Viewpoint: Deviate Digital's Sammy Andrews on content creation

Viewpoint: Deviate Digital's Sammy Andrews on content creation

Following the overwhelming reaction to my last Music Week column on influencer marketing, I want to dig in a little more. This time, I’m talking content, as so many of you reached out to ask about it. It’s changed marketing as we know it over the last 15 years but, for reasons that I simply don’t understand, our industry has been very slow to adapt their marketing budget models to accommodate this fact.

In years gone by, labels wouldn’t have batted an eyelid about dropping anywhere between £100,000 and £1 million on a single music video. But nowadays, the idea of ploughing a reasonable sum into engaging, multi-format content seems utterly lost on some labels. Instead, there’s often pushback onto artists to “be creative” on socials.

Now, there is certainly call for that. If you want successful campaigns on socials, the content needs to feel real and from the artist, and they need to be maintaining that themselves. But if you want to weave promo, the album and tracks into that mix, you need specific content too and, as a label, you need to contribute to that. According to the responses I received to my last article, some of you still seem happy financing huge global superstars who arguably don’t need the extra cash for this, but many fall short on investing in up-and-coming artists.

So, this month I want to have a look at what kind of content is important; why streaming services are investing big in their own content; the downfalls of Netflix investing so much in theirs; and why our industry on the whole hasn’t quite got it yet… But needs to, and quick!

Let me start with a very direct call to label bosses and project managers. When you come to your internal digital teams and external agencies asking them to run amazing marketing campaigns for three to 12 months please understand that yes, they absolutely can. But only if you allow budgets for content creation. If you want to understand the frustration myself and many others have here, go and type “client brief vs client budget” into any search bar, then ask yourself: “Am I that person?” If you are, facepalm for a moment, then please take note...

The amount of content involved in campaigns these days is vast. It’s the main driving force for all of your online marketing activity yet, on the whole, labels don’t seem to want to invest the money and time required to build the content banks the digital age requires.

Many brands, on the other hand, do get it, I know of at least one UK High Street brand that allocated £30m for content creation for 12 months alone.

There are other heavyweight content investments too. Spotify bought Gimlet Media and Anchor lately, causing a huge wave of investment in podcast production companies with backers betting on similar sales going forward. And they’re right to do so. It’s a potentially huge income stream for the streaming services, and audio content is showing real traction with listeners worldwide. The industry also needs to embrace these routes to market and promotion. Some podcasts have more listeners globally than major TV shows and those ears are most certainly as approachable as eyeballs, especially as we see smart speaker sales soaring.

There are some though that have fallen temporarily foul of their own content creation drives… Netflix has been in the media a lot lately owing to its spiralling debt, which many folks are sure is down to original content expenses. This, coupled with certain brands pulling their content, has left Netflix pumping vast sums into original content to survive any slumps in subscribers. I will say openly that I think Netflix will prevail ultimately though and, given that Spotify CFO Barry McCarthy is ex-Netflix you can be sure they’re looking at the potential long-term ROI there.

So, in summary, do reach out to streaming services for innovative ways to utilise spoken word and video content. Do try new things and experiment with content ideas. Do invest in spoken word content and a variety of multi-format and multi-platform video, both organic and paid.

And do work with managers on finding content budgets and the best way to support your artists’ creation of said content, and with brands, influencers and managers on content ideas and collaborations.

But don’t expect your digital teams and external agencies to work miracles if you’ve budgeted pennies. Don’t expect your artists and managers to absorb all responsibility and costs for content creation. And don’t deliver a basic video, packshot and artist image and think that’s enough. It isn’t!

* Sammy Andrew's Music Week digital column appears in the first issue of each month. To subscribe and never miss a vital music biz story, click here.

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