Social Media Ads by Twenty One Pilots, Jason Isbell, and Matt Nathanson

Dan Servantes
Nov 13, 2018 · 7 min read

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” The Music Industry Swipe File highlights advertisements from three artists each month. We take a look under the hood at what notable artists (that are likely working with a label or marketing agency) are doing to promote themselves. The advertisements could be remarkable, horrible, or perfectly average.

Through this analysis, we’ll identify how every artist, regardless of their budget, can use these techniques for their own promotions.

This month, we take a look at a Reddit ad from Twenty One Pilots, a series of Facebook and Instagram ads for Jason Isbell’s new live album, and an Instagram story-optimized music video from Matt Nathanson.

Twenty One Pilots — Reddit Ad

In March 2017, Reddit revamped their self-serve advertising. Their ad platform is still young — video ads only launched a couple months ago. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, we can’t see all ads that any given account is running. I was quick to screenshot and test out the first music ad I came across — a Twenty One Pilots ad for their upcoming tour.

Kudos to Live Nation for advertising on non-traditional platforms where their audience is spending a lot of their time. However, the ad copy is a little weak, and there’s no call to action.

Also, take note that the post is locked (as indicated by the yellow lock in the top right). Reddit’s ad team advises this because the Reddit community is still not used to ads. Ads that do allow comments are typically filled with nonsensical comments. That is unfortunate because the entire value of Reddit as a platform is allowing users with similar interests to interact with each other. I predict that the Reddit community will get more used to these ads and hopefully more accepting over the next 12 months. This will also require advertisers to adapt to Reddit’s posting norms in their ads.

The big issue with the ad, however, is that the link did not work!! Ignore the display URL ( There is a step between clicking on the ad and landing on Ticketmaster. This is an analytics step through — a Google product that allows advertisers to monetize and gain analytics from their ads.

Users click on the ad, get taken to so that Ticketmaster can register your click and then you are immediately redirected to the Twenty One Pilots Ticketmaster page. Unless you’re looking for it, you won’t even notice the stage. Unfortunately for Twenty One Pilots, the redirect was not working. I clicked the ad multiple times — on wifi and cellular data, at home and elsewhere — and every time, I ended up with this screen.

iPhone X border and background added for illustrative purposes.

A blank white screen. Couldn’t get to the ticket page if I wanted to.

There are a couple potential reasons why this might happen.

1) The marketing team put a broken link in the ad.

2) Reddit’s ad product had a glitch and was not properly loading landing pages.

I have seen at least one comment from a Reddit advertiser complaining that Reddit was not properly loading web pages, but I cannot definitively place the blame on Reddit.

Regardless, it appears that Live Nation’s marketing team did not test the ad after it went live.

Jason Isbell — Facebook and Instagram Video Ads

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit released a new live album from their performance at the Ryman. Let’s see how they promoted it.

Jason Isbell’s marketing team relied on one video ad for all versions of the ad but used several different versions of copy.

Ad Copy 1: “Live from the Ruman is testament not only to Isbell’s songwriting chops, but also the taut, near-telepathic chemistry of the entire band.” @RollingStone

Listen to the new album on @Amazon and @AmazonMusic today!!

Ad Copy 2: Available Now: The new album from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

Ad Copy 3: “Live from the Ruman is testament not only to Isbell’s songwriting chops, but also the taut, near-telepathic chemistry of the entire band.” @RollingStone

Download the new album on @iTunes today!

Ad Copy 4: “Live from the Ruman is testament not only to Isbell’s songwriting chops, but also the taut, near-telepathic chemistry of the entire band.” — Rolling Stone

Listen to the new album from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit today!!

Isbell’s marketing team is doing a few different things here. Any post that has copy with an @Company_Handle is an Instagram ad. Certain ads are also for specific digital retailers (Amazon, iTunes). Regardless of which retailer traffic is being sent to, they are going through a similar redirect as the Twenty One Pilots’ redirect above. Isbell’s team is using for the redirect, and theirs actually works.

To re-emphasize, the purpose of a redirect is three-fold:
1. Accurately measure the amount of traffic going to any specific page
2. Capture data about that traffic. Where are they coming from? What device are they using? What is their location?
3. Tag the traffic for future retargeting via Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, and Twitter.

For the ads with no specific retailer tagged, traffic is sent to a pivot page. Personally, I find that pivot pages are lazy and a disservice to the artists that have worked so hard on that music…but that’s a discussion for a future article.

The key takeaway with this ad is that the marketing team is testing out different versions of copy to see what works. If you’re still figuring out what your audience responds to, test out different versions of copy and different versions of creative. By using so many different versions of the ads, you’ll discover what converts best and can turn off ads that are not working. In fact, if you check Jason Isbell’s current live ads, you’ll see they’ve settled on only using the copy with a quote from Rolling Stone. They’re also no longer sending people to the pivot page from the ads. Perhaps those pages had a high bounce rate.

Matt Nathanson — Instagram Story Music Video

To coincide with the release of his “Sings His Sad Heart” album, Matt Nathanson dropped a music video for his single “Used to Be”. The entire video is edited to appear as an Instagram story.

The video itself is novel with the use of text and stickers to reflect the lyrics. For the marketing team, the decision for what to use as advertising creative was obvious — just use clips from the video. It’s effective. However, they should have removed the Instagram UI from the video before using the video as an ad. The overlap of the mocked UI and the actual Instagram UI looks weird.

The ad links to a pivot page, this time hosted by Linkfire. The Linkfire page is hosting three Facebook pixels, three Google Ads remarketing tags, and one Google Analytics pixel. All of which are free to use. I expect the marketing team is retargeting users that view or click through Linkfire with another ad or will save that audience for a future tour promotion.

Final Thoughts

  1. None of these artists are doing anything that indie artists and labels could not do themselves. Advertising on Reddit, Facebook, and Instagram is cheap, and the associated pixels used to track whats working and build retargeting audiences are free to acquire and install. Learn more about Facebook pixels here: Facebook Pixel Basics for Artists and Labels and Musicians, here’s how to use your data
  2. Reddit is still a very young advertising platform that is relatively cheap to see results compared to Facebook, Twitter, and Google. That said, make sure you understand Reddit’s audience — and the audience of the subreddits you are targeting — before creating your ad.
  3. Don’t let bad links ruin your advertising. Always test your ad as soon as it is live. You don’t want to pay for impressions and clicks that don’t go anywhere!
  4. On Facebook and Instagram, come up with as many different creative and copy variations of your ads as possible. You never know for sure what your audience will respond to until you have the data to back it up. Plus, your budget does not change as you create more ad variations. I typically have at least 6 ad variations for each ad set.
  5. When possible, pay based on landing page views — not link clicks. It’s not uncommon for people to click on an ad and never see the landing page because it took too long to load. When you optimize for landing page views, you will only pay for people that load your website. This does require having a Facebook pixel set up, but it is well worth the time to set that up.

Dan Servantes is a marketing consultant at GHStrategic. You can reach him on Twitter (@drservantes) and via this form.


GHStrategic (GHS) is a strategic consulting firm that works with a wide range of businesses — from Fortune 500 and the Ivy League to early stage startups and the arts.

Dan Servantes

Written by

Marketing Consultant @ GHStrategic ( | Musician | Brooklyn, NY


GHStrategic (GHS) is a strategic consulting firm that works with a wide range of businesses — from Fortune 500 and the Ivy League to early stage startups and the arts.

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