Over the past few years, podcasting has grown to be increasingly popular, becoming a mainstream way for people to share their message with the world. With influential names such as Barack Obama, Ricky Gervais and Amy Schumer now taking to podcasting, it’s surprising more musicians aren’t testing the water, growing their fanbase through audio.
According to Ofcom, nearly 6 million adults now tune into a podcast each week, almost doubling in 5 years. This increase in listeners isn’t just with adults too, with one in five 15-24-year olds listening to a podcast every week.
The statistics are clear. The consumer wants it, but the music industry just hasn’t caught on yet so I’m going to discuss why the industry needs to understand the importance of podcasts for musicians attempting to grow an audience and then explain how a musician can go about recording, distributing and promoting a podcast.
Besides the consumption statistics growing daily, podcasts also have impressive listening time with 80% of listeners consuming the entire podcast episode. This proves that not only are people listening to podcasts, but they’re also highly engaged with the content, which we’re not seeing as much on other platforms such as Instagram and Facebook.
With Facebook dominating the industry, closely followed by YouTube and Instagram, these platforms are oversaturated with musicians trying to increase their fanbase. However, podcasting is clearly engaging people across the globe and with podcast listeners being much more active on every social media channel, musicians can be increasing their social media following at the same time as podcast subscribers.
There are over 700,000 active podcasts but barely any presented by musicians. The content is simple to create and distribute, it engages the listeners and creates long form content which can be re-used across multiple social media platforms – what’s not to like?
HOW CAN A MUSICIAN BENEFIT FROM PODCASTING?
So, the audience is there, the engagement is there but how can a musician be benefiting? Just like YouTube and Instagram, podcasts strengthen the relationship between the consumer and the creator. The colloquial style of recorded audio allows the musician to chat to their fans as if having a pint at the pub.
With the music industry being over saturated with songs now, musicians need to offer something outside of the music and podcasting allows this. It gives musicians the chance to show personality, target their dream fans and then build that personal relationship over time, eventually allowing the artist to sell their music, tickets, merchandise or whatever they wish.
Musicians aren’t natural content creators; their skills lay within music first and then everything is secondary to that. Therefore, creating content for social media isn’t going to come easily to many but with podcasts, it’s just having a chat about what you want, when you want and then that can be distributed to all podcast platforms, filmed for YouTube and edited down into bitesize content for Instagram. The opportunities are endless and with access to unlimited content, musicians no longer have to worry about when and what to post as it’s already created.
WHAT TOPICS CAN MUSICIANS COVER?
The main themes of the podcast would have to be specific to the artist based on personality, target audience, brand and passions. A musician should create a podcast with the aim to increase their audience and fan loyalty, not to sell, so each episode must add value to the consumer whether that’s through educating, entertaining or interviewing.
Educational podcasts are some of the most popular with listeners as it allows them to learn on the go whilst increasing trust as the creator is enhancing their knowledge. Musicians can easily educate as they’re naturally talented, whether that’s with an instrument, a software or within a certain area of the music industry.
Entertaining podcasts allows the audience to disengage with their everyday life, escape from reality, which means the creator has their full attention, allowing the musician to build a personal relationship quickly. Many artists are creating entertaining content through other social media platforms, such as Lewis Capaldi smashing the Instagram game, but not many artists are taking advantage of podcasts yet for this content style.
UK Indie Pop band Blossoms have recently started a weekly entertaining podcast titled ‘Blossoms Pubcast’, featuring the full band having pub chats in their local. Although already signed to Virgin EMI, nominated for the Mercury Music Prize and British Breakthrough Act at the Brit Awards and charting with multiple releases, Blossoms still want to increase their following and fan loyalty and are doing a fantastic job with their podcast.
Interview podcasts allow the artist to either entertain or educate their audience and as majority of artists are solo, interviewing allows for more discussion rather than full monologue. Currently, this podcast style seems to be the most popular in the music industry with Snoop Dogg, George Ezra and Andy Grammer hosting podcasts featuring the likes of Khloe Kardashian, Seth Rogan and Post Malone.
Having podcast guests also allows opportunities to network. With the awkward LinkedIn message, the spammy Instagram DM and networking event handshake not being the majority of musician’s ideal situation, inviting someone onto a podcast adds value to both, whilst also being a lot more natural.
HOW TO CREATE A PODCAST?
Although natural performers, musicians won’t always feel comfortable recording a podcast.
