*I know I stepped all over myself on this one and have some spots that are redundant. That’s just the way it all came together on this piece.
For the last few months Dalton Domino has been putting out acoustic videos. Pretty standard for most artists right? Well not really, considering that all of the acoustic videos he’s been putting out have been for new songs that may or may not make his upcoming album that’s still months away (at least) from being released. On top of that, they’re sporadic, shot with different quality levels of cameras, and have different amounts of players on them. There are so many things here that are against the “rules”. It’s way too far out to be promoting an album, you don’t give away that much of an album already, you don’t put out multiple songs to socials at this point in your career that may not make the record, if you’re doing a video series you should keep it consistent, etc…
Also, in order to jump-start his online merch shop, Domino posted an open invitation to purchase hand written lyrics for $50. Fans could PayPal or Venmo him the money, send them their address and the song, and he’d mail them out. How often do you see artists do stuff like this? Not very often in my opinion. Sure some artists do sell handwritten lyrics, but how many go about it this way?
Then it comes out that the upcoming album is going to be 19 songs….wait ,what? 19 songs? Yes, he has stated that he may release it in segments, but he also said he may not.
There’s no doubt some serious risk involved with what he’s doing with everything I mentioned above, but is it paying off? While we’ll still have to wait to see how the record’s reception goes once it drops, at this point, the answer looks to be a resounding yes! Not only did he have to stop taking orders on the lyrics because he got so many, his videos have been some of his most successful posts to date. Between Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, they’ve combined for hundreds of thousands of views, as well as tons of likes, retweets, shares…and most notably comments. The fan engagement has been through the roof! Fans are excited. They’re excited to be a part of the process, they’re excited to get new content, and they’re excited that the approach is different (even if it may be subconsciously).
So here’s my point: sometimes the rule book doesn’t matter if people are connecting with the content. That’s really the only thing that matters. Sure, things like timing, consistently, strategy, etc…all have their place, but we’re half way through 2018… is anybody really an expert on these things these days? And as soon as you’ve got them figured out, they change. Who’s to say what’s actually unconventional in the continually evolving digital age?
This approach is definitely not for everybody, and it certainly helps that Domino has consistently not been afraid to walk his own path. Who knows, maybe it doesn’t work out for him, but that’s not what my money is on. Deviating from the norm is riskier, but when it hits, it hits. Don’t be afraid to go your own route, especially if it’s driven by connecting and engaging with your fans. Dalton Domino is providing everyone with a great example of that and regardless of the results it certainly has our attention and respect!
Spotify and Technology’s Relationship
Spotify is obviously not having any trouble amassing followers, but while it is without a doubt a powerful technology company, I believe it’s actually technology that’s constraining it too…at least for certain demographics.
The vehicle dashboard and the mobile device are two highly significant pieces of real estate for a anyone in the music business, however, Spotify is still fighting to mark their claim in both of these places; and in large part, that’s thanks to Apple..but maybe not how you think…
When Apple removed the headphone jack from their iPhones (which is by far the most commonly used smart phone in the U.S.), it ultimately made it harder for Spotify. Having to listen to your music from your phone with Bluetooth headphones makes it tougher in almost every way. I’m not going to deny that the portability of them and not having a wire isn’t nice at times, but is it really worth having to make sure you have charged headphones all of the time. Bluetooth headphones are also more expensive, and I have yet to find a pair (even the expensive ones) that can sound anywhere near as good as the wired ones. Sure they have a converter, but do you really want to lug that around all of the time, and when you are using it, you can’t charge your phone at the same time. And those bluetooth earpods…is there anything that’s harder to keep up with? Plus those connectivity issues can be annoying. Anyway you slice it, Apple ultimately made it harder for people to stream music on their phones, which in turn, had another effect.
Because it is harder to stream music on your phone, it has also become harder to stream it in your car. No more headphone jack, means no more direct auxiliary cord capability. Yes, you can use the adapter, but once again, do you want to have to lug it around? It’s easy to lose and you can’t charge your phone at the same time. Yes, you can get a bluetooth-to-radio transmitter, but the quality is never that great…and why are we moving backwards? The only way you can get an easy, reliable, high-quality connection and charge your phone at the same time is to have Bluetooth in your car.
