Ever wonder what music Christian college students listen to? That’s a subject anyone working in Christian music should explore frequently because today’s college students are tomorrow’s adults. Listening habits of Christian college students are similar to those of non-Christian college kids in that they enjoy discovering new music. As students graduate from high school and transition into college, they look to engage with things which make them feel like they are maturing. No longer being shuttled around in mom’s mini-van listening to KLOVE, college students quickly determine that core CCM artists are uncool. They begin their search to replace Casting Crowns, MercyMe, Natalie Grant and Tobymac with artists who represent their newly refined taste in music. Many begin adding mainstream artists into their playlists as they no longer feel bound within the Christian subculture. As they step out into the world leaving the Christian bubble, some are overjoyed to discover mainstream artists who are vocal about their faith. They also find a new excitement in discovering Christian artists who don’t limit themselves to the KLOVE/FISH CCM radio formula. Who knew there was a world of music being created by artists who ignore the boundaries established in CCM music?
We were fortunate to begin working with a college favorite, The Gray Havens, a little over a year ago. Immediately, we noticed their listeners are quite different than those on the Christian radio chart. They long for deeper messages crafted with creativity and melodies that live well alongside mainstream music. The college students are super engaged with the artists they love and and are quite loyal once they become a fan. The Oh Hellos, Judah & The Lion, Josh Garrels and Colony House top the list of college favorites and serve as examples of mainstream artists who are vocal about their faith. Those artists are often found mixed in with John Mark McMillen, The Gray Havens and The Brilliance.
While examining streaming stats for college favorites, I’ve noticed a long, steady solid growth in fans as opposed to quick spikes one might see for CCM radio artists. A search for Christian college playlists on Spotify came up empty so we decided to create some playlists targeted at Christian college students. I’d like to invite you to check out the playlists we launched called THE VIBE.
Are we experiencing the return of the single?
Remember the days or least heard the stories of vinyl 45s? Or how about cassingles? Those were exciting days in the music business! Before record labels launched a full album, they would release a “for sale” single well in advance. The single served as instant gratification for the new music being heard on the radio but more importantly it tickled consumers’ taste buds creating an insatiable anticipation for what was to come. With the introduction of CDs, the single quickly died. I’m still not sure why the single died other than maybe impatient record labels wanting the full album revenue as soon as possible.
Fast Ford to 2017 where we stream and download instead of placing the needle on 45s or loading cassingles into a Walkman. Have you noticed what the top artists have been doing lately? Both Ed Sheeran and Coldplay put huge emphasis on releasing singles in advance of their new full albums. Ed Sheeran took it a step further trickling out two singles a few weeks apart in advance of his full length release. The single release strategy for Ed Sheeran’s Divide brilliantly catapulted him to the top of Billboard charts while smashing Spotify streaming records.
The single has indeed returned.
Marketing Music in 2017 is more attainable than ever yet more difficult than ever.
Marketing attainability is greater than ever as the playing field has been leveled. Digital music services have made it possible for any artist to release music in key worldwide retail stores including iTunes, Spotify, GooglePlay and Amazon. Social networks have made it possible for anyone to market music at a very low cost.
Marketing is more difficult than ever as there are so many vehicles to choose from. Knowing where your target audience is hanging out is only the starting point. Due to accessibility of releasing music being made easy, an enormous amount of digital noise surrounding the mountains of music releases creates a crowded marketplace. Waining attention spans combined with the overcrowded marketplace makes it extremely difficult to harvest the clicks on your content.
So How Do You Market Music In 2017?
- Make incredible music!
- Spotify playlist are the holy grail. If your music isn’t featured on playlists you are invisible. Some playlists are owned by Spotify but many aren’t. Figure out how to get your music in front of playlisters. It is possible and your success depends on it
- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. Find your customers and spend a little money to get in front of them.
