MTV UK’s Roberta Hickey puts together some key takeaways from a recent panel discussion on cultural influencers in music.
With the number of influencers and their reach growing each day, involving them in marketing campaigns is now imperative and many brands do this very well (and some not so well). This isn’t as common with music marketeers, but with the marketplace become more and more concentrated is traditional promo enough anymore? I attended a panel discussing just this featuring Radar Radio’s Snoochie Shy, LAD Bible’s Adam Maddock, Island Records’ Faye Williams, IPR’s Aisha McNeilby and chaired by Polydor’s Danny Ingham. Here are my takeaways:
Getting influencers involved
The panel began with a discussion on the rise of influencers and how to get them involved in a campaign. Faye spoke about Island’s approach, explaining that offering YouTube lots of money isn’t a sustainable option for a label and also doesn’t build the relationship required in an influencer / artist collaboration. Island Records have started Island Fridays where they invite influencers down to meet artists and listen to music and start a more organic relationship. As Instagram is a huge platform for influencers, Island have started their own ‘island co:lab‘ account to create a community where opportunities can be discussed.
A pro of the rise of the influencers is there is now a bigger talent pool – previously when it was just celebrities in the traditional sense, the pool was much smaller and the most famous (as still is the case) would be tied up in very expensive big brand deals. The rise of social media has brought with it a new wave of ‘celebrities’ who have big fan bases and influence, so it’s important for the music industry to be looking for ways to capitalise on this.
Authentic collaboration vs. forced
A main topic of discussion throughout the panel was authentic collaborations vs. forced. Obviously there is the option of paying a big influencer to post about a certain artist, but if they haven’t expressed interest in that artist or even particular genre before then there will be no long term benefits. It’s typically much more beneficial to reach out to an influencer with a smaller audience who has a genuine interest in the artist. All of the panelists expressed how important it is to have an organic interest between the people involved in any sort of collaboration. People can tell if it isn’t the right fit and given the nature of social media, they will express their negative views on an open forum which can be detrimental to an artist’s development.
Different techniques and types of influencers
There are a number of different ways of working with influencers to grow an artist’s audience. The panel looked into whether it’s crass to ask influencers to share links to iTunes, gig tickets, and so on. The overall opinion on this was that if it’s tied in with content, true to the influencer’s taste and a good fit then there is nothing wrong with including links – it’s a money making business at the end of the day and fashion bloggers will include links to buy products as the norm.
Aisha from IPR shared her experiences of incorporating a product push with content and inviting influencers down to gigs for them to share content across their social channels. She recently selected relevant influencers to head down to a Tyga gig and share content, which resulted in over 1 million views from 8 influencers. This content could easily have been followed up with a post such as ,‘Amazing night at Tyga last night. You NEED to see him live.. grab tickets for his other dates here: LINK’, and not have felt forced or ingenuine. Campaigns like this will only work with influencers who are genuine fans and the artist fits with their taste. Island are currently working with Urban Nerds on a regional long tail campaign for Dizzee Rascal. The aim is to find relevant influencers in various regions to build relationships with on a long term basis, which becomes much more valuable than just one tweet.
As well as individual influencers there is now a new range of social media-first publications such as LAD Bible and UNILAD who have also taken on this influencer role. LADBible have begun to enter the music sphere with their new Pretty 52 sessions format which launched with an acoustic session from Raye. Interestingly, this content was provided to them by the label as they wanted to seed out what felt like organic social content and LADBible acted as the platform to spread the content. This shows that there is a move towards labels using budgets to create engaging content either with influencers or for influencer platforms, and a move to thinking of more creative and innovative ways to market artists and reach new audiences. An example Adam from LADBible gave of this was getting Sean Paul, who is a big tennis fan, involved in a tennis match against a top European player that was live streamed on SPORTBible. This piece of content has almost 1 million views:
This example sparked a discussion on the benefits of matching talent with fashion, music, sport, etc. as it opens the artist up to new fans and can be mutually beneficial for both parties. If the content makes sense and is engaging, these cross-genre partnerships can really work. A successful example given by the panel was tattooist Arabella Drummond creating an Instagram story of a tattoo workshop with Machine Gun Kelly. For these creative content ideas Danny spoke about the importance of having the artist and management on side, and that part of his role at a label is to help artists think outside the box and involve them in the ideas process. For local and emerging artists this can be easier to do as they can come into the office and discuss what they’ve been up to / what they’re into, and from these conversations possible partnership options can evolve. This process is trickier for international artists where it would be more on the label to have eyes on the ground for ideal opportunities.
How success is measured
With influencer partnerships being a fairly new method of marketing, the panel rounded up by discussing how success is measured. The response was that it depends on the campaign – if it involved simply sending a streaming link to key influencers then this can be tracked to see exactly how many streams were generated. With video content, views and engagements would always be a factor. However, with more subtle partnerships which are about submerging an artist into a particular culture, it’s extremely difficult to track. One method mentioned is measuring ticket sales and perhaps more importantly, who is attending the shows.
After listening to the panel it does seem that it’s becoming more and more essential for labels and artists to be thinking outside the box in terms of promotion and content creation. A great example of this working is Stormzy’s album campaign, one of the UK’s biggest musical success stories of the year. Stormzy stepped outside of traditional promotional activity and titles to grow his fan base, including interviewing David Beckham and making pancakes with Raymond Blanc live on GQ’s Facebook page.
It’s an exciting time for marketers and for fans – gone are the times when the only peek we’d get of our favourite band was on the cover of Smash Hits magazine. Now music audiences might have the opportunity of seeing their favourite artists eating burgers with their favourite YouTuber or doing kick-ups live on social media for their viewing pleasure. The main take away of this evening’s talk though was that while the possibilities are endless and can be lot of fun, it’s vital that the partnerships and content make sense and are the lovechild of an organic relationship between both parties. Audiences are savvy and will know if a partnership isn’t authentic, which could result in a negative impact. Saying that, I personally am looking forward to seeing and working on some fresh and exciting content and promotional techniques from today’s artists.