Artists Can't Solely Rely on Social Media. Advertising and PR are Essential.
This post demonstrates why it's essential to use advertising and strategic PR to 'bridge' potential fan groups that have overlapping music preference profiles but remain entirely disconnected from each other on the Internet.
Fictitious Artist X - One Year Ago
One year ago, fans connected with artist X (liked, followed, or subscribed to) for a variety of reasons. Some liked X as a person or a performer; some liked artist X's live shows; some liked song A, or song B, or song C; and some simply liked the drummer (it happens). All this 'liking' happened along a spectrum, and none of it had to be mutually exclusive, as there were some fans that liked everything they saw and heard.
Fictitious Artist X Releases a New Song
Consider what happens one year later when artist X releases a new single through Facebook, Twitter and via his or her email list, and be mindful that we now live in a world where singles dominate the attention of fans.
The new song from artist X has a sonic, emotional and lyrical profile that is very similar to song A which was released one year prior. However, the new song doesn't really resonate with those that liked songs B and C in the past; only those that previously liked song A are willing to move the 'new song' message forward to their friends and followers.
The Social Journey of a Song
The song, with it's own sonic, emotional and lyrical profile, continues to travel down social pathways along routes where the song profile intersects with the music preference profiles of interconnected fans and their friends. Finally the song ceases to travel further when it runs out of the combination of people that are both interconnected and receptive to the song. You should also note that the time lag between obtaining, test driving, adopting and proclaiming affection for a song can often take months.
Bridging Song Roadblocks
However that doesn't mean that the song has nowhere else to go! What's needed next are bridges that jump over roadblocks to new pathways where the song's profile keys into the music preferences profiles of other potential new fans.
All forms of advertising, including Facebook advertising, as well as strategic PR, serve as bridges to disconnected groups of people.
The keys to successful 'bridging' for effective song promotion are:
1) Commit to running numerous short, inexpensive test campaigns where you precisely target various music fan segments with a mix of messages, creatives, and propositions. Don't run large campaigns until you are sure you have the right mix.
2) Consider absorption rates. Dropping different songs and propositions onto different segments are going to result in a variety of absorption rates. For example, it may be many months before a free song download proposition results in a social mention or in a ticket sale. Results will vary.
3) Make thoughtful and incremental campaign adjustments based upon the song engagement analytics provided by your advertising platform or PR service provider.
Note: If you read the first version of this post on Music Think Tank last week, then thanks for your time. I had meant to rewrite that post prior to it appearing on MTT, but the final Red Sox game got in my way. Thanks also to Brian Hazard (@colortheory) for the feedback.