Finding Your Own Space on YouTube
Throwing cookie dough at the wall only to see what sticks, that’s a game that the music industry played for a long time. Called Production Driven Strategy in the world of commerce, the idea was that the one project that worked did so well that it more than made up for the countless others that didn’t. And boy, were there a lot of those! Despite the many failures, however, the modern music industry had enjoyed almost constant growth since its commercialisation in the mid-20th Century. This wasn’t always about skill, though, on the part of our industry executives. The truth was that postwar economic recovery, limited competition from other entertainment- based industries, and a boom in the concept of youth culture (young people who had money and wanted to spend it) had created an environment where their actions were inconsequential. Music was where the money was, and so the music industry adopted Production Driven Strategy, making what it could, using marketing to make people want that thing. There was little need to do anything different. That was, of course, until a deadly combination of technological advance, consumer desire for digital product, and a reluctance to change on the part of the music industry came about in the late 90s to create the perfect storm, sending ripples through music. A domino effect that destroyed the seat of power that major record labels, distributors and retailers had enjoyed for decades meant that we were forced to consider something different. That thing? Market Driven Strategy.
Today, all kinds of businesses are listening to their customers; and that’s basically what Market Driven Strategy means. Rather than creating what you can, you create what the customer wants, and by virtue of that fact, you are creating something for which a measurable (and hopefully measured) demand already exists. And this, dear reader, is where you come into it.
Jessie J, who, over a period of six years, used YouTube and an online audience as a testing ground for her debut album. Her style truly evolved with much input from her fans. Quite simply, they told her what they liked and what they didn’t, and she listened; the result being an unprecedented level of support and adoration from audience, industry and media, alike. That’s the power of Market Driven Strategy for you.
Jessie J amassed millions upon millions of YouTube views, and in this article, we’ll explore how you might do the same. The first thing to remember is that today, in the Western world, we watch music more than we listen to it.
As a result, You Tube is dominated by music content. Of the top 30 videos of all time on the platform, only 1 contains non-music content, and although there is no formula per se for YouTube stardom, there are some simple things that you can do as a singer to increase the visibility of your work amongst the 16 years worth of content that is uploaded every single day.
Here are some top tips:
1. Mix Covers with Rewrites, Mashups and Originals
If there is one thing to be sure of, the right cover at the right time can get you a whole lot of online attention; so check out the release schedules of your favourite signed artists and work on a track that fans are likely to search for. A trick practised by the likes of Alex Goot, Boyce Avenue and Sam Tsui and countless others, this one can do wonders! Mix straight covers with rewrites, mashups and originals in order to create a ‘pathway’ for your audience from the familiar to the new and exciting. It’s very important that you aren’t just re- creating the sounds of yesterday from start to finish. The point of the cover strategy, remember, is to get initial attention and then wow them with something different.
2. Understand tags
Going against what seems obvious, your YouTube video title and description have virtually no link to how your uploads are treated. Instead, tags tell YouTube whether your video is relevant to something that a particular user is searching for. When building your own list of tags, in addition to the obvious things (that may in fact also be in your video title and description), be sure to include broader terms that relate to your content (e.g. “pop music cover” or “acoustic music video”).
3. A picture is worth a thousand words
Select the most interesting thumbnail available for use with your video listing,
as this has a big effect on how appealing your video is in search results. Make sure to choose one that is visually satisfying and an accurate representation of what users are going to see when they view the video. If viewers stop watching your video after a few seconds because it’s not what they expected to find, YouTube will give your video a lower quality score and decrease its ranking.
4. Don’t upload until you’re ready
YouTube loves fresh content, so if you upload a video as private and later make it public, it loses any initial momentum it could have garnered if it were pushed live when first uploaded.
5. More, More, More!
YouTube loves videos more than the Cookie Monster loves cookies. Upload fresh videos on a consistent, regular basis. Doing this will keep your channel active, which means all your videos will be ranked higher than if you have no fresh content at all.
6. Build call-to-actions into your videos.
Once you have a view er, give them clear instructions for what you’d like them to do next. For example, every video you upload should include in-video links to subscribe to your channel. You can create these annotations within You- Tube itself.
7. Respond to feedback
Through response videos, you can create an online dialogue with your viewers. Not only is this a great way to demonstrate engagement (something that YouTube loves, and will rank you higher for it), but it’s a great way of making sure that your sound evolves in a Market Driven manner. Find out what your fans like, and what they don’t. Do they love your vocal licks? Now is your chance to try something new. And begin experimenting with the tips above, also spend some time following the work of Imogen Heap, who is taking Market Driven Strategy to a whole new level. By bringing the audience into the creative process (rather than just giving them a front-row seat to a polished performance), Imogen is experiencing the kind of buy-in and support from her fans that many artists struggle to find. Why don’t you try it out, too? Stop throwing cookie dough at the wall. Instead, work on some lyrical ideas with your Twitter followers. Build a topline with your YouTube community. See where the journey takes you.