While, bluetooth technology has become the standard for new cars since 2010, the stereo functionality is something that’s only been happening for a few years (versus auxiliary cord capability). Now in 2018, 86% of vehicles come standard with Bluetooth. On top of that, automakers are beginning to no longer put CD players in vehicles. It’s estimated that within 3 years, 50% of new cars won’t have CD Players. So we’re entering an era where active listening (versus passive listening from the radio) in your car will only be available through a Bluetooth connection from your phone or smart apps in your car’s dashboard.
However…the average age of a vehicle in the U.S. is 11.6 years old; meaning the bluetooth and smart apps era of cars is still a little further down the road, but it’s coming – which of course is a win for a music streaming platform like Spotify…but a lot can happen in that time also.
Spotify, might not have to wait too long to get their automotive boost though. There are rumors that Apple will be adding back their headphone jack to the next line of phones. The average age of cell phones in the is 22.6 months. So if Apple releases a phone with a headphone jack this September (which is the very earliest date) then we could be looking at restored easy and high quality automotive streaming capability for the average user in about 3 years.
These technology issues may not be that significant for the younger generation, but I think it has an impact worth acknowledging for the 35+ demographic. If you’re expecting them to buy accessories, lug around an extra cord, buy Bluetooth headphones and keep them charged, on top of them not being able to charge their phones at the same time they’re listening to music, you’re without a doubt fighting an uphill battle. Until it’s as easy, or only minimally more effort than the radio, the 35+ and laggards of the younger generation, will not be giving up their dashboard real estate. However, it’s likely that’s coming. Whether that’s 11.6 years from now, or sooner. It’s coming.
Things Not looking good for the Musical Future of YouTube
Yikes, who would’ve thought we’d see YouTube on the ropes in regards to music consumption. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the number one place of music consumption, but as I’ve addressed before, it’s not because it’s a great platform. It’s because it’s free and it gives you access to everything. Things on the horizon however, may not be looking all that great for the video hosting giant.
Facebook has become a force in video for musicians, and with it’s algorithms rewarding videos uploaded directly to the platform versus YouTube links, it’s no wonder why. Now Instagram (which has 1 Billion followers) seems to be landing another blow with IGTV; which allows users to upload videos up to 60 minutes. With no social media platform attached to it, and the two most popular prioritizing native video, when has it ever less advantageous to put promotional funds behind a video on YouTube??
If that wasn’t bad enough, Article 13 (which did not pass, but is far from over) that was being considered by EU Parliament would have shaken up the fair use infrastructure that YouTube operates on which allows them to payout so little to rights holders. Here’s the conundrum for YouTube: They make a killing off of advertisers who pay to go in front of successful music videos, and have to pay out little for the content. Massive cash inflow, minimal cash outflow = big business. If Article 13 would have passed, then YouTube all of sudden has to pay royalties that are a lot closer to what Spotify pays. In other words, their margin would take a massive hit. It could even get to the point, where it’s not lucrative for YouTube to host music videos at all. And while it did not pass, I think the conversation is just beginning .
Plus, why have we all been giving YouTube such a big pass? I hear people talk about what low royalty rates Spotify pays out, but where’s the uproar about YouTube. It pays out significantly less and has been doing it a lot longer.
To make matters worse, their latest attempt at a music streaming service has failed to gain any serious traction…again. YouTube has screwed themselves in regards to any sort of subscription service. Why buy the cow, when you get the milk for free? Part of me thinks the only reason they’ve launched a music streaming service at all is just to be able for them to say “see, we’re trying to figure out a fair system ….”
So here’s the question: what is bullish about the outlook of music being hosted on YouTube right now? The answer: not much. I guess it all comes down to how long you think they’ll be able to host free music. They’re obviously still a giant and a powerful force, but if we’ve learned anything since Web 2.0, it’s that it’ hard to survive when things begin to get stacked against you.
I also want to be clear, that none of my points above we’re in regards to any other type of videos, outside of music related ones…but (and this is a world I know little about), isn’t it probably also suffering as a platform in the video streaming subscription era too? Even when they tried to get in the game, it still didn’t/hasn’t worked. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Sling etc…all platforms more successful than YouTube’s video streaming service and it’s not even close. They have the number one website for music and video consumption, yet they can’t produce even a moderately successful music or video streaming subscription service!!! I think it’s just more proof that people go there because it’s free and once people have to actually pay for something, they’ll choose a better platform…
Instagram is Where it’s at.
