Friday, February 4, 2011

The Importance of Context in Music Discovery

Within the ongoing discussions regarding new music business models that are taking place across the blogosphere, there is a lot of talk about providing ‘context’ to fans, and using that to monetize your work rather than relying on the sales of your music alone. However context isn’t only important to provide to your current fans, it plays a crucial role in hooking new ones. So what exactly is context and how can we make sure we’re providing enough of it to gain the attention of potential fans?
Context : the surroundings, circumstances, environment, background or settings which determine, specify, or clarify the meaning of an event associated with the consumption of music.

Discovery Context

First of all, it’s important to recognize how important context is in hooking new fans. Sure, the music itself is the most important ingredient when it comes to potential fans discovering you, but if they haven’t been primed with contextual information, your music might not ‘click’ with them. We’ve all been introduced to a new band and dismissed them as uninteresting only to revisit their music again later equipped with new information and suddenly love them. It’s happened to me many times anyway.
Knowing that more fans are likely to be moved farther along in the absorption process if they hear your music in the right context, giving you a better chance of converting them into true fans, it makes sense to find effective ways of providing that context.

Step One – Identify Discovery Channels

The first thing you need to do is figure out how people are learning about your music. Use tools like Google Alerts, Google Analytics, and Twitter to find out where traffic is coming from and who is talking about you. Look at your YouTube insights to see who is linking to your videos. Use this information to poke around and determine the paths people take online to end up at your pages.
You might find that there is a large number of people finding you via a blog post somebody made at a website you’ve never heard of. Or maybe a video of yours is making the rounds on Facebook. You could be getting all kinds of traffic from a similar bands Wikipedia entry. There is no limit to the number of different paths people can take to discovering your music, so find out which channels are driving the most traffic.

Step Two – Plant Context Rich Content

Once you have a good handle on how people are finding you, start planting content along the paths that people are taking to find you that will give them a better understanding of who you are and what you’re all about. The type of content you should use to accomplish this depends on what is generating the interest in the first place. Here are a few ideas:
Video EPK
Interesting and relevant press items / interviews
Personal message from the artist
Video of artist interacting with fans/other artists/his mother
Whatever content you decide to create and plant for this purpose, make sure your fans are able to take it with them and embed it in their own sites, blogs, message boards, etc. If you manage to make the right content, your fans will use it on your behalf to hook new fans for you. Make it easy for your fans to give their friends context and you’ll see a spike in new fans.
Here’s a simple rule to follow: Always Be Publishing. (Mitch Joel tweeted this the other day and it stuck with me, so I stole it.) Whether it’s new music, blog or twitter posts, pictures, or anything else – always be publishing. Furthermore, if the content you are publishing doesn’t accomplish at least one of the following goals, it’s not worth publishing:
Showcase your talents
Provide context
Engage fans
Build relationships

Step Three – Track Your Efforts

Pay attention to metrics such as traffic, streams, mailing list sign-ups, sales, comments, incoming links, blog chatter, etc. so that you have a solid grasp on how effective your current content and presentation is at converting strangers into interested listeners. When you make a change in order to increase conversions, watch carefully for changes in these metrics and make a decision on how to proceed based on your results.
You’ll learn a lot about your fans and what types of content engages them by simply paying attention. Many artists and music marketers expect that they simply need to do what everyone else is doing, and then wonder why they aren’t getting anywhere. Rather than creating generic content, listen to your fans and let them shape the type of content you produce to promote your music.


With the ridiculously huge and ever increasing number of choices competing for the attention of potential fans, it’s pretty obvious that artists and music marketers need to start doing more if they want to succeed. Your success in building and nurturing your tribe will be a direct reflection of your ability to provide valuable context to it’s potential and current fans. Context builds connection.
What are your thoughts? Use the comments to post examples of great contextual content that you’ve come across and let me know if this sparks any ideas.

A la

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