Devising A Content Strategy For YouTube
It’s an inescapable fact that YouTube is now the world’s largest music streaming site, and also its second biggest search engine.
As YouTube continues to mature as a content platform and revenue stream, it’s more important than ever for record labels and artists to have a solid content strategy in place for their YouTube content.
But with over 100 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, how do you optimise content creation and make sure your content stands out? We speak to key music industry figures at record labels and MCNs to put together a two-part best practice guide to devising a content strategy for anyone in the music industry working with YouTube.
- What’s Possible on YouTube?
- Developing A Strategy
- Content Checklist
- Content Scheduling
- Content and Channel Optimisation
- Measures of Success
What’s Possible on YouTube? Your first step is to identify your target audience and what you want to achieve on the platform. Building subscribers is the foundation for success, whatever you decide success will be. Jeremy Rosen, The Orchard’s Director of Audience Development, outlines the possibilities:
“Ultimately, building a successful channel gives the artist or label a large marketing platform. It can be a creative outlet, a good way to connect with fans visually, a place to test out material, and even a primary revenue source. As tools like Google+ integration mature, I estimate it will also become an important direct-to-consumer hub for artists.”
That direct connection to fans and the increasing importance of streaming music represent the main opportunities for Laura Bruneau, Anjunabeats’ Label Executive:
“YouTube is one of the main platforms where consumers stream music, especially younger audiences. Having a great content strategy means more people will find your music, play your music, and hopefully buy your music. And while they’re streaming they’re earning you revenue too. With the boom of streaming in 2014 with Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio and of course YouTube Music, this is a key platform you can’t afford to ignore.”
So, marketing possibilities on YouTube relate to:
- Up-selling / creating a D2C sales hub
- Artist creativity
- Fan relationships
- Developing A Strategy
To develop a content strategy, work on tying in your on-YouTube goals to your off-YouTube goals.
“An artist that is about to go on tour should release videos that further their tour, reminding the audience where they will be and when they will be there. A label on the other hand is juggling release schedules for several artists and tours. The label should be producing art tracks (videos with still image and audio), lyric videos, and official music videos, with a focus on upcoming releases.”
Should established and new artists create different kinds of content on YouTube? Yes, according to Laura Bruneau:
“The most important distinction between an established artist and a new artist is the size of their current audience. If you have an established artist with a big audience, you can focus on creating more ambitious and interactive YouTube experiences. For example, live-streaming or Google+ Hangouts On Air are examples of content that I would recommend more for established artists than a new artist, as you know you have sufficient numbers for your audience to be engaged in a live event. For a new artist, you need to build their personality on the channel alongside their brand. A good way to do this is to create a fan-led, pre-recorded interview series like our ‘Tea With Anjuna’ series, where fans are encouraged to send in questions for the artist via social media in the run-up to filming, and then the questions are posed to the artist on camera. That way, you’re ensuring that the questions asked are what people really want to know about and it makes your audience feel involved. Interviews are also a great way for artists to put across their personalities in a relaxed and enjoyable environment and plug (in a non-salesy way) what they’ve got coming up.”
What kind of content do you want to create? The possibilities are endless. Content types span:
- Documentary: self-shooting, artist POV mobile footage, interviews / pieces to camera
- Live: gigs / rehearsal footage
- Promo: lyric videos and full blown promos
Here’s a checklist of content that artists and labels should and could be creating and curating on a regular basis:
- Official music videos / release videos
- Audio uploads of music with a static visual (aka ‘art videos’)
- Live performances
- Lyric videos
- Behind the scenes (which could be anything from a ‘day in the life of’ to a tour video diary or the making of your latest music video)
- Breaking news announcements (e.g. a new album/single/tour, or a big milestone)
- Interviews including fan led
- Video press kits promoting your latest album/single/tour
- Fan-generated videos
- Google+ Hangouts on Air
- Live-streaming (archive-able streaming may be necessary across different timezones)
- Episodic events
Cost and complexity range from free and easy to expensive and professional. As Jon Baltz says, “Not every video has to be an official music video with a big budget; syncing your music to what you film with your smartphone out of a train window can be just as effective.”
It’s also worth bearing in mind that building engagement doesn’t always mean having to create new content; curating playlists is a great way to mark yourself out as a tastemaker, and will keep your homepage looking fresh and interesting with regular content. Updating your subscriber feed is also key, as Jeremy Rosen advises:
“It’s possible for your subscribers to see when your channel likes, favourites, adds to playlists, or comments. Scheduling this activity to, say, promote a video from a band you’re touring with or a crazy viral video can help keep you at the top of your audience’s mind.”
