Your glossary of essential music marketing terms. Learn the fundamentals, get your edge. If you like this stuff, subscribe to my weekly newsletter here.
A = Algorithms
A process or set of rules that govern problem-solving operations. Algorithms affect artist discovery as social media and streaming platforms surface content based on the algorithms they write for user experience. E.g.:
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Organic reach for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok
- STREAMING: Spotify algorithmic recommendations via playlists i.e.: Discover Weekly, Release Radar, Radio
- VIDEO: YouTube suggested videos
B = Bio
A short paragraph, written in the third person about the artist. This includes origin story, achievements to date and key information about the release. This is used for marketing and publicity.
At minimum artists require:
- 600 word extended bio for publicity, pulling info about the release, applying for grants
- 50 word short bio for streaming platforms
- 10 word bio for social media profiles
C = Campaign Rollout
The design of how people see, hear and feel the music that creates insatiable curiosity for the artist. Popular tactics include releasing a single a month for 6 months then wrapping them into an album, 3-act structure and bonfires & fireworks.
D = Discovery Ecosystem
The sum of touchpoints a new listener encounters when finding a new artist. This includes social media channels, streaming playlists, PR headlines, website, organic content and sync, among others
An artist would design the way new listeners experience their music by creating experiences on the core discovery channels in their ecosystem through narrative, video and imagery.
E = Engagement Rate
% of impressions that drove consumers to actually interact with the asset — usually applied to social media campaigns as a proxy for fan loyalty.
(Interactions with digital asset) / (Impressions of digital asset) = Engagement Rate
This signals how an element of the campaign is sticking with audiences. For example, a tour announcement, single release or new video. However, it is a vague metric and often influenced more heavily by the platform’s algorithm and how it prioritizes and personalizes content, thus rendering assets visible/invisible.
Calculations vary from platform to platform and can encompass a mix of comments, likes, shares, contest entries, sign-ups to email/text, views, saves to library, adds to playlists etc — can be misleading when comparing across platforms.
For a full KPI breakdown of essential performance metrics read: Metrics That Matter
F = Follower Growth
If the goal governing 99.99% of record campaigns is to reach millions of people and earn streaming/sales revenue, then followers suggest how aware people are of your artist.
An act with high monthly listeners or playlist reach may generate millions of streams but have low brand awareness — people know the song but not the artist.
Followers to streams ratio is an indicator of interest in an artist vs. miscellaneous streams generated by playlists and algorithms.
If an artist has fewer than 1:20 followers to monthly listeners then you have a problem with branding and over-reliance on editorial support, therefore must invest in brand building activities.
Emerging artists (>1M monthly listeners) generally average 1:10, established acts (>5M monthly listeners) average 1:5 followers to monthly listeners. Therefore you need to invest in brand building marketing activities.
G = Goal Setting
A roadmap for success over time. Goals should be SMART — specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, timely.
If you need help with goal-setting then read: 21 Questions to Ask an Artist Before Working With Them and complete the artist discovery workshop.
H = Hashtag
Tool used in social media to help identify a topic and discussion point.
Each platform has its own etiquette, e.g.: Instagram best practices include hashtags of 11 and 30 per post.
As the feed moves so quickly, make sure you post the hashtags at the time of your post or in a post comment a few seconds afterwards. Choose your hashtags using apps such as Hashtagify to find unbranded, low-competiton hashtags to own.
Pay attention to the popularity of the hashtags you use, and mix up some of the popular hashtags (where it will be difficult to be noticed) along with some of the less popular hashtags, where you have more chance to be seen.
I = Influencer
Someone who has the ability to affect purchasing behavior of consumers.
Choose influencers based on:
Relevance to your art, subculture and audience.
Activity on social media. Otherwise they aren’t much help.
Good people. Make sure you’ve researched that they are aligned with your values and have not had past drama
J = Just In Time Research
A minimalist research approach about acting fast. JIT research is about observing trends, forming a hypothesis and answering that without doing anything extra. This helps to avoid unproductive research black holes.
K = Key Performance Indicator
When you start a campaign, your label lays out Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to evaluate a record campaign’s success or failure, which govern whether your project continues to be funded or phased out.
Streaming and social platforms allow us to see the real-time impact of marketing efforts through metrics that when pieced together tell a story. Some are more accurate at predicting an artist’s success than others, and therefore should be more important to music marketers.
Core KPIs in for measuring a record campaign
- Active Coverage
- Audience (Radio)
- Chart Performance
- Click Through Rate
- Cost Per New Listener
- Efficient Reach
- Engagement Rate
- Follower Growth (Social)
- Monthly Listeners
- Pitch Performance
- Playlist Reach
- Playlist Real Estate
- Potential Reach
- Profile Followers (DSP)
- Return on Digital Spend
- Territory Growth
- Video Completion Length
L = Livestream
Livestreaming is like radio with a built-in social network. However, many mistakenly approach livestreams as a video streaming platform or in place of live — mediums that both reward polished rehearsed entertainment.
As a medium, livestreaming rewards relatability, unfiltered and spontaneity. It also shares a similar programming style — long-form content delivered on a consistent schedule. The closeness of the environment forges a connection with fans almost like a friendship.
