’s followers on IG and TikTok.
It’s important to match the perfect influencer with the correct audience and the ideal challenge for each song. This perfect assembly will make a song go viral.
Trends come from many sources: humor, memes, choreographies, lip-syncing. The key is to gather them all in the same campaign contemplating every possible outcome during a 2 weeks period. It hits the influencers and its audience first, then UGC videos, and becomes a viral trend by the end.
How to make a “TikTokeable” song video
Make it 15 seconds long and cut it to work well in a loop.
Must be a vertical video.
Must have a very recognizable tune or/and lyrics phrase.
It’s a song that will make you want to dance and follow an easy choreography.
Lyrics should have the potential to become a meme and be used in humor videos or invite you to Lip Sync.
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ABOUT THE WRITERS
Jorge Niklison is a Music & Influencers Marketing Consultant, working with Content Creators, Artists, Agencies, Musicians and Music Labels on Social Media Strategies. He dictated workshops for networks and influencers at Miami Ad School. He managed the Channels and Audience Growth at CMN Multichannel Network. He held different key business roles at FWTV, Illusion Studios, and D&D Music.
Federico Llano is a Partner and Co-Founder at TATAM.digital agency, leading the Operations and Knowledge teams. Before TATAM he led the launches of SVODs Noggin and Paramount+ as Director of Emerging Business at ViacomCBS. Previously, he worked at Electronic Arts, Disney and ESPN taking different roles in mobile marketing and business development.