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How Google And Search Engine Optimisation Changed The Music Industry

I recently had to write an essay about the influence that google has had on the music industry. Unlike the majority of my assignment I found this topic quite interesting and I thought I might share (an edited version of it) with you…

Technological Developments
There are many technological developments within the last ten years that have changed the way we interact and consume media. Developments such as facebook, twitter, (myspace), tumblr and youtube have emerged and have become an integral part of how society interacts. However, one of the crucial elements that is often overlooked is the impact that google has on how things spread and the content that is consumed.
Brief History of Google and SEO
Culturally, google has become a part of our everyday lives with terms such as “just google it” becoming common knowledge. Music is now in the hands of the artist and the fans. Arguably, the media of today has evoked a new culture, where the audience has become a creative and interactive community (especially on youtube). However, behind this system, is the algorithm of how google organises and sorts through the multitude of data available on the internet and attempts to bring up the most relevant information first. As of April 2012 google has changed its system and the new and updated SEO system is called Penguin; Penguin is designed to stop company’s, blogs and websites from cheating the system by over optimising their websites.

Importance of google

In the business world, there is no doubt that being ranked higher on google is a big deal. It means more exposure, the potential for more income and it can generate more publicity that is needed to built your market and your brand. In the realm of music, there is no difference. Google is now the gatekeeper as to whether content (songs) becomes popular or not. For example, if an artist writes a song about a topic that is highly searched at the time, it has the potential to rank higher in the google system.

SEO and its impact on the web

Looking closer at how SEO has changed the value of music that is consumed, there has been a major shift from music being about quality, to it being about entertainment. For example Rebecca Black became a global sensation on youtube in 2011 because of her song ‘Friday.’ The song became popular because of its ‘entertainment value.’ It is also undeniable that SEO had a huge impact on her success. Even in June 2012, being more then 12 months since its release, when the word ‘friday’ is searched in google, Rebecca Black and her song is number 3 in the results. Moreover, this shows that when content is ranked higher in google it has a significant impact on that quality and value of the content that is consumed. Therefore, because of a shift on how media is consumed, the ‘entertainment factor’ of content has never been so important in what becomes popular; it is no longer about quality.
In another example, youtube artist Wade Johnston did a cover of “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz in 2008. Johnston states in an interview that this video was successful because of search engine algorithms. As a result he received millions of views and tens-of-thousands of subscribers to his youtube channel making him an instant youtube celebrity.
This system, by default, has an impact on the quality of music that is consumed; instead of there being major budgets to sign and to develop new artists, this has been replaced with the advent of youtube and google. Ultimately google has control over the content, how people engage with music and the music that people have access to digitally.

But is this a good thing? Or a bad thing? I feel that any organisation that has too much control over the system and of our lives is by no means a good thing. But so far I think google has done a pretty good job and has been quite democratic in how it operates. What are your thoughts on this topic? I’d love to have your input.



By Stephen Carmichael

You can visit Stephen online at: 

Stephen is a 21 year old Australian artist and songwritter. His music and fashion sense is reminisient of New Wave 80s.


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    How Google And Search Engine Optimisation Changed The Music Industry - MTT - Music Think Tank

Reader Comments (12)

Your two examples of SEO come from YouTube, where the uploader can't do any real optimizing.

June 6 | Unregistered Commenterbjza

A couple of things.

First, Google's search algorithm is tweaked to give you results that are relevant. We don't all get the same search results. For instance, "Friday" by Rebecca Black doesn't show up at all for me when I search, but the movie "Friday" does. Probably because I've visited more hip hop sites and I've never seen the Black video.

This isn't just if you log in to Google's services. They keep track of your IP address, so even if you clear cookies and cache, Google is tracking you by your IP address every time you search for something. And they certainly are cross-referencing that with your emails sent through Gmail, and the map results you search, and anything else you do with Google services from that IP address.

This is why Google doesn't like Facebook blocking Google's bots. If Google could match your FB to your IP, then they'd be able to serve you 'better' ads and better know which results to eliminate from your searches.

