More Than Music Videos

Developing a ‘More Pls’ YouTube content strategy for artists

Amber Horsburgh
Jun 4 · 5 min read

I write about music strategy via my fortnightly newsletter, Deep Cuts. Subscribe here: http://bit.ly/2yphFYx

Taylor Swift’s ME! music video

As a music marketing consultant, I spend a good chunk of my day working with artists and their teams to figure out how to make their music stick. The trend right now is to market at the distribution level — give content away to Apple or Spotify in hopes of playlisting, follow closely the best practices prescribed by Amazon or Pandora for support, work with SoundCloud on something creative etc.

While that’s all important stuff, the platform that’s most underleveraged and misunderstood by labels and artists is YouTube. Why?

YouTube accounted for 47% of all on-demand music streaming time in 2018 making it the largest single streaming platform.

In 2018, YouTube made up almost half of all on-demand streaming time. And in that same year, 95% of the most watched videos were music videos (source: Music Consumer Insights report, IFPI 2018).

While most music marketers and labels (in American at least) are hyper-focused on Spotify playlists, specifically getting on esteemed Spotify editorial playlists, they’re ignoring the big traffic play.

Spotify editorial playlists represent anywhere from 5–25% of an artists Spotify streams. Even if it’s the upper limit of 25%, that’s 1/4 of 1 streaming platform that you have very little if any control over so, basing a marketing campaign around that is risky and shortsighted.

Take YouTube representing 47% of streaming time, you’re talking bigger numbers. Getting the YouTube algorithm to work for you is a bigger opportunity for scale than blowing up a Spotify curator’s inbox to get on their list week in and out.

Our visual memory is more powerful than our auditory memory. Humans recall memories from images better than they do words. Visuals add a new sense for connection and narrative elements further emotionally hook a new listener.

If you have the option of introducing a new listener through video on YouTube vs. audio playlist, your ability to elicit memorability will happen through video every time.

Latin America is the fastest growing market for music consumption. Source: IFPI Global Music Report, 2019

Latin America was the fastest growing territory of music consumption in 2018, according to the IFPI 2019 report, and YouTube is the undisputed titan of the region: 68% of Mexican under-45's watch music videos on YouTube, outstripping even radio. The same year K-Pop artists saw 100 million streams France, Peru, Turkey, and Canada largely thanks to short-form video going viral. And in India, 225 million people used YouTube every month.

So, with that how do you actually succeed on YouTube? A combination of frequent publishing + diverse, engaging content.

The More Pls YouTube Content Strategy for Artists and Labels

More Pls video content strategy for artists leverages content known to work across interest verticals on YouTube to build a programming strategy beyond traditional music videos. Formats: Music, Observation, Reaction, Explanation, Provocation, Listicle, Statement.

The ‘More Pls’ YouTube content strategy is a framework of 7 video formats that create an insatiable pipeline of video to fuel artist growth

1) Music

Hero content to emotionally hook the listener to a specific track or project produced for promotional use.

  • Official asset
  • Performance element
  • Sets the mood
  • Aspirational

Official music video — visual images interpreting the lyrical content and themes of the song used to promote a single track.

Tommy Cash — X-Ray (Official Video)

Livestreams & sets — asset used to promote the live show and sell tickets to tour.

FKJ Live set at Salar De Uyuni for Cercle

Cover — artist performs track of another’s. Great covers are usually those where the new artist can outperform the vocal or arrangement of the original, breathing fresh air into a familiar track.

Billie Eilish covers Michael Jackson’s ‘Bad’ for Like A Version

Lyric video — official lyrics presented. Generally a more cost-effective solution to an official music video.

Marshmello ft. Khalid — Silence (Official Lyrics Video)

Visualizer — animated visual to accompany the song in place of static artwork for streaming purposes.

Kodak Black — Testimony (Visualizer)

2) Observation

Get people talking about the song or artist by creating controversy.

  • Subjective
  • Informative
  • Strong, singular viewpoint

Reviews — artist rates and/or critiques something familiar.

Joji & Sean Evans Review Japanese Snacks for First We Feast

Gossip — rumors, beef, scandals, and paparazzi to keep artists in headlines.

Taylor Swift speculation by a gossip news site

Conspiracy — extreme counter arguments on hot button issues.

Kanye West on the importance of “unprogramming” and breaking the matrix for the FADER

3) Reaction

Entertain audiences by leveraging popular culture.

  • Unscripted
  • Human nature
  • Speaks directly to viewer

Unboxing — detailed look at a product, i.e.: merch, vinyl, cassettes, and other physical packaging. Captures artist or fans first response.

Father John Misty unboxes his own vinyl of Pure Comedy release

Discovery — finding a new artist or song for the first time.

Pink reacts to BLACKPINK

First Listen — response to an anticipated release or artist.

Critic reacts to Lil Yacht x Lil Pump x Offset by P F / Dad Reacts

4) Explainer

Help existing fans or fans on the fence better understand the artist’s brand/lifestyle and music.

  • Artist talks directly to viewer
  • Simplifies complex subject matter

How to play — Geared towards hobbyist musicians and people interested in the technical aspects of popular music.

Artist breaks down the production, chords etc. of a track.

White Denim official video for ‘Had To Know’ with guitar tabs to play along

Or details their process for educational purposes while at the same time exposing their brilliance.

Armin van Buuren masterclass for Future Music

Choreography — teaches the viewer how to replicate dance moves in an official music video or performance.

BLACKPINK dance practice video for DDU-DU DDU-DU

Lyrics — meaning and symbolism behind lyrics.

YG ‘Go Loko’ Official Lyrics & Meaning

Get the look — shopping hauls to reproduce an artist’s fashion and/or beauty looks.

Rihanna’s Epic 10-Minute Guide to Going Out Makeup

5) Provocation

Provide insight into artist personality by entertaining the viewer.

  • Surprise
  • Viewer rooting for the artist
  • Physical, mental or emotional barrier

Ability — mental, physical or emotional challenge of a seemingly difficult task.

First We Feast challenges Offset to eat spicy wings while conducting an interview

Game — truth or dare, artist is given choice to complete.

Can Diplo Remember His Own Drops for BBC Radio 1

Competition — pitting 2 or more participants together to win something.

Charlie Puth on Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts for the Late Late Show With James Cordon

6) Listicle

Provides an entry point to the artist by providing a summary of the artist’s work or tying them to a wider, more accessible theme.

  • Summarizes
  • Subject matter spans wider than artist’s own world
  • Taps cultural trends

Best of’s/favorites — summarizes tracks into a mood, event or themed list.

Zedd Creates the Playlist of His Life for Teen Vogue

Haul — artist buys a bunch of things and explains why they like it.

Future Goes Sneaker Shopping for Complex

Compilations — multiple tracks curated for a theme or discography highlights.

Queen’s Greatest Hits in one hour-long video

7) Statement

Create an emotional connection to the artist by showing their perceived human side.

  • Interviewer and interviewee
  • Audience gains insight to little known things about a familiar subject matter
  • Human

Q+A — interviewer asks a set number of questions to investigate one or many storylines.

Kylie Jenner interviews Travis Scott for GQ

Behind the scenes — artist shows viewer the peek behind the curtain to a particular video, tour, home or love life, or shoot.

Beyoncé’s making of her Homecoming Coachella performance

For more information about YouTube strategies, I highly recommend Matt Gielen’s writing especially his Reverse Engineering the YouTube Algorithm pt.I and pt.II, which this post was inspired by.

Amber Horsburgh

Written by

Music marketing consultant. Downtown Records & Big Spaceship alumni. Writes about music, strategy and feels at Deep Cuts http://bit.ly/2yphFYx