Many grass roots, emerging, and even experienced musicians fail to realize that the answer to their promotion and exposure failures surrounds them each time they go online — whether they are checking email, scrolling social media, shopping for unicorn-shaped tuning pegs, or doing all three.
The truth is, no matter how much we may despise them, online ads work — and digital advertising is under-utilized by today’s artist community. Even the Gen Z creatives who were raised with a smart phone in one hand and a microphone in the other have not tapped into its full potential.
And there has never been a better time to advertise music.
The immense amounts of data collected about users’ internet habits creates an environment where you can reach a targeted audience based on their internet activity, demographics, internet history, music proclivities and social posts. In days past, an ad campaign as sophisticated and targeted as I am suggesting would require a full-fledged marketing department with significant resources, considerable experience, and networked communication pathways. Today, it can be as easy as a few clicks and a small up front investment.
Before you consider this article overly simplistic, hear me out. I am not talking about just putting an ad on Facebook that has your band logo and a link to your website. I’m talking about going far beyond the equivalent of a flashing neon sign. I’m saying you can customize an ad for a particular purpose and audience. You could start a hyper-targeted advertising campaign for promoting a livestream event to people who regularly tune in to them. You can share an ad on social media with words like “exclusive” and “be the first,” while promoting a new song or EP release and targeting digital natives who always want to be the first to tweet about a new dropped song. Maybe you want to increase the number of views of your latest music video on YouTube, or increase the number of email subscribers to your contact list. You can target a group of online users who are obsessed with YouTube or stick to emailed offers and news bulletins for their information.
Any one of these scenarios might have a slightly or completely different online audience that you could target using digital ad campaigns in various creative ways.
Let me give you an example. Meet Rodney Burgle — he loves the ska punk / jam band music scene and attending live shows are his favorite way to listen. With the pandemic on, he has been scratching his live music itch by watching livestreams on Facebook and Instagram, scheduling them into his day like a new mom checking on her napping toddler — every five minutes. Meanwhile, Francesa Villetanno grew up on reggae and disco, but has been venturing into the ska punk world because her friend is a fan of Bite Me Bambi and the Rundown Kreeps and she’s looking up their videos on Youtube, and adding her favorite songs to her Spotify Playlist called “Angsty.”
You are the lead singer of an up-and-coming ska punk band called Grunge Sponge. Rodney and Francesa are both members of your target fanbase, but you might reach them with two entirely different ad campaigns — one designed to feature a regular livestream your band does weekly to cover Goldfinger and Aquabats songs, and the other is posted next to a Rundown Kreeps video promoting your band’s latest YouTube vid — “Cheers, We’re Fried.” Francesa would likely completely ignore the livestream event (just not her style) and Rodney thinks music videos are overproduced and fake.
Now, of course, I am not talking about pitching individuals here. You won’t know Rodney and Francesa or their internet habits (and you probably don’t want to). But plenty of social media platforms and digital analytics firms have made the delineation of audience segments as easy as selecting a slice of pie off the dessert cart. This gives artists of all types the opportunity to find the Rodney’s and Francesca’s of the world with the click of a “Start Ad Campaign” button.
In fact, starting an online advertising campaign could be as easy as connecting your social media accounts to the service, setting a budget of twenty dollars, committing to a campaign timeframe, and selecting a goal (like increasing YouTube page views or promoting an event). The very best marketing and distribution services make it that easy by utilizing machine learning and artificial intelligence to fine-tune targeted ad buys down to the most likely fans on the web. Some of these services even allow you to see your pageviews in a global pageview map, so you can see exactly where in the world your most engaged fans are.
It has never been easier or more convenient to gather more fans from the comfort of your own shelter-in-place studio. And even with most audiences stuck at home, there is still a real opportunity to actually increase your fanbase rather than watching them dwindle.