Second, being at the top of Google search results is only useful if you operate at large scale. Big companies fight, or more often pay, for their sites to show at the top of searches for generic things like "shoes" or "jeans" or "peanut brittle." If you're a band, you're not playing the same game. You have no hope of being the top result in a search for "music." It's more important to make sure you have proper tags on your personal web page so that when someone searches for "rock band in Picayune" or "Michigan trip hop," your results show up. It's less important to dominate one search term than it is to come up for many different search terms. As an analogy: you're not going to get your new demo at the top of the Billboard charts, but you might be able to get 100 college radio stations to play it.

In any scenario, though, SEO is highly overrated for bands. People don't just randomly enter search terms into Google when they're looking for new music. They take recommendations from friends primarily, and check out 'legitimate' music blogs like Pitchfork, etc.

SEO, in my opinion, is most important in one situation: you play a live show, and someone in the audience really likes the set, but they have to leave before the end and didn't catch the name of your band (you did remember to tell people the name of your band while you were on stage, right?! Three times?), so the next day they search for the venue name and the date of the show and maybe a lyric to one of your songs. You want to make sure you can be easily found in that case. So, be sure you list shows with standard date format with venue details somewhere on your site. Don't eliminate past shows from your "show list." Post your lyrics.

Basically, think about being easily found by people who are already looking for you. Anything else is basically crossing your fingers and hoping some idiot falls @$$-backwards into your site and is suddenly all like, "I'm gonna buy something!" It doesn't happen like that.

June 6 | Unregistered CommenterFS

I've been trying to convince musicians for years that content marketing needs to be a MAJOR part of their web strategy, because they can obtain new fans by getting traffic from Google (if they know the techniques to get content ranked high in results).

"SEO is highly overrated for bands" - I beg it differ, you're just not thinking about it in the right mindset. Of course you're not going to rank for "music" or very basic keywords. The opportunity is in the long tail, constantly creating content and building hundreds or thousands of pages of keyword rich content that relates to your band or music or style.

Imagine people searching for a review of a specific distortion pedal and learning more about your music in the process. Or you write an article about a B-Side single from a famous band that no one is talking about. I could go on an on coming up with ideas. No one is really doing it, most musicians don't "get it" or are to lazy to blog on a regular basis. One of these days a savvy musician will listen to me and get to work building awesome informative content from their blog to engage their audience and they'll see some benefits from SEO as they build this content.

June 6 | Unregistered Commenterevolvor

I agree that there is creative possibilty in the long-tail phrases, and if you know what you're doing you can find a few good keywords and rank for them. That's why i'm on the first page out of over 30million+ pages for singer songwriter producer, and .

But while i agree that for most bands, focusing on SEO is not a huge priority, there is some real benefit to understanding keyword research and basic seo if they are going to be marketing themselves online and blogging for any length of years in the future.

There are tons of clever keywords and longtail phrases that can produce longterm little traffic streams, simply out of knowing some of the fundamentals, and setting up your pages the right way. Those streams could add up to hundreds and thousands of people every day that you can get on your email list.

You can segment them from your "live fans," and in addition to your basic email newsletter and show/updates stuff, you can find out what they want and promote offers.

Now you have a whole separate stream of income that compounds in size and interest over time.

I think that's the real opportunity bands and SEO for those who have a little more tech savvy, and a desire to learn a very high leverage skill that will serve them for a long time.

Otherwise, stick to playing shows, building relationships with bloggers/podcasters/other bands, emailing your list and if you have extra time after you've created quality content go spend a coupe hours learning keyword research and then apply that.

There are really only two pieces, on page optimization (title tags, keywords, anchor text, etc. and links pointing your pages, from other sites that essentially "vote your pages."


Jamie Leger

June 7 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Leger

Well, in 2000 Google was fine but these days they facilitate copyright infringement; they commit copyright infringement on YouTube and drag their feet over DMCAs; they lobby against copyright; they facilitate access to infringing material and earn money on advertising for it; their search results are cooked and they are much less OK.

