On Friday 27th September, second annual Pivotal Music Conference took place in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter. The schedule was jam-packed with sessions throughout the day so there definitely wasn't time for one person to see everything. However, from the sessions I did get to see (mainly at the main hub Pivotal House and also CMU House) these were the key takeaways on marketing music and artists in 2019.
1. Start Collecting Emails Immediately
Email might seem quite obsolete in the age of social media but it's becoming increasingly popular (and personalised) form of communication between brands and individuals. One of the reasons is definitely the over-saturation of information on social media. Also, for artists it might the only data they own outright (e.g. if they collect it on your own website). The Fan Data Guide by CMU & The Music Managers Fund is great resource for understanding the difference between the data you own and data you don't own or even have access to.
2. Have Conversations about Access to Data Right Away
This one is connected to the first point directly. If you are working with different stakeholders on a project, whether it's a tour or album campaign, there needs to be a conversation about who (and how and when) is able to access the data before a project begins rather then after the project is over and all the permissions have been agreed to and the project executed.
3. Be Super Strategic about Getting on Playlists
By now playlists should be a standard part of every artist's release campaign - that's not a new revelation. However, how you go about the strategy is crucial. The top tip here by the panel was - be creative. A lot of streaming services are keen on building up artists' stories through playlisting and getting them to the top of the streaming chain. This is why it's important to align your pitching with what the streaming services are doing. Be aware of what playlists are out there, think about where and why you fit on these playlists and position yourself in the right way.
4. Create Your Own Playlists (Strategically)
Being proactive always pays off and even when you are not able to get on an "official" playlist there is always an option to create your own - and not just with your music. Creating playlists that you enjoy and sharing them with fans is a great opportunity for artists to share their context - where they are coming, who they are and what kind of music they themselves enjoy. This lets fans to come in into the artist's world and build deeper connection.
5. Make Sure You Have Something to Sell To Every Type of Fan
Before you do anything, the number one step is to understand who your fans are. It's crucial to gather as much data as possible - social media stats, streaming analytics, tour merch sales or maybe even asking the fans directly. Once you have a good understanding of your fans' demographics make sure you offer merchandise for all kinds of budgets within your fanbase. Again it’s important to be creative with your offerings - think about what you can spend your time on vs. loads of money - think personalised handwritten lyrics sheets, private performances, signed posters.
6. Smart Speakers & Voice Challenge Artists' Brand Recognition
It can be argued that a lot of musicians and recording artists have a very strong brand recognition that rests on combination of factors, lots of them visual. The rise in smart speakers and use of voice has presented a number of challenges in this area - whether it's the spelling and subsequent pronunciation of artist names or looking up a popular song only with few lines of lyrics from a chorus. Furthermore, invisible interfaces like voice completely change how we interact with computers so they come into our world, rather then use coming into theirs, e.g. how people ask for music now is based on their feelings rather then wanting to hear specific artist, album or even genre. This opens up new challenges as well as opportunities such as mood playlists.
7. Be Up-to-date on New Features on Streaming Platforms
Streaming services launch new features regularly so as an artist it's good to be up-to-date on what is happening. If an opportunity presents itself, it’s important to be willing to be a part of new launches and volunteering to be the guinea pig of some new playlist, feature, product or service. You never know what takes off. It's also a great way to introduce yourself, find new connections and show yourself as someone who is willing to experiment with new things which can only be a good thing!
8. Social Content Should Be Led By Video
Social media platforms are all about attention and keeping people online for as long as possible. The most effective ways of doing this is with videos. The costs associated with video production has decreased dramatically over the last decade. There are endless possibilities and options that allow artists creating videos regularly (which is crucial). Videos index well on social platforms so there should be just as much time spent on post-production. Things like captions are crucial with social videos as they get 60% more through watches that videos that are not annotated. Anything that you can do to make the consumption of your content easier and more engaging will be time well spent.
Extra One: Amazon, Amazon, Amazon
There was a big excitement and curiosity about what Amazon is up to at Pivotal. Throughout multiple panels Amazon was mentioned with the expectations of what new developments they can bring to the music game. With the recent release of HD streaming service, constant push and improvements in Alexa and voice recognition as well as just the general magnitude of the company, Amazon keeps everyone on their toes. It's a journey that the music industry should definitely follow closely to be able to take advantage of the innovations as soon as possible.
Top 3 Sessions from Pivotal Music Conference 2019
Pivotal Points: Creating Artist Momentum - This session hosted by CMU was amazing. The research into numbers and analytics was fascinating and the presentation of the research was engrossing!
Playlisting: Curation and Integration - Great panel with a lots of little tips on playlists - a crucial part of release campaign that is here to stay.
AIM Presents Smart Speakers: Changing the Face of Music Consumption - The name of the panel speaks for itself. Really thoughtful discussion and interesting panel.
Overall, Pivotal was a great day packed with lots of info for a very affordable price - definitely recommended.