The concept of “data” is often an abstract one for artists and musicians (and even labels). You know that you have data in the form of insights from streaming services and contact information from fans. However, the applications of this data are not clear.
The first version of this article was written in 2018. In the three years since, new platforms have emerged (TikTok), old platforms have lost brand equity (Facebook), and some music marketing tech has become more common (pivot pages). Especially in a world where touring is not feasible, things like fan location data may be less important than knowing your fan’s interests, affinities, or engagement statistics. This 2021 update revises the original article with details on new platforms/trends and with a perspective on a digital-only music landscape.
Where Your Data Comes From
Before we talk about use cases, let’s identify the data sources that are available to artists. I classify data into three buckets: Owned Data, Accessible Data, and Insights
Type 1: Owned Data
Owned Data is data that is given to you by your audience. The largest data group that falls into this bucket would be your email list or SMS text list. When you capture fans’ contact information via a sign-up form, you may also be requesting location information, age, and listening preferences (streaming, vinyl, downloads, etc.).
If you have an eCommerce store on your website (and you should), you’ll also have emails, phone numbers, location info, and purchase habits for fans that order your merch.
Owned Data sources include:
- Email list (Mailchimp, SendPulse, Constant Contact, Privy)
- Text list (Community, SendPulse, SendinBlue)
- Artist-Owned Chat Platforms (Discord, Slack)
- Ecommerce sales (including sales through platforms such as Shopify, Bandcamp, Squarespace, and Kickstarter)
- Information collected from surveys and giveaways
Owned contact information (email and phone number) is especially important because once you have a fan’s contact info, you no longer have to rely on social media algorithms to reach them. Fans that provide you with their contact information are also more likely to buy merch and repeatedly stream your music.
As social tokens and token-enabled Discord rooms become more popular, we are seeing a move away from email and text as the de facto direct communication method and moving towards pseudo gated communities. Gated in the sense that fans earn their way in and it feel like an achievement to get access to private chat channels. Whereas few fans celebrate getting on an email or text list.
Type 2: Accessible Data
Accessible Data is data that you don’t own, but you can use it for marketing purposes. An example of this is Instagram data. Instagram (and Facebook) knows a significant amount of information about individuals. As a “business”, we can’t access this information on an individual level, but we can take advantage of it for marketing.
For example, let’s say an artist is doing a vinyl pressing of their new album. They can target their fans and narrow that audience based on fans that have displayed an interest in vinyl, according to Facebook’s data, and then target those fans via Instagram swipe up story ads.
Facebook will also allow you to create custom audiences based on engagement with your page, content, and Facebook pixel activity. Again, you don’t know who these individuals are, but you know that they fit the parameters that you set.
Accessible Data sources include:
- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Youtube user data
- Facebook Pixel and Google Analytics data (Don’t know what this is? It’s important. Read this article on Facebook Pixel basics.)
- Data from marketing tech vendors: Companies such as Mailchimp will collect data on your audience and give you the ability to serve ads to this audience across several different platforms
Type 3: Insights
Insights are reports that provide information on your audience and their activity but do not provide opportunities to utilize that information on the platform.
Music streaming services show artists how many listens they get, geographic and age information for those listens, and where on the site people are listening to an artist’s music (artist’s page, listener playlists, algorithmic playlists, etc). However, aside from a few customizable areas of your artist profile, your ability to market to your audience is limited. Spotify does allow advertising on their site, but you can only target your fans that are using the free Spotify tier. Spotify also recently announced the rollout of Marquee, which announces your new release to existing fans regardless of whether they are using the free or paid version.
Some platforms, such as Twitch, give you very little analytics. For these platforms, measure related engagement on other platforms by telling people to follow you on Twitter, for example, and engage with your Twitch audience there. Or tell people to go to your website, Discord, social media pages...anywhere that provides deeper analytics and allows you to expand your relationship with your streaming audience.
Insights sources include:
- Spotify, Apple Music artist dashboards (incl. analytics from your distributor)
- Top-level insights from social media platforms
- Sales numbers from promoter-run livestreams and shows (assuming the promoter doesn’t share customer data — in which case it could become Owned Data)
- LinkFire, SmartURL or other link tracking data (unless you’re embedding a Facebook or Google Analytics pixel — in which case it would become Accessible Data)
HOW CAN YOU USE THIS DATA?