- Make videos, make more videos and make even more videos. Youtube is the current generation’s MTV. The big difference is now anyone can play in the video space. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money to advertise your videos to similar successful artists. It will reap views and exposure. People can’t connect with your music if they aren’t exposed to your music.
- Spend time with young people 16-23. They know whats new, where people are hanging out and how to navigate new technology and the new frontier. Listen and learn!
Noah Cleveland released his new lyric video for “My Savior Lives” this week. The Easter themed song written by Cleveland and Tony Wood promises to become a favorite worship song for churches around the world. As listeners will see and hear, the song simply tells the story of the Gospel through a hauntingly beautiful melody.
Bono wants honest Christian music, according to an interview published by The Huffington Post this week. U2’s frontman stated in the Huffington Post interview that he finds “a lot of dishonesty” in modern Christian art. The article quoted Bono as saying “Why I am suspicious of Christians is because of this lack of realism,” he continued. “And I’d love to see more of that — in art and in life and in music.”
Well, as you can imagine, Bono’s statements lit up the social networks with thoughts and reactions from the Christian music community. While some agreed with Bono, most think Bono is only hearing the music supported by Christian radio. There has been an ongoing conversation about Christian radio’s unwillingness to support great honest songs for quite a while. Honest music is absolutely being made, but Christian radio refuses to support it and instead chooses music that is safe, watered down and familiar. Some would even argue that Christian radio has become the A&R team for the Christian record labels as most labels won’t sign or release music that doesn’t fit in the safe box that Christian radio has created.
Christian radio has grown quite dependent on “radio testing” in order to decide whether or not to add new music. Unfortunately, the “radio testing” is viewed by many as a flawed process and is designed to favor familiarity. Of course listeners are going to rate familiar music higher than unfamiliar music while participating in the testing process. Those results scare Christian radio programmers into shying away from adding some of the more honest music. That doesn’t mean honest Christian music isn’t being made, it’s just not being exposed to the masses.
In an effort to expose Bono to some great honest Christian music, I created a Spotify playlist specifically for him. Bono – here is some honest Christian music for you to check out “Honest Christian Music For Bono.” I think you will see there is much more depth and honesty than is normally heard on radio.
I invite all to follow the playlist and send your suggestions of music we should add to email@example.com
Seth Godin’s favorite new album is remarkable. An album that stands out amongst the plethora of new music being offered. Something with an independent spirit that raises the bar for future music offerings. Songs written with intelligent lyrics causing one to think and ponder. Unforgettable melodies that linger long after a single listen. An album that allowed the producer freedom to create outside the rules of the normal radio establishment. Seth Godin’s Favorite New Album is impossible to ignore. Its an epic experience that begs for a complete listen. His favorite new album is significant.
The Gray Havens have recorded a new album, Ghost Of A King. The new album holds many of the traits Seth’s new favorite album would most likely hold. The Gray Havens have been intentional about making music that stands out among the rest. Scribing lyrics that attract those who enjoy reading and weaving them into infectious melodies that can’t be forgotten. The husband/wife duo have created something quite remarkable with their new album Ghost Of A King. The Gray Havens’ devoted tribe of music loving book readers will not be disappointed with this new collection of songs.
When significant albums comes down the pike, readers of this blog generally want to be in the know. You will want to experience The Gray Havens Ghost Of A King .
Could an album trailer have similar impact on a music release as a movie trailer has on films? That is a marketing question I have been pondering over the last year.
I joined a meet-up group consisting of those who spend their time making films. The group includes, writers, directors, marketers, and actors. My desire is to glean marketing wisdom from the group in addition to finding film homes for some of the music we represent. While the music industry struggles with bringing the masses of the past and excitement to release week for new records, the film industry continues to deliver big box office numbers for release week of films. As I began to study the film industry, I noticed one thing that has remained constant since I can remember. The movie trailer is the key marketing tool for every single film. Where they place the trailers in the marketplace may vary, but they always use a trailer. The movie trailer builds excitement and anticipation for whats to come. Often times the trailer proves to be better than the movie. How many times have you seen a movie trailer and instantly made the decision to make plans see the movie during release week?