“My voice sounds weird”
“I feel stupid talking to myself”
“I don’t want to listen back to this in edit”
All excuses we’ve heard from artists that haven’t even attempted to record a podcast yet. Hopefully if you’ve got this far, you’ll have been persuaded into thinking podcasting is fantastic for an artist’s development and all of the above excuses will sound ridiculous!
Before recording any podcast, a vague script should be written because speaking for up to an hour can be difficult, especially if a solo podcast. This doesn’t mean a word for word script that’s just spoken aloud but bullet points of discussion points or questions to ask a guest. This will help keep to topic and avoid any awkward silences, which is key as if either happen, a listener can drop off and won’t return for another episode.
With podcasting, the podcast is only as good as the recent upload as the majority of listeners that discover a podcast will listen to the most recent. Therefore, it’s all about quality rather than quantity and a script can really help with this.
There is no perfect length for a podcast episode, so experimenting is suggested. Without dedicated listeners, a long podcast may be wasted or put off a potential listener, so when first engaging new fans, shorter podcasts could persuade someone to click and from here feedback can be received and the artist can also gauge drop-off rates by Podcast Analytic tools.
*Bonus Tip –When close to finishing the podcast, “that’s all for this week” should never even be uttered as the majority will drop off once hearing this and if something important is mentioned at the end or the podcast is finished with a plug to the music, tickets, merch etc., it’ll be missed entirely. There should only ever be signs of bringing the podcast to a close when there’s nothing more to say.
Equipment can never be an excuse. The majority of musicians have high quality recording equipment but if not, a phone will do. In the early stages of a podcast, the listeners won’t be there, so investing in high quality equipment will be a waste of money. Once the listeners start to pick up, then high quality podcast equipment can be invested in.
Once the podcast is recorded, it can be uploaded to SoundCloud and YouTube and then it can be added to all podcast stores using an uploaded such a BuzzSprout. It should be available on all platforms as podcast listeners are spread across Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher and many more, so the more available it is, the more likely it is to be discovered.
HOW TO INCREASE PODCAST LISTENERS
Getting people to listen to a podcast is similar to getting people to listen to music, it’s difficult because it requires someone’s full attention. However, unlike music marketing, podcast marketing adds more value to the target audience so is much easier.
To effectively advertise a podcast, content needs to be created, so the simplest solution is filming every podcast as well as recording the audio. By filming the podcast, there is long form content for other social media platforms and then short form content created from that.
The artwork, the podcast name, each episode title and descriptions will impact the reach of a podcast, so it’s definitely worth taking time over. It’s key the overall podcast brand is fitting to the artist as although the aim is to reach a new audience and grow from there, the artist’s already existing fans should also become listeners and if it doesn’t suit the current brand, it’ll be off putting.
The branding should also be fitting to the target audience as an educational podcast about knitting most probably won’t be suitable for a female pop artist wanting teenage fans. Think about what the target audience does daily, what content they already engage with and what the existing fans enjoy about the artist.
Snoop Dogg’s podcast suits his branding to a tee. The host smokes weed whilst talking to A-List celebrities about anything he wants. With artwork showing him with a joint in his hand, the laid-back branding is fitting to his carefree persona and audience.
The title should not only be fitting to the brand, topics and themes covered in the podcast, but it should also have keywords in that will be searched by the artist’s target audience. This can be something as simple as the artist’s name or the main topic followed by the word ‘Podcast’. Whatever the title is, it needs to be searched as that’ll increase discoverability.
The podcast description is like a book jacket, it’s what people read before listening to the episode. Therefore, the description needs to be explanatory, search-friendly and be compelling. Don’t tell the full story but hint to what is to come if they did listen.
OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
Podcast listeners are much more active on every social media channel, allowing an artist to take to other platforms to promote a podcast, knowing that people will potentially click through to the podcast.
The full recorded podcast can be uploaded to YouTube and with the correct thumbnail and title, it can easily generate views, especially if the topic is current and highly searched. The more engaging the title and thumbnail, the more clicks the video will get and from here, many will go on to listen to the podcasts through audio only as it’s easier for the consumer.
The long form content can then be edited into bitesize content for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. These shorter clips will act as teasers as if the podcast is engaging enough, people will want to hear more. With Instagram, the teaser can be ran as a Story with a “Swipe up to listen to the full episode” on the final frame, if the artist has over 10k followers.
With the already existing audience, it’ll be easier to get them to move across to the podcast platform as trust has already been built so initial awareness for the podcast is all that needs to be done for that audience. However, getting them to share a podcast is a step up and can work wonders as someone is much more likely to listen to a podcast if it’s recommended by a friend, increasing listeners exponentially.
