3 Music Promotions That Broke Through the Noise And What Content Marketers Can Learn

At least once since 2014, you’ve almost certainly turned the key in your car’s ignition, only to hear U2’s “Songs of Innocence” album ring out.

It happens to the best of us because it’s happened to almost all of us. Although Apple’s stunt of throwing the album in every iTunes user’s library without permission was widely known, it wasn’t widely loved. (Full disclosure: I do not mind — and sometimes even enjoy — U2. Feel free to queue up your favorite song as you read on.)

You don’t need insider access to iCloud or a tight relationship with a tech executive to get your content out there or tell your brand story. Rest assured that there are plenty of other paths for promotion. Here are three musicians who did it without forcing listeners to scrub their phones:

1. LANY’s Coachella billboard: Wherever your audience is, be there.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held annually in Indio, Calif., is a music lover’s mecca. Attendees sport their campiest fashions and enjoy their favorite bands’ sonic experiences.

Typically, musicians who aren’t invited watch morosely from their computer screens. But dream-pop group LANY was determined to get in front of fans, invitation or not.

What did LANY do? It bought a billboard in the desert that asked Coachella-goers to check the band out on Spotify. Although it wasn’t as swanky as other executions that weekend, the message stuck. LANY racked up millions of new streams.

LANY’s cheeky billboard was just one piece of its larger promotion strategy, which leans heavily on online video and social media content. Still, it found space in its budget to poke fun at itself with a second billboard. When LANY was invited to perform in 2018, it paid for one that said, “Have fun at Coachella, watch on Sunday!”

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2. John Mayer’s IGTV Rollout: Fit your content to the platform, not the other way around.

When Instagram rolled out IGTV last June, it pointed out that Americans are turning on the TV less and instead tuning into digital video outlets. Younger audiences, it explained, would rather watch amateur content creators than celebrities or professionals.

So who’d Instagram grab to introduce its audience to the “future of video”? John “Your Body Is a Wonderland” Mayer.

Mayer is about as far from an amateur musician as they come. But his Instagram looks like it might belong to one: It’s relaxed, personal, and hilariously honest. That’s the kind of authenticity today’s consumers are drawn to.

One of the first videos uploaded to IGTV was a never-before-seen eight-minute production of Mayer’s single, “New Light.” Viewers got a peek into his music-making process and at least a few laughs. Mayer kicked off the video the way most did when making the switch: “Portrait mode, huh? So it’s going to be portrait mode now. Great. Fine.”

Mayer constructed a piece of content tailored to a specific social media space. He spoke uniquely to its audiences while driving them to the product: a sweet-sounding chord within the score of content marketing.

3. Twenty One Pilots’ album gamification: Make it fun, especially for diehards.

Alt-rock duo Twenty One Pilots’ music is often described as cryptic. But before releasing its latest album, it took its fan base, known as the Skeleton Clique, on a treasure hunt of Nicolas Cage proportions.

From fake 404_error messages to hidden lyrics and album-color cyphers, the scavenger hunt favored longtime fans and left just about everyone else scratching their heads. Although this approach runs the risk of alienating not-yet-fan listeners, it’s more likely to reinforce loyalty among those paying the most attention.

In the context of content marketing, gamification typically looks like quizzes and word puzzles. Although a clever quiz can get plenty of play on social media, metaphorical easter eggs create a sense of exclusivity and accomplishment among those who figure them out.

Be where your audience is, keep it fresh, and make it fun. Those may not be great song lyrics, sure, but they’re great advice for content marketers. Build them into your content strategy, and your brand will hit all the right notes.

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