While working on marketing plans this year, I decided to try creating song and album trailers as a test. We hear from analytic experts how video content is king and people are more apt to click on a video than anything else marketers present so it seems like an obvious avenue to test. Of course, we don’t have the big film budgets, but video technology has advanced so rapidly that one can edit video fairly easily and cheap. The response to the the trailers has been quite nice compared to other ads we post. Its a bit early to determine how much of an impact the song and album trailers will have on street week, but they are definitely creating a buzz.
Below is a trailer we created for The Gray Havens upcoming April 8 release “Ghost of A King.” We decided to keep the trailer at 30 seconds to coincide with the public’s short attention span. Its a simple quick way to tease the viewer while leaving them the desire for more.
After you view it, leave your comments and how it stirred your interest for the release?
Something I often hear in Christian circles, is a common distaste for the overall sound of Christian radio. Many in the industry listen to Christian radio in short stints as a necessity for work but their personal preference is found in mainstream music. The complaints I hear are generated from college/young adult Christians, artists, producers, songwriters, record label employees and even some who work in radio. Reasons heard from those complaining include 1) the music sounds the same as what was being played ten years ago 2) every song sounds similar 3) radio plays the same handful of artists on repeat 4) the production isn’t relevant to what is being made in the mainstream. While some of those reasons may ring true, who is serving up solutions? Who feeds the music to radio?
I would argue that the radio playlists lie in the hands of the creators. If the artists, songwriters, producers and record company A&R teams refuse to feed radio the same formulaic music, wouldn’t radio be forced to change? When something new begins to work, what if creators resisted the urge to jump on the copycat bandwagon and instead chose to lead with even newer sounds? What if record companies refused to put so much stock into what radio research is asking for and instead fed radio with nothing but innovative music? Imagine radio playlists chocked full of innovative artists like Switchfoot, For King & Country, Lecrae, Future of Forestry, John Mark McMillan, Social Club and The Brilliance. Radio might just sound a bit different.
Join the conversation, share your thoughts and stay tuned for Part 2 as we explore even more.
The Gray Havens End 2015 On High Note
CCM Magazine, JesusFreakHideout and NewReleaseToday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. January 4, 2016 —Artist Garden Entertainment artist, The Gray Havens, end 2015 on a high note with top rankings on multiple industry Top 2015 album lists. The independent, Chicago-based husband/wife duo found their way into the hearts of top Christian media with Fire & Stone, produced by GRAMMY® Award-winning Mitch Dane (Brandon Heath, JJ Heller)
CCM Magazine’s Andy Argyrakis ranked The Gray Havens Fire & Stone #6 on his Top 10 Albums list for 2015 stating “this full-length debut is an enthralling and enlightening start to what’s sure to be a fruitful career.”
Fire and Stone ranked #6 on JesusFreakHideout’s Overall Staff Picks for 2015 making The Gray Havens the first independent artist to ever appear on the chart. In addition, the duo ranked #1 on several individual staff picks charts.
Christian music discovery site UnderTheRadar ranked the record #4 on their 2015 Top Gourmet Album Picks.
The husband/wife duo released a new song, At Last, The King, in December which became NewReleaseTuesday’s top downloaded Christmas song of 2015.
The Gray Havens enter the studio this week with producer Ben Shive ( Colony House, Andrew Peterson) to begin recording their next record currently scheduled for a spring release.
The music streaming race gets a little more interesting with the today’s announcement from Youtube. Youtube announced the release of their music app for IOS and Android. I’m just downloading the app so no opinion from me yet on its functionality, however, I’m sure it will quickly move to the top of every music marketing plan. Upon hearing the news, I found this amazingly produced video that Youtube made to introduce the service. Interestingly I was the 50th person to view it so I wanted to share with those of you who haven’t seen it. After watching this video, I’m stoked. How about You?