How does content marketing work for the music industry?
In the bloodthirsty battle royale of music content marketing, how do you rank number one?
Alec Ellin, an A&R rep at Sony, estimates there are upwards of 3,000 music blogs in regular operation (and competition). Beyond this you have streaming platforms like YouTube, Apple Music and Spotify, established journalism giants like The Guardian, and the information behemoth that is Wikipedia.
Even the most prominent music websites like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone (Alexa rankings 1,356 and 1,706) are going to struggle against the heft of this level of competition – YouTube and Spotify, two direct competitors, are in Alexa’s top five most-viewed sites on the planet.
Yet with certain releases, like Solange Knowles’ 2016 masterpiece A Seat At The Table, music reviews often outrank these theoretically far more relevant resources.
My Album, A Seat At The Table, will be released digitally this Friday • September 30th. Visit www.solangemusic.com to experience the #ASeatAtTheTable digital book now. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and excitement to share this body of work I have written, with you. Album Cover Photography : @carlota_guerrero
Which begs the question: How the hell do you beat Beyonce’s sister to the top spot?
How Pitchfork uses content marketing to get music reviews to the top
With intelligently run websites like Pitchfork, reviews are both thought leadership and strongly-tailored content marketing. There are four primary elements to this.
1) Website design and layout
Pitchfork has some of the best website design and layout in the music business. Above the fold, their review of A Seat At The Table tells you what the review is, who the album is by, who wrote it, what genre of music it is, and perhaps most importantly, whether it is any good.
This is followed by a mission statement, a summary of the review – a prime candidate for a knowledge graph on the query of whether Solange is good or not. Not coincidentally, this review ranks second for queries as innocuous as “is Solange good”.
Clarity, immediacy and value – the fundamentals of good content marketing – are present and accounted for.
2) Impeccable content structure
Even without subhead breaking up the review, Pitchfork’s review of A Seat At The Table provides a clear structure, with every paragraph answering a different question, including:
- Who is Solange?
- What has Solange done previously?
- Who has Solange worked with?
- Who produced A Seat At The Table?
- What is A Seat At The Table’s cultural significance?
- What are the best songs on A Seat At The Table?
- What is the meaning behind Solange’s album?
As you have probably guessed by now, the review pops up near the top of page one for most of those queries.
This review clearly identifies the most important questions Pitchfork’s audience would ask about A Seat At The Table, and answers each of them in a self-contained, authoritative manner. It makes the review more than a critique – it’s a social and musical encyclopaedia of everything that surrounds the album.
3) Informative use of embedded links in the content
Even with a 1,200 word count, Pitchfork’s review cannot answer every question about Solange or her album. Instead, it relies on external links to more comprehensive resources and relevant videos.
While this may not be absolute best practice, in this case, it further establishes the article as a single resource from which the reader can find out everything they need to know.
4) Understanding its audience and search queries
There are aspects of this album which the Pitchfork review does gloss over. Despite calling it “an ode to black womanhood”, the piece does not mention the words race or feminism once and tackles the topics in more sweeping terms (like placing it within the Black Lives Matter movement). This is a subject intrinsically linked to Solange, something many other articles have tackled, and a series of search queries where Pitchfork does not show up.
— billboard (@billboard) January 26, 2017
While omission may not be the best content marketing strategy, in this case, it lines up perfectly with Pitchfork’s own audience. See Quantcast’s data on the site’s demographics below:
Young, white, university-educated men are the bread and butter of Pitchfork’s site traffic. While their identity does not preclude this demographic from having an interest in topics like race and feminism, the lack of direct connection to them may drive the focus of what Pitchfork views as the most important search queries to target, instead focusing on more music-related elements.
How to get a seat at the SERP with your content marketing
Combining these four elements, Pitchfork has turned its review of A Seat At The Table into a one-stop shop for a wide range of information on Solange herself, the album, its history, production and politics.
It also teaches content marketers in music and beyond how to punch above their weight and rank highly against even the strongest competition on the internet.
- Understand your demographics and find your audience’s most important queries.
- Answer them clearly, succinctly and in paragraphs independent of one another. You can answer more than one query in an article.
- Put your bid for a knowledge graph at the top. It’s a mission statement and a hook.
- Check your layout. You may need a website redesign to present content above the fold that is clear, attractive and a summary of everything below.
In a sphere as crowded as music journalism, labels, review websites and artists themselves could all stand to enjoy the benefits of content marketing – you don’t have to make hits to get hits.