Why marketers should care about the music industry’s latest transformation

Lyor Cohen / November 2020

From big games to other special moments, music has always played a core role in my life. I’ve tethered myself to it, starting my career at 21 years old as a road manager for Run DMC and the Beastie Boys. Forty years later, I’m still trying to explain to my mom what I do for a living. Leading YouTube Music — the world’s largest and most comprehensive music platform — I’ve witnessed the digital music landscape up close and spent a lot of time examining how people consume it.

When the pandemic hit, it fundamentally changed the music industry forever. With in-person concerts canceled and venues closed, artists and fans took to online platforms. Music video streaming is quickly growing in popularity: More than 2 billion people come to YouTube each month to experience music.1

Music video streaming is quickly growing in popularity: More than 2 billion people come to YouTube each month to experience music.

For advertisers, this shift has created new opportunities to reach attentive, engaged audiences through digital music content. But many marketers are hesitant to invest because of common myths about music content and its impact on marketing goals.

Today, I want to dispel four of these myths and make the case for why music content should be a part of your digital ad strategy.

Myth #1: All streaming music platforms are created equal

Fact: People go to different platforms for different things

You’re familiar with the current landscape: People have more options than ever, and consume music across many different platforms. Even on YouTube they do it in different ways — from livestreams and dance videos to user-generated covers and artists’ official tracks. Today, YouTube Music has more than 70 million official tracks, more than any other music service.2

Just as artists and fans are adapting to the new reality, brands must find new ways to reach music lovers, especially without live events and concerts. What’s exciting to me about YouTube isn’t just its obvious scale, it’s the various solutions that advertisers can use to reach people, according to their goals.

One solution is music lineups that connect brands with people based on particular genres or moods. YouTube offers a few types. Dynamic lineups are locally relevant by country and can include seasonal events, travel, and other topics. YouTube Select Music Lineup consists of the top 5% of premium music content across YouTube globally, such as official music videos.

If you prefer instead to go for what’s popping at any given moment, you can buy against the Top 100 — powered by YouTube Charts — which aligns your brand with the most popular artists and songs across your key markets.

Since everyone’s taste in music is unique, YouTube’s diversity of content and range of ad solutions gives brands an opportunity to be seen, heard, and recognized by the people who come to experience the music they love.

Myth #2: Compared to other types of content, people pay less attention to music content

Fact: Over 85% of music video viewing on YouTube happens in the foreground3

Conventional wisdom says that because many people use streaming music services to listen rather than watch, they’re devoting lower levels of attention. This isn’t so for YouTube users, for whom music is more front and center than you might think.

When people watch music videos, 60% of music consumption on YouTube happens on mobile devices,4 where background play is not available, and the immersive TV screen is YouTube’s fastest growing screen. When we look at music specifically, watch time on TV screens of recorded live music performances on YouTube jumped more than 100% between July 2019 and July 2020.5 All over the world, people are finding ways to replace the experience of a live concert by getting together for live concerts right in their living room.

An illustration of a video screen with a person playing guitar represents the 100% increase in watch time on TV of recorded live music performances on YouTube between July 2019 and July 2020.

Regardless of when and how people are tuning in, we have ways to help advertisers connect, even when people are consuming music in the background. Now you can complement the moments your consumers are watching by engaging them in moments when they’re listening, with newly announced audio ads.

Here’s an example of how impactful audio ads can be. Recently, Spanish auto manufacturer SEAT sought to expand an existing digital audio campaign to reach listeners who might be interested in the Ibiza FR summer car sale. The company repurposed existing audio assets as audio ads on YouTube and used YouTube’s audience tools to reach people with an affinity for technology and social media, as well as those in-market for a hatchback. By serving audio ads to interested listeners, SEAT drove a 21% lift in ad recall and boosted brand consideration.

Myth #3: Diverse music reaches only niche audiences

Fact: Music from around the world resonates with broad audiences and consistently tops the global charts

Through all that’s happened this year, YouTube has given artists an important platform to share their messages and connect with communities worldwide. Music has been a galvanizing force for racial justice, for example. During the height of protests against systemic racism in June, Childish Gambino’s 2018 hit, “This is America,” returned to the U.S. and Global YouTube top songs charts.

Beyond social impact, YouTube Music allows brands to tap into the cultural sphere to reach audiences while they consume the content they love. K-pop has taken the world by storm, with artists like BTS and BLACKPINK topping the charts and breaking records. Most recently, BTS’ “Dynamite” earned over 101.1 million views globally in its first 24 hours, making it the biggest 24-hour music video debut of all time.

Latin music is another genre that transcends geography and audience. In 2019, the top 5 most-viewed music videos globally were by Latin artists. The same is true for hip hop, which continues to dominate the top charts and show its universal appeal. For example, in Q2 2020, hip-hop commanded a 48% share of all Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 songs, ahead of pop music’s 30% take.

The best way to tap into categories like these is through the YouTube Top 100, as mentioned above. It aligns your brand with the most popular artists and content and ensures that you reach an increasingly global audience.

YouTube Music allows brands to tap into the cultural sphere to reach audiences while they consume content they love.

Myth #4: Advertising against music content does not yield results

Fact: Brands can achieve results by aligning with music content

Increasingly, we’re seeing that advertisers who invest in music content are driving results for their brands. Here’s another example.

While preparing for this year’s back-to-school campaign, U.S.-based retailer American Eagle identified music as a top passion point for its Gen Z audience. It partnered with YouTube creators like Addison Rae to create videos featuring trends influenced by social media. American Eagle leveraged the Top 100 to identify the most popular artists and trending music moments to engage its audience. This strategy led to a 23% increase in branded search and 10X lift in product interest.

As I talk to folks in the industry, I know there are often misconceptions about how people engage with music and music content’s ability to drive results. In all my years in the business I can tell you this: Music moves and shapes culture, communities, and people. For advertisers, it’s a reliable — and untapped — way to capture an audience that’s engaging with videos they truly love.

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