Viewpoint: Sammy Andrews on the social media content wars

Sammy Andrews

In her latest digital column for Music Week, Deviate Digital CEO Sammy Andrews tackles the rapidly-changing social media landscape, and the implications it has for the world of music marketing. Try and keep up...

My columns here are only a month apart, but in 2020 the amount of chaos and change that can happen in that time is quite incredible. Here, I want to look at something very interesting that’s going on right now across the board in the social media and video content world. And it most certainly impacts the music business and the way you need to work across marketing.

Much has changed lately. TikTok got banned in India as part of a mass wipeout of Chinese owned apps, this resulted in rival app Triller soaring to the top of the app charts there. Influencers across the platform took note, as did labels and managers who piled in, although some had been there for a long time already. On top of that, Donald Trump also threatened to ban TikTok in the US and has somehow managed to plant a seed about Microsoft buying them out there.

This whole thing is every bit as mad as it sounds, yet influencers nevertheless started pushing people to Instagram. What’s more, Facebook released music videos on the platform after what I gather was a very lengthy negotiation with the music business. I suspect this is far from the end of that offering. They have also now released Reels, a direct, timely, TikTok competitor that lives within their existing app Instagram that could steal an entire generation back into the fold.

TikTok also announced a new app on Amazon Fire, ‘More On TikTok’, and Amazon announced that you can now link your artist Twitch channel to an artist Amazon Music profile. Add to this the seemingly endless slew of livestreams across all platforms and we have quite a serious content war on the go. And I haven’t even uttered the words Snapchat, VK or Twitter yet. On top of all this, we’ve seen some licensing deals ushered in across many platforms, though some, sadly, remain entirely unlicensed at the time of writing, which is something the industry widely needs to sort out – especially from the giants who I see as having no excuse to be operating in such a way.

Is everyone keeping up? This all happened in a matter of weeks. By the time you read this, I suspect there will have been even more developments. There are some seismic changes going on across a number of platforms right now: they’re all after the Gen Z audience land grab and they’re all utilising music and artists to do it. But all of this moving and shaking about requires serious thought when it comes to content plans.

Please hear me loud and clear when I say you can no longer employ a social team and pay them bugger all. If you need a proper strategy for all the platforms you’re on, and ways to help utilise existing platforms to build on others, hire professionals and pay them. Never underestimate the power of a good socials team. I am honestly shocked to hear some of the deals being offered to people in this space – some of these fees in music haven’t changed for over a decade! This despite it being a main route to market nowadays. Madness.

Long before Covid-19, I wrote about the smart labels and managers we work with who understand how important content creation is in our digital world. Sadly, I am also wary that, owing to outdated practices and perceptions, many new bands and new managers still throw an entire content budget at a music video which is, in my opinion, dying on its arse as a format in the modern world. Ask yourself this, dear reader: how many music videos do you watch a week that aren’t part of your work?

We have a serious content war on the go

Sammy Andrews

I know of brands setting aside £1 million for content creation on a product cycle, and labels setting aside £100k for content creation for a single campaign cycle. However, I also know of labels setting aside sweet fuck all for content creation and putting costs for that back onto artists to maintain what is now a full-time job keeping up with the content churn to drive engagement.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I want to offer up some advice amid the flurry of land grabs and announcements. Do not move your audience around too often, but keep an eye on these daily changes. Listen to your social teams, they understand the direct impact on engagement rates and will be able to help you strategise through these mad times. Know who you are talking to and where you are talking to them: if you expect a multi-platform campaign, make sure you are actually working with your social team to achieve this and are not expecting rabbits to be pulled from imaginary hats.

You should also know who should be paying for content creation. Create content appropriately. Budget for content appropriately. Pay your teams properly. Pay properly for content creation. This stuff doesn’t magically make itself! Do not ignore the power of engagement and perseverance. Build amazing content banks to last you a whole campaign. Check who is licensing properly and join the growing chorus of voices to question those who aren’t. And, dear reader, always read the small print. 

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