When Instagram launched Stories, many commentators cynically saw this as a simple attack on SnapChat, but five years on it's clear the repercussions are far greater. For the first time unsigned artists are right to be questioning the value of full length music videos.
Let's consider the facts
A professionally shot and edited full-length music video costs thousands
Online tools like Canva allow you to make a video formatted for social in minutes
MTV, the channel launched to show music videos now prefers reality shows
Unsigned artists need 4,000 hours of watch-time within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers to even begin to monetise their YouTube
The royalty rate YouTube pays is 10x lower than the royalties Spotify pay artists
Most full length videos on YouTube lose over 50% of their audience by the midpoint
There are now over 500m active Instagram Story users every day
Apple's & Samsung phones now shoot video in ultra-high definition 4K
The value of daily momentum
Set against this backdrop, it's hard to imagine why a penniless, unsigned artist would spend money they don't have on a full length music video, when they can now film, edit and share a 4K video clip with their fans within seconds. It's increasing hard to make a case for full length music videos.
A few years ago, I had a meeting at YouTube, they told me the major labels were tearing their hair out wondering how they had missed out on the YouTuber movement. The labels wanted to know why viewers were more likely to watch Zoella than their priority pop artist talent. YouTube explained to the labels, it was all due to daily momentum. Zoella was building engagement by posting daily short-form content, that was relatable and engaging.
Meanwhile, major label pop artists were uploading one full length music video and then disappearing for 3 months until the release of their next single. The gap between albums was even greater. In the time taken for the label funded pop star to upload two videos, Zoella had probably uploaded a dozen and spent hours engaging with her fans. Even back then it's clear the power of the music video was fading.
Having a focus
When budgets are tight, we recommend unsigned artists focus on creating a higher number of short form video clips (5-20 seconds) rather than wasting money on one full-length clip that nobody watches and can't be monetised. We recommend a 4 week single launch campaign should be supported with between 20-25 short form, engaging social posts.
Developing a story beyond music
Remember the least effective way to promote an 'unknown artist releasing an unknown song,' is to have a video of an 'unknown artist performing an unknown song'!
Get creative with you content. Look to develop an idea or hook around your release that extends beyond the music itself. Use the lyrics or themes of the song as inspiration. Aim to create the most engaging piece of content, and ask yourself would you click on it, or share it? If not why would anyone else.
It's clear the world has changed, and unsigned artists shouldn't be afraid of challenging conventions. Just because you can make a music video, doesn't mean you should.
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Words. Mark Knight, Founder Major Labl.