With the evolution of streaming platforms, the music industry landscape is in a constant state of flux and the role of record labels has been questioned. With a heritage in producing records, it’s been hard for labels to adapt to the issues of diminishing production costs and recorded music revenues. In my opinion, the solution here lies in marketing.
The old ways of marketing an album release no longer apply. Most labels are forced to double down on their existing big hitters, or new musicians who have already marketed themselves through a DIY approach. As the scene continues to shift, music marketers are constantly being forced to re-adjust their campaign plans to make sure that they are reaching the right audience and creating a high level of buzz.
Marketing plans used to be a combined creation of manager, label A&R and marketing team, booking agent, and publisher who would be responsible for coming up with a big picture strategy and implementing a plan for each domain that he or she was responsible for. Today, most labels tackle what needs to be done right now and team members handle only their responsibilities without taking a step back and looking at the wider goals.
Below are the 5 steps record labels can implement to create a successful content marketing campaign.
Step 1: Identify the Target Audience
First off, it is VITAL to understand the music market demographic you’re targeting. In order to do this, you need to research and develop statistics about your audience. You’ll need to be able to create a unique profile of your “typical” buyer from this research, which will help you figure out your focus in terms of where they are consuming music and how they are listening. Once you can pinpoint the outlets to focus on you’ll be able to narrow down your target audience and create a content strategy based on your targeted profile.
Step 2: Create a Profile of Your “Ideal” Buyer
You’ll need to create a well-rounded profile of your customer. Only after compiling their general preferences and habits, can you really get an idea for who they are and how to cater to them. Some labels hire outsourced research agencies to compile research on a targeted demographic, or alternatively, you can create a questionnaire in-house to help identify your buyer.
Here’s an idea of some of the information you’ll want to know:
Where do they live, shop, eat?
Are they married or single?
How old are they?
How often do they buy music?
What service device do they use to stream?
How often do they go to shows?
Are they brand/label loyalists or first-time buyers?
Step 3: Build a Content Strategy Based on this User/Buyer Profile
Once you’ve figured out your audience, you can start to create a strategy and budget for targeting that audience. Figure out what platforms you’ll need to reach them on (i.e. social media, a grassroots campaign), what kind of content you’ll need to create to attract them (i.e. video, images, copy, or maybe even virtual reality). Check your resources to see if you have the capability to create a DIY approach and maintain this kind of campaign or if you’ll need to hire some outside support from an agency.
When creating your budget, get as specific as possible, it’s dangerous to assume that having one pot of “marketing spend” will cover all your resources. Consider creating a separate budget for promotions vs. content marketing. Then within that determine your spend on each content type.
Step 4: Find Partners to Help Execute Your Strategy
Now that you’ve got your budget and a content strategy in place, it’s time to look at all your potential partners to help get your messaging out and how to help them deliver it.
Assuming your band or musician already has a core fan base, you can use social media as a resource for organic promotion. You can offer key followers exclusive content or opportunities to interact with the band based off of their follower counts to ensure maximum exposure.
Venues and retailers can also act as promotional partners as it’s in their best interest to promote the band/musician and the album release. As these are physical locations to attract your audience, there are a lot of cross- promotional opportunities that can be created to support your campaign, involving on-site giveaways or mobile marketing campaigns using beacon technology to target and attract new customers.
Step 5: Create an Editorial Calendar and Execute Content Delivery to Schedule
Now the final piece of the plan is to create an actionable editorial calendar to clearly map out the campaign in its entirety. Build in key events and happenings that are taking place during your projected timeline that can be used as content opportunities. Identify key staff who are going to promote and manage the content, keep in mind that this is highly important, and can really make or break the success of a campaign. Therefore, it’s important that you enlist members of staff with experience and the ability to act quickly, and don’t assume an intern can manage it.
Make sure you figure out now what your key results and key performance indicators (KPI’s) will be and make sure to track them as your campaign begins to take action. This is how you will know if you are reaching the audience you had planned and can pivot your strategy if necessary.
There is no single right answer for what artists or labels should do right now. A lot of them are being forced to sink or swim, but following these 5 steps will help build a solid marketing campaign plan to help promote a release. Or if you just wanted to remind the audience that you, your band or musician is out there, you can adapt based off these insights as well. The important thing to remember is to not cut corners. Having a well thought out strategy will help create a solid promotion plan that will make sure that every possible outlet has been considered and approached. And then next time, when you’re ready for your next 5 releases, you’ll already have a base to build from.