It’s 2021, we are obviously beyond the “it’s important to do digital marketing” conversation. We have now entered the period of, “what is the actual point of it?”
As marketers in the music industry, we throw money at Facebook and YouTube as reflex, but why? What are we actually trying to achieve?
Disclaimer: I am the CEO of The Brag Media, we run campaigns for labels and promoters both as a media organisation, digital marketers (running Facebook/YouTube ads) as well as social media managers. My criticism of each platform (including our own) is as sincere as I possibly can be. In 2020 I ran a workshop for the managers and marketers at Unified Music Group on this topic, and it was put to me by the team there that I turn the workshop into an article. This article is my attempt at doing just that, I hope you find it helpful.
Brand VS Product Marketing
There are two main reasons why anyone would want to give Zuckerberg, Google or a media organisation a large share of their budget to promote their artist:
- Brand Marketing: Raising awareness for who the artist is, or aspects of their brand/personality.
- Product Marketing: Sell tickets, sell pre-orders, promote streaming or even gain triple j Hottest 100 votes.
However, rarely is there much consideration going into asking what platform is best suited for what purpose, and, even rarer to have a clear view of ROI for the allocated marketing spend.
Let’s take a look at the four main platforms which get most of the marketing budgets across our music industry:
- Facebook: Amazing for reach and targeting custom posts/messaging. Both for brand marketing + product marketing.
- YouTube: Used largely by labels to juice up video views on a film clip release, or by promoters to run targeted conversion ads.
- Google SEM: Labels use search engine marketing largely to promote pre-orders, and promoters to sell tickets as promoted links.
- Media Publishers (like us, The Brag Media): Used for all of the above in a different way. Publishers lack the reach of the tech giants, but offer more narrative/content/context and can be sophisticated with data and lead management.
We recently ran a Facebook marketing campaign for a high profile Australian artist who was releasing a new single. It was a simple Photo + Caption + Click-through to Spotify advert.
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Here were the results;
- Spend: $500
- Reach: 51k
- Outbound Clicks: 3.2k
- Click-Through Rate: 6.3%
Did this campaign work work?
Well, it depends on how you’re measuring success and what your goals were.
If the label wanted a good click-through rate (CTR) then this campaign was a huge success. The industry average click-through rate is 0.05%, and social media CTR is only marginally better at 0.89%. This campaign achieved a 6.3% CTR as we (as a publisher) were able to leverage all the audience data sets we had to optimise for conversion.
However, if the label’s goal was to drive revenue via streaming, well that ROI looks pretty awful.
51k people that saw the ad. We targeted people who had read articles about the band in the past 12 months across all our sites + followed the band on social. Interestingly, only 3.2k people clicked the ad. Do the maths on what 3.2k streams means for revenue.
Seems crazy right? If Facebook’s targeting is so good, why is the click-through rate still only 6.3% (even if it is a great CTR)? With the kind of audience set we ran, logically, CTR promoting a new song to a bands most engaged fans should be 30-50%?
The reason CTR is still so low is that when you pay Zuckerberg money, you are paying for people’s passive scrolling thumb. That’s why Facebook ads are being jammed in all parts of the app now; From Messenger, to Marketplace to Instant Articles etc. Anywhere Zucks can squeeze an ad impression in, he will, whether people will notice it or not.
Consider a similar campaign for Hottest 100 voting too. Every year you see labels and artists push out sponsored posts saying, “Vote for me on Hottest 100”. The ROI on that strategy is to me, utterly thoughtless.
Think about it, at best you’re spending 25c per click, but really, anyone who has run a campaign will tell you it easily gets over $1 per click after the campaign has run for a while.
However even at 25c per click, you can expect only 250 votes from $1k marketing budget, and that’s only IF everyone who clicks the ad actually votes. In 2020, the Hottest 100 had over 3 million votes, that $1k you spent wouldn’t have made a scratch.
Sorry everyone, please stop giving Zuckerberg your money in the hope he’ll make you Hottest 100 famous.
So, what’s the point of Facebook Marketing?
There are ways to use the tool well. Whacking a post up and pressing the boost button is not one of them. Here are some scenarios I think are super effective for Facebook Marketing:
- If you have strong established Audience Data Sets of converting fans and can target your ad to them at the bottom of the funnel, your ROI and conversion will increase exponentially. If you don’t have these data sets in play, you can build them up over a period of time or work with a publisher/digital marketing agency who already has them.
- If you’re a promoter, short term Facebook spend for big tours make sense early, however the ROI gets worse over time, so it’s super important to watch the campaign closely and cut Zuckerberg off as soon as he starts costing too much.
- If you have a clear ROI + outcome you know you want to achieve BEFORE you start the campaign. i.e. We want this much reach to achieve x at $x. This way you can monitor the success of the campaign and double down if it works, or kill it if it doesn’t.
At the end of the day, Facebook Marketing, like all marketing, needs to have a clear strategy or you are just wasting your marketing budgets.
Here are some questions I recommend everyone answers before spending one dollar on Facebook.
- What is my goal? (Streams, views, sales etc.).
- Is this a brand marketing or product marketing campaign?