To get fans to share the podcast, musicians need to offer an incentive. Running a competition will be most effective as the consumer doesn’t gain anything from sharing the podcast, so the artist needs to make sure they can gain something. Within the podcast a competition could be announced, or it can be pushed out through social media and with a prize such as merchandise, personalised content or show tickets, the fan is much more likely to share the podcast with their following.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING
Organic reach can only get you so far, therefore social media advertising would be the next step for any artist that is serious about fan growth. Just like social media ads to promote the music, social media ads to promote a podcast won’t be effective with just one singular ad, retargeting is necessary.
When promoting music on social media, you’re taking the consumer away from the platform to another platform i.e. Instagram to Spotify, and this is similar with podcasts as taking someone from Facebook to Apple Podcasts isn’t ideal for the scroller as their initial aim for opening the app wasn’t to consume long form content. Therefore, the ads need to work in a funnel method to really engage an audience, be worth the investment and secure a large listenership.
The first ad should be running to raise awareness, so it must be something the target audience would engage with, understand out of context and would stop scrolling for. The best content for a top funnel ad is something with a clickbait header which will intrigue the consumer and make them turn on sound. On the Facebook and Instagram feed, majority don’t have their sound on, so to make people listen with sound there needs to be persuasive copy. However, 70% of Instagram Stories are watched with the sound on, so first stage ads can be run via Story with a ‘Swipe Up’ to the podcast or click through to view more.
As suggested earlier, the podcast should be filmed and uploaded to YouTube for longform content. If, and only if the first 10 seconds are intriguing enough, the video can be run as a YouTube pre-roll ad. If the first 10 seconds aren’t interesting enough to pull someone in, YouTube ads aren’t a sensible investment.
Once you’ve ran your first ‘raising awareness ad’, you can begin to retarget. Make sure the branding is similar for both pieces of content, so the consumer will recognise that they’ve seen it before and only run the retargeting ad to people that watched 50% or more of the first ad. Retargeting can be done in a more traditional ‘advert’ style, whereby you’re pushing a Call-to-Action. This can be a promotional video for the podcast, a longer clip or perhaps a video of the artist explaining what the podcast is about.
The bottom of the funnel is the final hit, the final chance to persuade the viewer to tune in. If the consumer has got this far, watched the raising awareness and retargeting ads, they’re most probably interested in the content so this final ad should be the most effective. This content can be as simple as the artist sitting in front of the camera, asking the audience to swipe up to listen to the podcast.
HOW TO MONETISE A PODCAST
The main aim with the artist’s podcast is to grow the fanbase but most importantly increase fan loyalty, however the artist can eventually monetise on that attention if successfully produced and marketed. In the early stages of podcasting, monetisation shouldn’t even come into conversation as it isn’t the aim of the podcast and without full fan attention, exploiting it for financial gain will put off an audience. Nevertheless, once an audience is dedicated to the artist’s podcast, monetisation is simple and can still appear authentic.
The obvious financial gain from having a podcast is plugging the artist’s products. Whether it is merchandise, live event tickets or the music itself, promoting this within the podcast won’t appear to be cashing in as it’s clear that this is always the artist’s intention, to sell their music. However, selling too much will lead to a drop-in listeners, which means all the hard work spent on the content and the marketing was wasted. Promoting the artist’s products at the beginning, end or appropriate moment within the podcast is most organic and won’t appear like a clear sales pitch.
The artist can also look to make specific products surrounding the podcast – this is best seen in the YouTuber community. Take for example David Dobrik and his VIEWS Podcast. The popular YouTube star hosts a podcast with fellow content creator Jason Nash and from the podcast, they’ve created merchandise fitting to jokes made within the series and branded merch fitting to the podcast logo. The merchandise not only acts as a financial gain for the artist but it also creates a feel of community with the fanbase, increasing loyalty even more.
Alongside merchandise, artists can also look to secure sponsorships for each podcast episode or series. Sponsorship is the most common way to monetise a podcast, but the pay will depend on listeners per show, so this is only an option further down the line. The artist can charge for pre-roll and mid-roll mentions, with mid-roll paying more. To keep the audience engaged, it’s recommended to have sponsors fitting to the audience and the topics discussed.
Podcasts are a revolutionary new but popular medium, allowing artists to increase awareness and fan loyalty. Every artist is looking to grow their fanbase, with majority using Instagram and Facebook, maybe even YouTube, but not enough are podcasting, making it an underutilised, lucrative platform. Give it 5 years and every artist will be podcasting like it’s an Instagram Story but right now, any artist can take advantage of it to secure attention.