Indie Music

Q&A With Downtown Records Noah Jackson

2In this interview Noah Jackson, content and social media strategist at Downtown Records, discusses the importance of artists keeping up with marketing tech, as well as the value of messenger bots and strategies for getting them to work effectively.


Guest post Veselina Gerova of The Message

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I started off working in music journalism but soon gravitated to the label world, where I’ve done everything from social analytics and consumer research to designing album artwork and creating social assets.

Currently, I focus on conceiving and executing inventive content for artists and transmitting it to fans in an effective and strategic way.

Also, can you tell us a bit about the company you work for, Downtown Records?

Downtown is an independent label with a storied history: we kicked off the careers of acts ranging from Gnarls BarkleyMajor Lazer and Santigold to newer smashes like Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker) and Smino.

We combine progressive A&R with forward-thinking marketing and social strategy, using the latest digital innovations to tell the stories of some of the world’s most exciting artists.

What is your position there?

I’m a content and social media strategist. I work with our artists to build out narratives via content pieces, as small as a gif-set or track visualizer and as large as long-form video, content rollouts with brand partners and non-traditional online activations.

Working in the music industry requires you to deal with a lot of artists. How important do you think it is for musicians to connect with their fans online?

In the current digital climate, where social algorithms and the decline of music publications make it ever harder for artists to reach their audiences, it’s essential for musicians to build a meaningful online connection with their fans. When your artist is competing in the feeds with high budget content producers, they have to give fans a compelling reason to engage.

Is it important for musicians these days to be innovative when it comes to technology? If so, why?

Relying on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram algorithms/ad platforms to drive engagement is a losing battle, especially as social networks seem hell-bent on making organic reach harder and harder to achieve.

Musicians need to embrace new technologies from the start to make themselves seen: when your artist is the first in their field on a buzzy new platform, their visibility and cultural cachet is inherently increased.

Speaking of innovation, Messenger bots are the “new big thing”. The Academic also has one. How do you think having a Messenger bot has affected the band’s social media presence?

The most striking result of using the Messenger bot with The Academic is the increase in organic reach. On the band’s best performing Facebook posts, we reach around 20% of their total audience, with that number decreasing by up to half for posts without native video.

Using the Messenger bot, The Academic are able to bypass the newsfeed algorithms, and reach has dramatically increased — all our blasts have open rates of 90% or higher!

This means they have been able to message less aggressively on the main page and reserve it for campaign highlights, while the bot now does a lot of the legwork in reminding fans about upcoming or released content.

The Academic

What should musicians use a Messenger bot for?

Musicians should use a Messenger bot for more personalized messaging than they would otherwise use on their social properties.

Fans have to opt in to use the Messenger bot, so they’re expecting a degree of intimacy and exclusivity in their interactions with it — so don’t just rehash existing social posts and expect fans to stay interested!

Depending on the sophistication of their response trees, musicians can also effectively use the bot as a simplified version of an official website, a one-stop shop for all info from tour dates, single/album releases, and buy links.

Should artists have a strategy when it comes to Messenger bots?

Definitely. I think there are a couple ways to do it: artists can either use Messenger bots to activate superfans ahead of major events, like teasing music videos or sending out pre-sale ticket links, or use them to retarget fans without spamming their newsfeeds, e.g. reminding fans that a new single or video is out.

I try to combine the two, so that fans who’ve opted into the bot messages feel specially served with exclusive content, while also using the bot as a method to supplement existing messaging on the main Facebook page.

If so, any tips & tricks you’d like to share about such strategies?

Most importantly, I’d recommend social media managers to work out a regular cadence.

You don’t want to overwhelm fans with an onslaught of messages, or they’ll just switch off (and your open rates will plummet).

I’d either tie your messages to major campaign events and content hits (either before or after release), or use the bot as you would a newsletter, with weekly, biweekly or monthly blasts.

How do Messenger bots differ from social media posts in your opinion?

Because fans have opted in to receive bot messages, they’re already showing an elevated level of interest in direct communication from the artist.

As a result, musicians can address fans in a more intimate and personal manner on the bot, and can share exclusive content without blasting it out to the world.

There’s also a level of interactivity absent in regular social posts, as on the bot fans can interface with pre-programmed responses instantaneously, whereas otherwise they would have to wait for the artist or social media manager to respond manually.

What are the marketing advantages of having a Messenger bot (for artists)?

The major advantage of a Messenger bot, especially POP, is its ability to synthesize multiple traditional digital marketing tools. Messenger bots have the same direct-to-consumer messaging and email capture as an email newsletter, while in-bot menus can serve as a stripped-down version of an official website without the inconvenience of navigating out of Facebook.

Artists can effectively use a Messenger bot as a CRM, which is particularly useful for newer artists with less budget/bandwidth to build out a website and email list. The intimate nature of a direct message also allows artists to sell fans on their personality, as they can use a more idiosyncratic voice than they would for a regular social post on Facebook.

How do you think the future of Messenger bots will look like?

Currently, one of the limiting factors of Messenger bots is the need to build out response trees by hand.

In the near future, I think that augmenting bots with AI technology will allow artists to create fully automated CRMs through Facebook, where AI can analyze fan queries and direct them to appropriate information.

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