And here's a blog about why I dropped web site SEO (Incidentally it has done my traffic no harm… that keeps going up.)

I would say the usefulness of SEO (which basically became Google optimisation) is tailing off these days. Of course loads of people do it for a job so I don't expect them to agree but the results speak for themselves. Sure, a lot of people have got themselves onto page one… but what does that mean businesswise?

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Sorry Rob, i don't mean to sound rude, but that is an utterly ridiculous reason to say that SEO is becoming useless. I can see you don't know much about what you are talking about here, so im not going to argue, i just don't want people to be misinformed...

SEO is about TWO doing two things - Labeling your pages correctly to optimize being found and ranked in the search engines.

And building links back to your site and individual pages to rank and be found in the search engines.

Getting traffic and doing SEO right, all starts with keyword selection.

It's not a question of "usefulness," because, why wouldn't you do it? Of course, label your pages correctly and optimize for any keywords that you could pick off...

In terms of what that means "business-wise," it means you have to track and find out. If there is no return then you are either not targeting the right keywords, and/or your conversion sucks.

Again, the takeaway for all those who read this is, if you don't know SEO yet, just go and learn keyword research and some basic SEO. Go read the guide on SEOmoz for beginners and then start to get creative with keywords and over time you will drive traffic to your website forever.

June 9 | Unregistered CommenterJamie Leger

I agree with the above article, Knowledge about internet seo optimization and promotion is probably the most efficient way to get your music brand out there into the scene. I am in a band and also produce beats on the side. Right now I would like to earn an income by selling beats but I'm still learning about how to drive traffic to my site. This stuff is a lot more complicated than it looks. Check out my site and let me know what you think!

June 11 | Unregistered Commentertssmooth

Excellent to see some informed commentary from people who've thought a little about the relevance of SEO to the music business. That's a topic I'm really curious about, and I think that more and more independent musicians are starting to get the memo.

Agreed that a direct SEO approach of the type that FS is talking about probably isn't going to move the needle for many bands. I surveyed my fans recently and asked how many of them used Google to find out about new music. The answer? Zero.

However, the kind of longtail approach that Jamie mentions, and the lateral thinking evolvor mentioned seem a lot more promising. If you're an Americana act from San Francisco, and you spend some time putting together a properly SEO'd blog post offering useful information on the Top 10 Americana clubs/venues in Northern California, well:

a) you're probably going to rank for that, and,
b) a fair number of your readers will probably click through to find out who the hell has just bestowed such excellent information upon them.

This just seems like a topic where the surface has barely been scratched. Would love to hear more ideas for post topics, posting venues, etc. Evolvor?

June 12 | Unregistered CommenterMike B.

Ask most musicians what they love about their main passion in life. Getting others to listen to their songs surely comes out on top so getting to the top of google is essential!

@evolvor has it right!

scroll back up and read his comment if you havent already.

June 13 | Unregistered CommenterMartin

I agree with you 100% that the music industry has been hugely impacted by Google, and there are many examples on top of the two you mentioned. If you know about YouTube than you already know that is the child of Google, so we can say that a successful YouTube video is successful in the Google search engine. Google uses keywords in it's YouTube videos, and those videos with certain keywords get indexed in the search engine.

For example I have a YouTube video that because of the key word hip hop beats, I have seen increased traffic. Now I believe that a video popularity boost how Google sees the video as relevant to a specific key word, and that if Google sees a video as being relevant to a certain keyword, that video will see an increase in traffic / popularity.

One example that comes to my mind is Soulja Boy. Using YouTube he became a hiphop sensation over night. I believe He had to have some knowledge of how to properly use keywords in order to get his videos viewed by his intended audience.

Great article Stephen, glad you choose to write this essay and share it with us.


July 2 | Unregistered CommenterMr. Hiphop

Great tips and I love the way you have described it in detail, thanks for sharing....As an good Internet marketing strategy, SEO considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience. Optimizing a website may involve editing its content and HTML and associated coding to both increase its relevance to specific keywords and to remove barriers to the indexing activities of search engines. Promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links, is another SEO tactic.

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