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Effective Music Advertising

When it comes to music and advertising, there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution.  What works for some artists will not work for others, and vice versa.  However here’s one thing I can tell you for sure: too many artists are using advertising as a blunt force weapon.  Simply dropping a picture of yourself, your band, or your album art into an ad unit and then indiscriminately campaigning nationwide for clicks will rarely generate the advertising ROI you need to justify spending on another campaign.  

Based upon my own experiences and upon the numerous campaigns I have reviewed over the last year, I believe artists should 1) commit to running numerous test-trial campaigns prior to allocating the majority of their advertising spend to a single message, and 2) seriously consider which geographic targeting option (local, regional, or nationwide) will generate the immediate ROI artists need to justify a continuous investment in advertising.

For test campaigns, if you want to compare click results between campaigns, plan on spending at least $100 to generate 30 to 40 clicks per test campaign.  Campaign costs and results will vary widely between advertising platforms.  Test a matrix of targeting options, artwork, songs, messages and propositions to determine which combination outperforms all the others.

Are you a local, regional, or nationwide advertiser?

The answer to this most-important question depends on 1) your career goals, 2) your niche, and, 3) your evolving status as an artist that may (or may not) be attempting to obtain widespread recognition.  For most, jumping the rails and attempting to become a nationwide advertiser prior to achieving local and then regional success is an advertising investment mistake.  

When you progress from being a local, to a regional, to a nationwide advertiser you accumulate essential messaging signals that enable you to effectively telegraph a value proposition that music fans will instantly recognize as deliverable.  Let me explain…

Messaging signals help advertisers cut through the noise.  For example, car manufacturers love to blow their horns about the awards their cars have received because it strengthens their messaging.  Ditto for restaurants, hotels and coffee.  Signals that instantly communicate trust, value and quality convert more frequently into consumer actions (e.g.: clicks).

Effectively telegraphing a message translates into achieving enough return on your advertising investment to perpetually advertise.  

Delivering a value proposition that music fans instantly recognize as deliverable equates to communicating (I can deliver the goods) believability versus the same old bullshit fans see and hear everywhere.

Consider the following roughed out ad campaign examples for further clarification:

A Local Advertising Campaign Example:

Campaign goal: Increase my Thursday night audience size from 50 to 100 people.  Value proposition: Meet people similar to yourself and have a great time on Thursday night.  Messaging: Great food, great people, great music (briefly described), no cover charge.  Featured photo or video: Attractive shots of the sample audience that also take in the room setting and the performing artist; focus is on the audience and the venue and not on the artist.  Targeting: within 20 miles of the venue.  Notes: The venue should pay for or subsidize this type of campaign.  The campaign is about selling a great evening out with compatible humans; the artist takes a back seat to the event (the evening).

A Regional Advertising Campaign Example:  
Campaign goals: Generate regional awareness; increase music and ticket sales.  Value proposition: Discover new but proven, vetted, quality music.  Messaging: Award wining artist (list accolades and awards), selling out at (name venues), is releasing new music and coming to (name areas).  Featured photo or video: Close up of the artist; rotate to jam-packed venue / live performance shots.  Targeting: Regional areas where you will be touring soon; keyword targeting for fans of artists that have fans that could also become your fans.  Notes: Notice how excelling locally gives the advertiser the opportunity to insert essential messaging signals (believable bullets and great crowd shots) that enable the artist to effectively telegraph a value proposition that music fans will instantly recognize as deliverable.

A National Advertising Campaign Example:  

This is a campaign for an artist that has already obtained significant mass-market exposure.  Campaign goals: Inform/link preexisting fans about/to new music and about/to an upcoming tour.  Value proposition: The easy acquisition of music and entertainment from an artist that you already trust as a quality supplier.  Messaging: New music, new tour.  Featured photo or video: Artist logo and recognizable shots / footage.  Targeting: re-targeting of website visitors; keyword targeting for fans of artists that have fans that could also become your fans; regional advertising to a targeted demographic and a genre audience prior to visiting an area.  Note: Advertisers in this category may want to consider a re-targeting campaign where targeted display ads are repeatedly shown to previous visitors to the artist’s and the label’s website.  Re-targeting campaigns should be planned far in advance of any mass-market exposure such as a Saturday Night Live appearance.

Quick conclusion: The advice here does not apply to every artist. With niche artists being the exception, If you can’t fill local venues with fans, don’t worry about squeezing your logo and an iTunes link into every banner ad, and stop pushing pictures of yourself unless you’re hotter than the sun.  If you don’t have what I termed above as “essential messaging signals”, you will not be able to generate enough ROI to perpetually advertise.  Start small and think big.


Related Posts

Getting the music advertising ROI calculation correct…

Why Artists Need More Than The Social Web To Obtain Sustainable Engagement

Bruce Warila

Reader Comments (8)

Interesting post Bruce. The examples are excellent.

Just thinking about these headings when organising any gig or event would be a real step forward: goal (what you want to achieve as a result of doing a gig/event/tour/recording), value proposition (the value you will add to your fan's life), message (the highlights/added extras/reasons to come along) and target audience (who your event is aimed at). I'm sure thinking in this way will create a better return for all the time invested.

Eliza, The Fan Formula

Excellent post! I'm very glad to see the distinction being drawn between local, regional, and national acts.

December 6 | Unregistered CommenterM@

Great post as always Bruce. As you mention this is more oriented towards the mainstream artists than niche artists (of which I am one), but I do think appropriately targeted ad campaigns for shows & tours is something not done nearly enough by anyone. Why not have a two day campaign on Facebook for every city you hit on a tour going pay per click & pricing it so if two people come in the ad paid for itself? Even if no one clicks the ad (in which case you pay nothing) you may well make your name familiar enough to get someone to walk in the door for the bar you're playing in rather than the one across the street.

Good stuff, particularly the bits on messaging. An ad that merely shows the band standing in an alley looks like every other ho-hum band photo. An ad that shows an audience having a great time with the band in an awesome club makes me wonder what I'm missing out on.

December 7 | Unregistered Commenterscottandrew


This is a really great article. Your points about testing multiple campaigns and also picking your geographical reach are key. Not sure if you saw this, but I recently wrote an article that includes a ad targeting strategy for musicians that reaches fans of similar artists or their influences. I think your article extends and complements these concepts incredibly well.

Check out "IDEA 5 - Advertise Yourself to Fans of Similar Artists" in the following post

Thanks for the great feedback everyone. I will try to get to specific questions this weekend. Work has me pinned down this week. Anyone that wants to call me directly - please do. for contact details.

December 7 | Registered CommenterBruce Warila

Thanks Bruce! You've convinced me that I need to do more testing. Instead of figuring out which ads actually work, I've been content to go with the lowest CPC. Which I suppose is "working" in a sense. :)

December 8 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Hazard

I would like to thank for the efforts you’ve put in writing this blog.

December 13 | Unregistered CommenterMusic

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