- Content Scheduling
- Content and Channel Optimisation
- Measures of Success
The days of aiming to create a one-hit ‘viral’ on YouTube as a marketing strategy are long gone. These days it’s more helpful to think of YouTube as your own TV channel. Think of content as programming – and not programming for an album cycle, but a 12-month content cycle.
It’s essential to create a programming schedule and produce regular content to drive subscribers, repeat views and watch time, and to give subscribers a reason to return to your channel. As Zac Vibert, Hospital Records’ Head of Digital, puts it:
“If you look at the traditional TV model, scheduling is a big part of it – and YouTube is no different. Have content that viewers can come to expect and look forward to. It is important to have regular content uploads, but also make sure you prioritise quality over quantity!”
Jeremy Rosen advises: “At a minimum, there should be one piece of video content posted to your channel each month. Try to keep it a consistent day of the month, like every third Thursday, and publicise that fact. For a label these would typically be music videos or lyric videos. An individual artist would probably have a short monthly update or Hangout on Air scheduled. You could also consider publishing music on a regular basis or come up with an episodic concept you’ll be able to pull off consistently (like “My Top 5 Listens This Month).”
Laura Bruneau makes an important point about programming unreleased content: “YouTube is a great way to preview unreleased material to your audience – plus your content is monetised and preview content makes it much easier to automatically remove unauthorised 3rd party use of your content. However, it is important to mix up this regular standard content with things like interviews, behind the scenes content and music videos so that your audience does not get bored. I would suggest at least 1 piece of non-release video content per month, or more if you have the time/budget.”
Different types of artist need to cater to their respective audiences when it comes to content programming, according to Jon Baltz: “More established artists have the luxury of being able to widely space out their content because every time they release something people will jump on it. New artists are in the exact opposite situation; they need to be putting out new content constantly, at least once a week. The goal of releasing videos for a new artist should be growing an audience organically. Producing a viral hit is great, but a viral hit is most valuable when it generates views on older content – that makes fans.”
At Midem, INDMusic also recommended scheduling 6-8 pieces of content to support an ‘activity’ – be it announcing a tour, releasing a single, planning a hangout etc.
Content and channel optimisation
It’s not just about what kind of content you create or how often you upload it; if you don’t optimise your content properly, it won’t get the views or subscribers that you’re aiming for. Remember that YouTube is one giant search engine and, as Zac Vibert advises, “Never underestimate the importance of good data!”
Keywords are the most important factor in making your content easily searchable, so always ensure that your video titles, descriptions, links, annotations, tags and thumbnails are optimised. In addition, use tools like playlisting and in-video programming in order to link your viewers to related content and keep them viewing videos within your channel.
Laura Bruneau points out that monetisation is another key factor: “Other people will be exploiting your catalogue so it’s essential that you are too! Make sure that you have claims set up on your audio so that you are monetising 3rd party content. You might not realise how valuable this is, but the bulk of our YouTube income at Anjuna comes from other people using our songs, rather than our own uploads.”
Collaborate with your fans: YouTube is one of the most powerful social networks in the world, so focus on building up and engaging your community on YouTube. Tailor your content around the likes/dislikes/needs of your viewers, engage with them and evolve your content strategy accordingly. Consider creating video content to answer the questions/comments of your fans instead of another blog post, tweet or Facebook post.
Zac Vibert advises: “Make YouTube the central hub for your music/artists, and create a community feel to your channel. If you want to build a good following, try to prioritise your channel and make sure you upload your music to YouTube first.”
Collaborate with your peers: artists and labels should also look into creating collaborations with fellow musicians and music networks in order to reach new audiences and cross-promote content across a wider channel network. As Jeremy Rosen suggests, “Consider approaching YouTube creators to help you. There may be a vlogger or episodic series on YouTube which fits your fans, your style, or are simply fans themselves. Some of the best videos on YouTube have been collaborations between channels and the value in cross-promotion is a no-brainer. Consider it product placement, with you as the product.”
Measures of success
How will you know if your content strategy is delivering the right results? If you don’t measure it, it’s not marketing. YouTube Analytics gives you a detailed insight into what content is and isn’t helping you achieve your YouTube objectives. Check Analytics regularly and keep an eye on not just numbers of views, but also subscribers, watch time, engagement and so on. You can then adjust your content strategy accordingly.
And as a final note, the YouTube Music Playbook PDF is one of the best guides to the platform that there is, so use it to your advantage.
Time to get creative…your fans are waiting!
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Radar Music Video
YouTube Statistics (YouTube.com)
YouTube Multi-Channel Networks 101 (YouTube.com)
YouTube Creators Hub
PDF-YouTube Playbook Guide:Music (11MB download)
YouTube, BPI and INDMusic talk Online Music Video Strategies (#Midem) (Musically.com)