With Music Marketing, Data Is Power

1Although the digital age has been harmful to the music industry in a lot of ways, it has also opened the door to some valuable data-driven marketing practices, several of which Raffi Keuhnelian outlines here.


Guest Post by Raffi Keuhnelian on Forbes

Not that long ago, music marketing relied on sending press kits and mixtapes to DJs, radio stations and journalists. However, the tune has changed; marketing and PR in this industry are no longer limited to paper and postage stamps. I have seen firsthand the evolving impact the internet, social media and technology have on the industry. It hasn’t been easy: The music industry went from being worth $40 billion in 1999 to around $15 billion in 2015.

Some say digital changes like streaming and illegal downloads have made it impossible for artists and labels to make money, especially if they’re independent. Others, such as Goldman Sachs’ Lisa Yang, see things more positively. She points to streaming as a growing, stable source of revenue for the music industry and sees it as leading a “digital revolution,” particularly with the rising economic clout of millennials and Gen Z.

Whatever your view, digital can be an incredible tool for young artists to get themselves noticed — and heard. Using the power of social media and streaming sites like YouTube, a young talent can become an influencer. How do they do it? For some, it’s a natural gift or luck. Others are digitally savvy and have learned to capitalize on data.

Data has always been integral to my work. Having launched and sold numerous social media marketing firms, I need to read numbers and apply that information to campaigns to drive results and generate hits for clients. Whether it’s a viral video, a trending spot on Twitter or doubling Instagram followers, I see and create value online. Others in the music industry are prioritizing data in their work now, too. Warner Music just named Vinnie Freda as the company’s first chief data officer. Streaming service Pandora hired its first data journalist last August. Meanwhile, Spotify has gathered huge amounts of data about its users and is using it to connect with audiences meaningfully in its promotional efforts.

Companies aren’t just flocking to data because they see dollar signs — they see demographics, differentiating audiences and disruption. Take the aforementioned millennials, for example; it’s become almost laughably common for the media to reference them as a monolithic, homogenous group.

For music marketing purposes, we can use data to break down which of those millennials like hip hop and which like EDM, and then see how those two sub-groups’ behaviors differ. Hip hop fans tend to check genre-related websites and blogs daily for the latest releases. For many, seeing that new video first is key. On the other hand, EDM fans are all about continuously streaming tracks, technology and are much less visual. For proof, compare hip hop heavyweight site WorldStar and EDM mainstay DJ Mag. The hip hop site’s homepage is wallpapered in the latest industry and related Youtube videos; the latter has mostly news features and the newest tech.

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Knowledge like this can inform when, where and how to post music and achieve hit-making results. Some tips I always give clients, both emerging and established, include:

  1. Dedicate 1 hour every day to digital marketing. Spend at least one hour on social media and digital every day. Whether it’s engaging with fans, influencers and media, promoting your content, or just sending out Snapchats, you’re building your brand and influence. Don’t be shy – experiment! You never know what might go viral.
  2. Review results regularly. Track what’s working – and what isn’t. Hootsuite is a user-friendly way to keep an eye on results through reports across all your social platforms. If Instagram is converting better than Twitter, invest more time (and advertising dollars, if you have them) in it.
  3. Test individual tracks. Tools like AudioKite expose your music to hundreds of potential fans and ask them for valuable feedback. You can get constructive criticism and change your work and promotional strategy based on the data their reports provide.
  4. Know your audience. Research the biggest streaming sites, influencers, bloggers and media outlets. Engage with them and get them to share your stuff or try to insert yourself into their communities. Have a big following already? Send out a survey or do a poll to get a better picture.

1You get back what you give. Investing a minimum of three hours can give you enough time to do what I call the three Rs: responding (engaging and monitoring), researching (influencers and outlets) and reaching out (connecting and partnerships). We live by these rules at our agency, too. Whenever we work with a client, everything is measured, from the level of engagement, number of posts, time of posts, the frequency content is produced and shared, which countries were targeted, etc. We have even invested in data analysts and software engineers who follow trends and spot patterns in social media and live streaming.

While you don’t have to invest resources at this level, starting with the three Rs can make a big impact. With music being increasingly bought, shared and enjoyed digitally, data’s potency will only continue to grow. It is the most important component of my business and, if you want your art to go from “indie” to international stardom, it should be integral to yours, too.

It’s not just the music industry; data has been beneficial and transformative for all organizations that touch on digital. (Which is now virtually every organization.) There’s the old saying, “knowledge is power.” Data is knowledge, and harnessing it to make smarter decisions — whether you’re a Fortune 500 or an operation of one — is empowering. Maybe it’s learning that your customers’ peak engagement on social media is at 9 a.m. so you start posting your best content then or that one of your products is favored more by women so you invest in targeting them specifically.

The possibilities with data are endless — and we are just getting started.

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