The importance of online ads for artists and record labels

The importance of online ads for artists and record labels

“Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the problem is I don’t know which half”
– John Wanamaker (1838 – 1922). 

A famous quote from a department store magnate, describing a well-known problem with advertising.

This blog shows the Dos and Don’ts for successful online advertising campaigns in the music industry.

Online advertising, a quick introduction

Since the days of people like John Wanamaker, a lot has changed in advertising. The biggest change, of course, is the move from printed ads to online ads. As the music industry has its focus on digital, the focus of this blog will be on online ads. Traditional ads, like in printed magazines or on a radio station, can also still be effective in some cases but we will focus on digital.

Online advertising

Placing ads (text, audio, video, images) on frequently used places on the internet (websites, social networks) to either increase awareness of the brand, influence consideration or drive traffic. Modern-day music marketing includes AI-powered campaigns such as Google’s P-Max: a type of marketing tool that determines all targeting options and content based on artificial intelligence.

Increase brand awareness

Advertising campaigns with the goal of creating more awareness for the brand or product. Find new (potential) customers or make the current target audience more aware of the brand. Fans should be made aware of your brand, and your online presence. They should find their way to a streaming platform to listen to your music or watch your music video but more importantly, they should be aware of your brand. A strong brand imprint is important for the independent artist.

Influence consideration is basically the second step in music marketing

Convincing people who are already aware of your brand or product to consider buying/trying the product. Entice the target group to find more information about the product and/or influence their opinion about the matter. A music marketing agency could also advise to use of influencer marketing, but keep in mind there are high costs involved.

Drive traffic

The final step in online marketing, making sure the target audience performs the action that you want them to perform. A sale, stream or follow on music streaming platforms. Ads can be done through Google or social media platforms.

Online advertising media

The possibilities of advertising online are endless, to narrow down the most used methods for the music industry we focus on social media platforms and Google. These should be included in your music marketing strategy.


Well-known in the music business, offering various advertising opportunities. Search ads and display ads on Google search, the Google Network, YouTube and partnering sites. Over 95% of all websites worldwide are included. A wide array of ad formats is offered by Google, ranging from Shopping ads to Display ads or even ads in your Gmail and YouTube ads. All solid tools for music promotion.

Google Display Ads Google Search Ads Google Shopping Ads YouTube Ads

Social media channels

The most used social media sites when it comes to ads are Facebook and Instagram. Twitter comes in third place.

Instagram advertising also includes story ads. Instagram stories are often included in a marketing campaign.

Instead of diving into the elaborate options of both Google and social ads, we’ll focus on the Dos and Don’ts for music industry professionals.

Best practices

Kwettr helps artists by building their Facebook ad campaigns. We’ve analyzed all our past campaigns, here are our top Dos:

Choose the right medium

Not all online media are best suited for music ads. A mistake commonly made is to take the online ad budget and divide it evenly over all major online ad platforms.

Another commonly made mistake is to focus on the (social) medium that has the largest follower base. This does not necessarily mean that the particular social medium will generate the most income or the best ad performances. A large follower base does not mean that the majority of these followers are actually active, and it does not guarantee to reach a certain number of potential fans.

Tip: start out with small music marketing budgets on several platforms, upscale the ads that are performing well and downscale the ads that are not performing. A good music promotion company will have the same approach.

Test, test and test

Do not limit the testing to the medium only, make sure to test the different ad types, campaign types, goals and creatives. Image ads might work well on one platform but this does not mean that they will work on all.

Tip: create several ad sets with different ad formats and ad spend. 

Measure success

John Wanamaker would definitely be interested in tools like Google Analytics or Facebook Ads because these tools show great insights into the performance of ads. Measuring what works well and what does not work at all means that budgets are spent in the best possible way.

Measuring success is a difficult task and skilled staff are needed to make the best use of them. Taking an online course to learn all about measurement is time-consuming, Kwettr staff is skilled in measuring campaigns.

One of the challenges is measuring success on platforms such as Amazon Music, Apple Music or Spotify. You can measure a click to one of these DSPs but you can really set a conversion as the sale does not take place in your own medium or on your own website. Once someone has clicked on your ad, that is pretty much as far as measuring success on streaming platforms goes.

Facebook Ads results

Grow your profile

Best practices show that focusing on driving action to portals such as Spotify is very difficult. Getting fans to click an ad, with a call-to-action to listen on Spotify means less than Eur. 0,01 revenue. Running the ad is usually more expensive.

Targeting to get download sales in the current streaming market is almost as difficult.

One of the other options is to target ads to grow your profile. Running ads on social media aimed to get more fans on for example Spotify or YouTube means that all people who performed an action (follow you) stick around as your follower. Those new followers receive your new music and, also very important, having a large follower base on streaming portals is very good for your image as an independent musician.

Don’t buy followers

A mistake often made by inexperienced people in advertising is buying followers. Instead of running ads to increase the number of followers, ‘shady’ services are used to buy fake followers in bulk. An artist profile looks better with lots of followers but in the end, it is always bad for your profile.

Spotify even cleans up once in a while by deleting fake profiles; social media channels perform similar actions. Artists who are flagged as having fake followers jeopardize their chances of getting good features like getting included in the right playlist.

Build your image

A bit similar to growing your audience and number of followers. Every brand has an image, communication is key to a good online marketing plan. Find the right content to promote, that does not always have to be a product people can purchase. For example, a live mix, something personal or a production tutorial all help build your image online.

Google Ads: import referring sites

Diving into targeting options even further: importing referring sites into your Google account. Example: Kwettr downloads all points on the internet where people were before they clicked on the album of your competitor. These URLs are then uploaded to the Google ad account and ads are served only on those valuable places. Next level promoting music.

Best practices are elaborate and online ads are a difficult line of business. Need help? Contact us here.

Google’s P-Max campaigns

Google Ads incorporated the use of AI in their campaigns. A fairly new type of campaign is called P-Max: Performance Max. It uses artificial intelligence to select the best-suited assets for the best-suited target groups.

All you need to do is upload content (artwork, videos, copy) and Google simply chooses the right combination of assets per target group. The results are impressive. Note: you must always create a Search campaign first: P-Max campaigns are fed through data collected in Search campaigns.

The Don’ts

Advertising separate products

As mentioned above, running ads for separate products such as single releases can be a tricky business. Lots of clicks get wasted and the ones that do perform the action you want them to perform usually don’t make up for the budget spent. Advertising to improve the brand awareness of your record label, on the other hand, would be a better choice.

Don’t shout

Mind your tone of voice, make sure not to shout or ask for sales/streams in a direct way. Most commonly made mistakes are ads emphasizing ‘buy my record here’. Results show that on average less than 1% actually performs that action. Be gentle and creative when it comes to copywriting and don’t shout to your fans.

Mind the rules

Facebook and Google close fraudulent ad accounts on a daily basis. The rules set by Google and Facebook are elaborate, breaking the rules on ad copies, images, and style guides often results in a closed ad account. Once an ad account is closed, the chances of getting it reopened are very small.

Especially if your artist account is connected to your ad account, this is a major problem.

Find help

Running well-performing ads is a difficult task, our advice for artists and record labels is to focus on making music and performing. Online marketing agencies and platforms are experienced and help out with online ads. Kwettr account managers can help you improve ad campaigns.

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