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What Today’s Music Artists Can Teach Us About Content Marketing

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In today’s Internet, content is king.
The modern Internet has developed from the esoteric tech novelty of the early-to-mid 90s to an ever-expanding digital novel, written by all of us, read by all of us, and with new chapters added every millisecond. And it’s only growing faster. Domo, in their annual report Data Never Sleeps, estimates that every minute in 2019, viewers watch over 4.5 million videos on YouTube, Instagram users are posting nearly 300,000 stories, and Tumblr users are posting over 92,000 posts. Together, this represents a 9% increase in global internet usage from January 2018, meaning we’re in the midst of exponential content growth — with no end in sight.
As co-authors and students of history’s largest and greatest book, we’ve all asked ourselves, whether consciously or not, “How much have I added to the book? What are my favorite pages and chapters? What do I keep re-reading? What does the book say about me?”
Enter the content marketer. Content marketers have the unique task of improving the odds that every time someone lands on your company’s chapter, they stay to read the full chapter, and hopefully return to read it again. This isn’t unique to any one industry but is especially true of the media industry where content is not just a tool for marketing — it is the product offering.

Artists and musicians: the original content marketers

Perhaps no industry has adapted to internet modernization more than the music industry. With the advent of the internet, the music industry has experienced the massive shift of physical music sales to digital music sales, and now digital music streaming. Internet tools like Tunecore and Stem have democratized music distribution and given garage bands and basement rockstars the ability to be heard around the globe and alongside their favorite stars. Social media has made it easier than ever for already-established celebrities to engage directly with their millions of fans. All of the increased visibility, increased access, and increased consumer options mean one thing: competition for attention is fierce. And when competition is fierce, quality must be elevated.
The role of today’s artist content, like the content of today’s leading brands and companies, serves four main objectives:

  • Grab attention
  • Build loyalty
  • Drive action
  • Edutain (entertain + educate)

The way today’s artists hit these objectives, though, is worth studying and applying to your integrated marketing strategy.

Grabbing attention

Today’s average DIY artists have more opportunity to be heard than ever before, but they also have a daunting task: separating themselves from the ocean of other DIY artists swimming through the colossal digisphere. It’s no wonder, then, that we see the rise of sensationalized challenges like the TidePod challenge, hypersexualized Instagram accounts (because let’s face it — sex sells), and a combative callout culture. In fact, this trend has (un)officially been dubbed “clout chasing”: being performative, disingenuous, and even abrasive for the sake of boosting social media numbers, grabbing attention or “clout.”
Some artists have the reputation of being the voice of the youth, and the youth has earned the title of being rebellious. But entertainers like Tekashi 6ix9ine, whose personal style teeters somewhere between a resurrected Curt Kobain and a bag of Skittles, take the idea of “being different” to a new extreme. Even the CEO of Tekashi’s label calls him “the Donald Trump of the music industry,” noting that while “80 percent of the [YouTube] comments are hate… the analytics show that they’re the ones who go to the shows and buy the T-shirts!” The numbers don’t end there — while being held on racketeering charges, the Brooklyn-born rapper boasts an impressive 14.5 million followers on Instagram, and an accompanying 13.1 million monthly listeners on Spotify. He’s just one example of how looking different and harnessing all attention — positive or negative — can directly equate to business growth.

Building loyalty

Pop stars and artists don’t just have consumers — they have fans. A consumer makes purchases based on utility; a fan makes purchases based on raw desire. For this reason, today’s successful music artist must be an expert at building loyalty. Fan clubs, concert meet and greets, and autographed merchandise are just some of the ways artists turn raw desire into brand loyalty.
A quick perusal of top artists from the 1950s to the present day show that giving your fanbase a name can be a powerful way of building loyalty by providing a shared identity and building a community for otherwise strangers — think about The Beatles’ “Beatle People,” Lady Gaga’s “Little Monsters,” or Beyonce’s “BeyHive.” While the verdict is out on whether Apple should start dubbing its users “Appleseeds,” there’s still a lot to be learned from the artist model of building loyalty.

Driving action

Music artists at every level aren’t just producing content for content’s sake — it all serves the broader purpose of building themselves as a brand, and ultimately driving record sales and listens. For this reason, some of the best performing social media posts will contain a call to action: “Link in bio” is to the artist Instagram account what “Click here to learn more” is to the tech company blog post. And yet artists have a unique advantage in their content marketing: their main product serves as an accessory to other user content.
Think about summer 2018’s #InMyFeelingsChallenge. For a few weeks, it was nearly impossible to avoid hearing the Drake hit, as users all over the world — celebrities, fans, and even agnostic observers — submitted their own version of a choreographed dance originated by a then-obscure comedian named Shiggy. In fact, this model has become a popular marketing technique for record labels: encourage listeners to upload their own versions of a dance challenge with an accompanying hit single, giving fans a chance to build their own personal profile while also spreading the hit single organically. Content then becomes a conversation and a way for consumers to add pages into their own content chapters. 


Gone are the days of the elusive rockstar with clambering fans desperate for access to his life of secrecy. Today’s music fan wants to know the person behind their favorite songs. Humans love stories, and we have more tools than ever before in telling stories to a mass audience. The result is that we see the most successful artists today using their increased access to tell stories of themselves, what they love, how they grew up, etc. Short, consumable, well-shot exposès of the artist life — on tour, in the studio, at a video shoot — are a tried-and-true method of edutaining fans about who they’re choosing to support. Today’s fan isn’t sitting in a classroom, reading from a textbook, or taking notes on Justin Beiber, but they are certainly watching live performance videos with eye-catching visuals, hearing his inspiration behind certain songs, and even learning about causes that he cares about.

The artist has another advantage over companies in other industries: they’re able to leverage imperfection. Think about Cardi B: whether you’re a fan or not, even a brief scan of her social media accounts will educate you on what she loves, what she hates, what she cares about, how she works, etc., all wrapped up in a refreshingly imperfect and entertaining package. 

Today’s artist is better thought of as a brand manager, entertainer, and content marketer: a hefty Instagram following directly translates to increased Spotify plays. YouTube subscribers directly translate to concert tickets. And increased website traffic all translates to increased merchandise sales. Viewing a brand from the lens of an artist, even while not being a direct apples-to-apples comparison, can yield powerful results in your content marketing efforts.
Afika Nxumalo is a NewsCred Contributor.

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