Content that does best in this medium are peek-behind-the-curtains of creative processes, masterclasses, and intimate performances.
If you need ideas think about if KCRW gave you 20 mins to do whatever you wanted, how would you use the time?
Livestreaming resources for musicians
There are a ton of resources about livestreaming since its rapid COVID adoption. Here are a few relevant tactical resources like each platform’s guide to livestreaming, plus articles outlining best practices of and tech requirements so you can execute the best quality livestream:
- YouTube’s Livestreaming Guide
- Bandzoogle’s Livestreaming Guide
- Going live on FB from personal page, fan page, group,
- Zoom’s guide to livestreaming
- Vimeo’s guide
- Twitch guide for musicians
- Eventbrite Everything You Need To Know About Livestreaming Concerts
M = Monthly Listeners
Unique listeners of an artist in a 28 day period. The number of times an individual streams a song does not effect the monthly listener, if one person streams one song and another 300 times, they each count as 1 monthly listener
Sum total of unique listeners in a 28 day period = Monthly Listeners
Monthly listeners and monthly streams are usually lumped in the same reporting. Monthly streams are more easily manipulated than monthly streams, however reporting on these must be considered in the wider growth of the artist long term — which is where profile follows comes into play.
N = Nurture Sequence
When a new fan signs up to a mailing list, fan club, text message service, discord service or other closed community group what happens next?
A lot of marketing looks at cold to warm leads, i.e.: how do we find people who’ve never listened to our music and get them to know about us. This is the most expensive type of marketing to do. What a lot of marketer’s miss is building the experience a new listener has once they enter your world.
A nurture sequence is a series of content and sales messages that hook them into being curious listeners to fans. For example, an email nurture sequence would be 5 automatic emails sent out over 3 weeks to get the new listener further engaged in your content, channels and encouraging them to buy something like merch.
Nurture sequences reduce unsubscribes and inactive fans. If someone signs up to your email list and doesn’t hear from you for weeks or months until you have new music or a new show, then they won’t recognize you and will unsubscribe.
O = Organic Content
P = Playlists
Playlists are the way music is organized on streaming services and radio. There’s 2 ways of programming playlists:
- Editorially. An individual or team chooses which tracks to include based on their viewpoint
- Algorithmically. Tracks are included based on programs written to serve the playlist.
Playlists are an essential way music is delivered to the end consumer.
Q = Quality Assurance
Standards that enforce excellence.
A QA process is owned by the product manager and is there to make sure the right assets go out.
As someone who once uploaded a music video with the wrong audio after it was blasted to media, I can assure you that you want to make QA process run before any press release, music video, master or artwork is delivered to partners.
R = ROI
Return on Investment. Dollar amount you needed to spend to yield a result, which can be a positive or negative value.
Return on investment (ROI) = (revenue from marketing) — (marketing spend) / marketing budget.
Provides guidance to artist/team on the relative value of a marketing investment, which prioritizes future budgets, cuts initiatives that make little return and informs artist(s) how they best spend their time.
ROI must be considered in context of the wider marketing plan — strong ROI can be created by insignificant investments (e.g.: $50 Facebook spend that produced 300% growth via ticket sales) and larger activities (e.g.: music videos) may not manifest ROI until years after.
S = Streaming
Listening to music in ‘real time’, instead of downloading a file to your computer and watching it later. With audio streaming there is no file to download, just a continuous stream of data.
Top music streaming services in USA as of 2021 by users are below:
T = Territory Growth
Difference in consumption in a specific country, region or set of cities
(consumption this week) — (consumption last week) / number of weeks active campaign
Streaming and social media has made music more global in that artists and songs can be more readily discovered in different territories before crossing over to larger markets like the US, e.g.: Rich Brian, Lewis Capaldi.
U = Unique Selling Proposition
The factor(s) presented by the artist as why their product is different and better than that of a competitor.
E.g.: Metro Boomin’s unique production sound of heavy bass, rattling synthetic percussion and dark, gothic melodies means artists go to him for beats over other Atlanta producers.
V = Viral
The goal of going viral is to find new fans—not just engage with the old ones by achieving stream/view velocity quickly. Tactics for going viral include:
- Publicity stunts
- Film/TV and advertising sync
- Influencer marketing
- Attaching music to memes early
W = Workshop
A set of structures activities designed to create an outcome.
X = X over
Identifying and planning initiatives to expose the artist to new audiences with the goal of building a bigger fanbase.
Latin artist, J.Balvin has well and truly crossed over to mainstream. In 2020 he took part in the Super Bowl and inked a brand deal with McDonalds, two iconic brands that embed him further in American culture.
Y = Young vs. Mature Lifecycle
The point of an artist’s career as determined by brand awareness and profitability. Campaigns for albums/tours/special initiatives vary greatly depending on the lifecycle stage.
Z = Zag
The ability to experiment — when everyone zigs you zag. You do your own thing carving your own path.
E.g.: Dreebo. An emerging artist who is dropping a song every single day this year. He’s unsigned and is using this experiment as an artist development and a focus group of what fans want to hear crash course.