- Do I have the right assets for the above? i.e. if it’s product marketing, will the artwork or video drive conversions?
- What is my test budget?
- What is an acceptable cost per result during the test budget phase? (i.e. Cost per view, cost per sale, cost per click etc.).
The two main ways YouTube are used by the music industry is as follows:
- Drive up video views on a new video clip.
- Promote a tour/ticket sales.
Driving up YouTube video views
You just spent anywhere from $10k-60k on a new video clip, of course you want to juice the views right? Well, YouTube makes it very easy to do so.
However, before you do, ask, “why”? What will more video views actually do for my artists career?
- Get them more festival slots?
- Get them more radio play?
- Drive more streaming?
- Materially increase their fanbase?
If the answer is yes to any of the above, then it’s probably worth doing. However if you believe getting your artist view count up from 5k views to 50k views won’t achieve any of the above, you need to ask yourself why you are wasting your time and money with this strategy.
Promoting a tour on YouTube
Like Facebook marketing for promoters, this can be effective early, however at a CPM of $10-$20, ROI needs to be monitored careful daily to ensure it’s driving the right “Cost per ticket” number.
Double down when it works, kill it when it doesn’t.
The biggest mistake most marketers make is not thinking like a consumer.
Consumers use search to look for things they are ready to buy, and this is especially the case when it comes to tours or album pre-orders.
So, paying Google to have your fans click on an ad, for something they were already searching for anyway doesn’t make much sense.
Take this customer journey as an example:
- A fan has discovered the new City and Colour tour on Tone Deaf.
- The fan shares the article around their friendship circle (Messenger) and/or tags them in the comments.
- They spend the day or week working out how many tickets they need to buy.
- They later jump on google and search “City and Colour tour”.
- At the top of the search results is the Google ad promoting of the City and Colour tour.
- The second or third link, is the organic link to either the ticket page or an article which leads fans to the ticketing page.
Now, the fan obviously clicks the first link at the top which is the ad. This is the link that costs both the promoter and the band money.
If an ad wasn’t running, then the fan would have simply clicked one of the organic links below it, and purchased tickets regardless.
In this instance, the promoter may have paid Tone Deaf to run a campaign which caused the fan to discover the tour and inspired them to buy a ticket. This initial investment into Tone Deaf lead to the sale, but then the promoter also had to pay Google for that same customer who clicked their SEM ad a few days later on the Google search.
They are paying twice, for the same customer.
This is the biggest trick of Google SEM, they’ve worked out a way to charge us for customers we already had, making you pay them for a campaign you’ve already paid for elsewhere.
I say this as the CEO of The Brag Media, do not book an ad with us or any media publisher unless you have very clear goals in mind.
Publishers like us can be great partners and drive unmatched ROI, however if you aren’t clear on what your exact goals are for your campaign, you again, will completely waste your marketing budget.
Media Publishers can do the following;
- Reach: Yes, we don’t have as many users as big tech but unless you’re wanting to reach billions of people in your campaign that is irrelevant.Compare the cost per reach you’re getting on Facebook and YouTube to what publishers are offering you, particularly if they’re a niche music publishers who only have music fans on their sites. Consider wastage on social, and what else the publisher is bringing to the table (content, narrative, data sets etc.).
- Brand Marketing: Big tech can’t tell a story, paint a picture or build a narrative around an artist like publishers can. Promoted brand marketing posts off of label, promoter or artist pages can often come across way too ‘salesy’ and desperate, context is everything when building brands.
- Product Marketing: Looking to get lots of clicks onto Spotify? For labels, the truth is publisher click-through rates are not much better than Facebook or Google’s. However what publishers can do is drive real leads, either via email database growth, app downloads, or build audience data sets, which you can then re-target to down the funnel to drive much stronger conversion and ROI.For promoters, publishers are a secret weapon, creating editorial content about bands to catch massive data sets of their fans, and then re-targeting the most engaged to buy tickets down the funnel.
So you can see, just like Google and Facebook, booking a campaign with a publisher just for the sake of it is nonsense. Understand exactly what your goals are before you engage.
Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you spend with a publisher:
- What is my goal? (Position the artist as X or Y, increase newsletter subs, gain audience set, drive Hottest 100 votes, etc.).
- Is this a brand marketing or product marketing campaign?
- Am I clear in my brief to the publisher on exactly what I hope to get out of the campaign?
- What will I deem as “success” post campaign?
Please don’t take this piece as an insult on Facebook and Google. They are the most powerful marketing tools ever created in the history of humanity, we love them here at The Brag Media and we use them every day.
You should be using them, but strategically, not automatically. As yourself, “what’s the point?” before you spend a dollar anywhere. Please also see our story on How to game the Facebook Ad Algorithm.
Parallel to a strategic digital marketing plan, marketers should also be building their own equity, so you don’t need to pay Zuckerberg every time you want to reach your fans. See our story on how Mailchimp is the new Facebook as an example. Think about the fan clubs, groups and apps your artists can own and run that aren’t at the mercy of big tech.
There is a lot you can do about building your platforms/equity, however this requires more detail in another another story.
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