Facebook's Erik Giusti on how emerging artists can reach fans during the pandemic

Facebook's Erik Giusti on how emerging artists can reach fans during the pandemic

While Covid-19 has devastated the live business and put plenty of debut album releases on hold, digital platforms have clearly opened up new opportunities for artists.

With a lockdown in place across England, livestreams are set to be a key part of artist campaigns going into 2021, with recent successes including Niall Horan and Kylie Minogue.

But what about emerging artists? Here, Erik Giusti, music partnerships lead, EMEA at Facebook, opens up about the opportunities and shares his tips for acts on Facebook and Instagram… 

How have new and emerging artists used Facebook Live and Instagram Stories during the pandemic?

“Given the effects Covid-19 has had on the music industry in the UK and abroad, we’ve been inspired to see artists and performers innovate in new ways on Facebook and Instagram to stay connected with fans – from livestreams to hosted Q&As, and much more. The generosity of this industry, committed to keeping people entertained, has been heartwarming and a welcome respite from people struggling with lockdowns around the world.  

“What we’ve noticed on our platforms is that artists have been increasingly creative when it comes to how they speak to their fans – utilising tools such as Live, Stories, Watch, and IGTV – with musicians finding new possibilities for creation and community building. While established artists with larger fanbases were able to harness the power of their communities to find success – take Gary Barlow’s hugely popular collaborative video series The Crooner Sessions, which amassed over 100 million views – what we saw with emerging artists specifically was a willingness to step outside traditional platform uses to create unique moments that helped attract attention from new audiences. For example, L Devine’s Not IRL But URL virtual tour and Tom Grennan’s at home cover series, who both saw on average a 47% increase in follower growth during lockdown periods.

“During the pandemic, fans felt closer than ever before to their musical idols, thanks to the unprecedented access these artists gave and boundaries they were willing to break down to ensure meaningful connection. As musicians continue to evolve their social media strategies, it’s clear this artist-fan relationship will only continue to get stronger.”

What kind of impact have artists had on platforms during this time?

“The intimate and experimental nature of new and emerging artists engaging with their fanbases at such a personal level, has resulted in a huge uptick in their overall engagement, video views, reach and follower growth. For example, Freddie Long, who was due to tour this year, channeled his creativity onto Facebook and did at-home gigs using different virtual backgrounds to represent the cities he was due to visit – he saw a 925% increase in Facebook video views in a two-month period. But alongside increases in video views, we also saw these artists substantially grow their followers – Penelope Isles, for example, saw an 88% follower growth rate when she used Stories and Live to give fans a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the recording of a new album.

“And it’s not just emerging artists – likewise, we’ve seen established artists generate huge impact not only in their engagement and entertainment of fans, but also in raising money and awareness of causes throughout the pandemic through their Live or pre-recorded videos. Take Frank Turner, who streamed a live gig on his Facebook page to raise funds for his crew who will now be struggling with income given the cancelled shows; or David Guetta raising over $1 million for Covid-19 relief through United At Home. Artists have an ability to spread happiness with their communities through music – all while encouraging safety and responsibility during a time of global crisis.”

What have been the best ways to maximise the reach and engagement?

“The best ways for artists to find continued success on our platforms is by staying active, which we consider around one feed post, at least five stories per day on both Facebook and Instagram, as well as liking and responding to comments, and through showcasing their authentic personalities. In terms of maximising reach through video, typically artists who are regularly sharing creative episodic content, whether live or pre-produced, see incredible results in engagement and views as fans appreciate having new, reliable sources of content they could continuously come back to.

“We also encourage artists to try out our newest products and features as we roll them out, especially music-focused products like Stickers & Lyrics Experimentation is a way of seeing how their fans respond to new music, and to capitalise additional discoverability opportunities. Today, we’re seeing artists get imaginative with our latest Instagram update, Reels – a new short-form video tool from Instagram – and we’re excited to see how artists and their fans engage with new tracks through this feature.”

As musicians continue to evolve their social media strategies, it’s clear this artist-fan relationship will only continue to get stronger

Erik Giusti

What tools can artists employ to boost their livestream activity?

“The best ways for music artists to encourage engagement and viewership for Live broadcasts is to create tune-in moments and build buzz using all possible surfaces such as Feed and Stories to promote in advance. They could also utilise our Events feature which has now expanded to allow people to host online-only events on the platform which allows fans to RSVP for your Live moment. In addition, artists should make sure the livestream is long enough for people to join while also engage with fans directly through comments. In fact, Facebook Live content generates on average six times as many interactions and 10 times as many comments than regular video posts. Also, artists should not feel afraid to trim and share the best moments from their livestream across Feed and Stories after it has ended. This gives the opportunity for fans globally, who may have missed the original live time, to see the content for the first time.

“During lockdown periods, we saw a tremendous increase in uses of our Live products from music artists and their fans watched more content than ever before. For UK and Ireland artists, we saw a 90% increase in the amount of Live streams on Facebook with a 75% increase and 51% increase in total interactions and Live views, respectively. Live is also a great opportunity to raise awareness and contributions to causes of importance. We always say that a fan is interested in whatever an artist is passionate about and artists should use their voices for causes important to them.”

What kind of content is most popular with audiences?

“Music fans will always be attracted to content that feels authentic and comes directly from the artist. Music fans are smart and can weed out overly-produced or overly-promotional content almost immediately. Therefore, it’s important for artists to use the platforms just like a regular user would so fans can feel there’s a personal connection. 

“What we’ve seen over the pandemic is that fans are drawn to content that shows their favorite musicians like they’ve never seen them before - stripped back and within the same circumstances as them. In addition, feel good content that distracted from devastating new cycles were popular including MNEK’s lighthearted short-form a capella Corona EP series and House Gospel Choir’s uplifting virtual performance videos.”

What are the opportunities to monetise live streams?

“We're continuously working to build a comprehensive solution for monetisation of music that reflects the needs of artists. The latest update was the introduction of Stars in April, which at the height of the pandemic, allowed fans to support the artists they love by buying a bundle of Stars and sending them directly to a performer or creator during Live videos. The performers in turn earn money from Facebook for the Stars they receive, and can engage more personally with the fans supporting them. 

“In addition to Live monetisation, we’ve also made improvements to our branded content and shopping experiences, which are accessible to artists to sell merchandise or partner with third parties to complement their main revenue streams.”

Will artists continue to embrace these platforms when live music returns, how can it complement touring?

“Facebook and Instagram have always been the best tools for artists to share their stories and reach the widest audience possible. Tools like Live have gone on to truly re-shape the industry during the uncertainty of in-person events. But through all the chaos, one thing that hasn’t stopped is an artist’s ability to build relationships with fans. As the industry and our platforms continue to evolve, engaging with fans both virtually and physically is a must.”

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