If you haven’t made your shift to Instagram, you’re behind. Facebook continues to depreciate as an outlet to reach your fans, and Instagram continues to grow. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the push to shuttle artists over from Facebook to Instagram is intentional. With fewer options, it’s easier for the platform to keep a clean and relevant feed and therefore maintain being truly a social platform. There’s not much politics, there’s not much debate, it’s just personal and social pictures. Everything is easy to consume, or skip past, even the short videos…and kudo’s for putting long form video somewhere else on the platform! I think that’s wise for multiple reasons.
What I really dig about Instagram for musicians, is that it gives them the opportunity to take fans in to their life off stage. It allows fans to really humanize the artist and get more of a feel for who they are as a person. The downside of course is the lack of functionality compared to Facebook, but this may be what ultimately keeps Instagram in the driver seat as well.
We’ll see what the future holds for the newly launched Instagram TV. I’m not sure it’s ever going to have the same massive audience the feed and stories have, but I don’t think it needs to have it either. It’s sort of a niche side-feature and it may evolve, it may not. Either way, it’s interesting.
Instagram also has another major advantage compared to any other social platform. With Facebook owning it, and it being several years older, they can look first hand at all of the good and bad things it did as a platform when it began to massively grow.
I believe we are in an era where another social media platform as big as the current major players isn’t coming along anytime soon; probably not until something revolutionary with VR comes along, which means Instagram will likely be leading the charge for a while. If you haven’t already, start building a following; and don’t just make it all about promotion. Make it personal, make it funny, and give people some insight as to what your life is like both on and off the stage.
Instagram + Spotify
Instagram and Spotify implemented some integration a few months ago that allowed users to share songs from Spotify directly to their stories on Instagram. Instagram then just launched Instagram TV which allows people to create their own channels and publish long form videos. Spotify also just launched vertical video for some of their playlists which plays videos to certain songs on the user’s phone while the song is playing….Sooo….is anyone else see what I’m seeing?
- Spotify and Instagram create some basic integration
- Spotify launches vertical video
- Instagram releases Instagram TV which is long form vertical video
- Hmmmm….is there some sort of music video sharing capability coming soon???
This could be interesting. I guess we’ll have to wait and see….
Video Content Theory
I have a theory for why we perceive video as being as important as we currently do. Now first, let me say this: video content can be very powerful and my point is not that isn’t. However, I think it is given too much credit for helping an artist’s music spread in the digital age.
When YouTube launched video content obviously exploded and soon afterward every artist was putting out as much video content as possible: acoustic performances, full band performances, music videos, lyric videos, etc…and plenty of artists saw great results. YouTube was the king of video content for musicians and has had plenty of stars come from viral videos. It ultimately became the number 1 platform for music consumption and people were constantly promoting YouTube videos on their social media outlets.
Then a few years ago, Facebook decided that they wanted to beef up their video catalog after seeing video content increase in consumption via YouTube. The platform started incentivizing people through favorable algorithms to upload their videos directly to Facebook, instead of posting a YouTube link. Because of the favorable algorithms, artists began to post as much video content as possible. Now Instagram has launched Instagram TV, a long form, channel-based, video platform, which I’m sure will only boost the amount of native video content coming from artists.
In case you can’t tell Facebook/Instagram are duking it out with YouTube.
Sooo…here’s my theory that’s based on absolutely no data or research…
YouTube videos have received such great result in regards to consumption, not because of the visual content, but because the number one hosting site is free, has a huge catalog and has content that’s easily shareable. Yes, in a lot of cases the visual content was somewhat of a factor in it’s consumption, or even a big one, but I think there’s also a lot of cases where it played absolutely no factor. People just wanted to listen to the song and they went to a platform that was free with a huge catalog; and because it’s a video hosting site, video content got all the credit.
Then Facebook comes in, trying to rival YouTube and creates a major push for artists to continually publish native video content on their platform through the favorable algorithms; once again, making video content get a lot of credit. But do people really consume and engage with video content as much, as we think they do, or has video content been a little over-hyped because the largest video hosting site offers people world-wide, free access to a huge catalog and Facebook is trying to compete with it by rewarding video content in it’s algorithms?
By all means keep on keeping on with the video content; it’s certainly providing value in the way of views/listens compared to strictly audio, but this theory may be something to put in your back pocket as we go in to the future of the digital age.
Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.