Depending on your situation, there are dozens of opportunities to utilize this data. Let’s get some of the obvious ones out the way so that we can get into the lesser-known (and most powerful) use cases.
Age information (available from nearly all sources) — Who do you appeal to? Make sure your content output and platform accessibility is relevant to that age group. Match age data and location data to reveal potential branding partnerships.
Purchase history (eCommerce platforms) — Did someone purchase your last album on vinyl? You should send those people an email that your new album is available on vinyl. Are there some high rollers on your list that buy vinyl, a t-shirt, and a poster? Create some premium merch items and send an email to that group first, saying they have “exclusive first access to these limited edition items” thanks to their loyalty to the artist.
Engagement Data (available from all social media platforms) – What type of content is getting the most reach and engagement with your audience? Do fans like behind-the-scenes content, live streams, music videos? Measure what % of your audience engages with each post and continue to iterate on the best performing content.
Now, let’s look at some more sophisticated uses of the same data.
Audience Growth via Instagram Videos — Post a video on your Instagram that has wide appeal. This could be a cover or anything that eases the barrier of listening to an unknown band. Use that post to create an ad targeting people likely to watch that video (if this is a cover, target fans of that artist and similar artists). Once you’ve hit a few thousand views, create a second ad. This ad will be targeting people that watched at least 30 seconds or 50% of your original video. With this video, share an original song or something that will “hook” these new viewers. You now have an extremely warm audience of people that are familiar with your music and can easily be converted to fans with the right call to action (a show in their area, new single/video, etc.).
Retargeting People Who Abandon their Shopping Cart — For every person that makes a purchase on your website, there are two to three people who added an item to their cart but did not check out. These people would be the low-hanging fruit for you to market to. All they need is one carefully crafted push for you to convince them to purchase that item. Follow through with great service, and they’ll be glad they did!
Retargeting People Who Click Your Links — It’s easy for people to like your posts on social media. And while, as artists, we’re grateful for the engagement and attention, this shallow engagement doesn’t show proof of fandom. However, the people that click the links that you post and travel off of social media are people that care what you have to say. Next time, instead of just posting the link to whatever you are sharing, create a link with an embedded Facebook pixel using a service such as Bitly, Linkfire, Feature FM, or SmartURL. Check out Paul Reed Smith using Bitly links in the screenshot below.
Measuring the effectiveness of an ad/landing page — When you are running a social media ad campaign, it is important to be able to identify the “weak link” in your funnel. A lack of sales is not enough of an indicator to tell you what portion of your ad funnel needs improvement. So rather than say “Why is no one buying my album, merch, etc.?”, ask yourself if there is a lack of traffic or a lack of conversions. If there is a lack of traffic, that means a lack of interest or your ads are not engaging. If there is ample traffic, but a lack of conversions, then there is interest in your product, but your product is priced too high or your landing page is not optimized.
You don’t always have full insight into the total amount of traffic that is going to your store page. Let’s say you’re releasing a new album and are sending people to an eCommerce site that you don’t own (such as Amazon). You don’t know how many views your Amazon page is getting, but you do know how much traffic you are sending there via social media, email, and tracking links. You also know how many sales you are generating on that platform.
Come up with your own use cases. What are your business goals? More fans, more email sign-ups, more sales? Figure out what behavior online and on social media is meaningful to those goals, and use the tools listed above to leverage data in pursuit of those goals.
- Other Platforms: Google (Youtube), Twitter, TikTok, Reddit, and Snapchat all have ad platforms with varying amounts of features that you can use. If your audience is on those platforms, I absolutely recommend testing those out.
- Using Other Creators’/Brands’ Data: In some circumstances, you may have the opportunity to partner with another creator or brand. In deciding who you should partner with and how valuable their partnership would be, consider the data that you measure for yourself and consider/ask what their numbers are. Is their audience one that you want to reach? Do you have value alignment with their audience? Are their followers high but engagement is low?
- Beware faulty conclusions: Sometimes you can look at data and pull immediate, obvious conclusions. However, sometimes you go in looking for answers and arrive at faulty conclusions, even if the data appears to support your thesis. Correlation does not always imply causation.
- Use all forms of data to build personas: Audience personas aren’t created out of thin air. Using the aforementioned data sources, you can build a robust set of personas that will inform your marketing campaigns. Read these articles for more information: Persona Driven Marketing | How To Build Your Own Personas