Apps, Mobile & SMS

DIY Music Marketing With Messaging Stickers and Emoticons

Cubie-logoMessaging apps are continuing to grow and build ever stronger and more lucrative combinations of services. That means they're going to be around for awhile. Though we've seen examples of marketing on messaging apps from big stars like Paul McCartney, Psy and One Direction, I've yet to see any coverage of what DIY and indie musicians are doing or could do. But the inevitable is occuring. Stickers and emoticons are going UGC (user-generated content) and that creates an opening for DIY viral growth on messaging apps.

At this point you should be well aware of the fact that messaging apps are becoming social networks. One reason this is so is that messaging has become a more public process.

Though you may still think of messaging as private, messaging apps are closer to Twitter with options ranging from one-to-one communication to public posting with accounts that others can follow without you having to follow back.

Music Stars Already Marketing With Messaging Stickers

Last year Team McCartney set up a Paul McCartney account on LINE which soon had millions of followers. So they released a set of stickers featuring cartoons of McCartney illustrating such basic ideas as "Love" and "Good."

Such stickers can be added to messages and can then take on a life of their own. If you're not familiar with such stickers, you're probably aware of emoticon which began as grassroots emotional expressions in text such as the sideways smiley face:   🙂

Those then became actual smiley faces and the like in very simple graphic form as early messaging companies got in on the game. That shift may have come from Japan in the form of emoji but I haven't looked closely at that history.


Since then the sky seems to be the limit from comic images like those of McCartney, emoticons using photographs, gifs as emoticons and emoticons with audio as Team Psy released. At this point the emoticons themselves are sometimes used as messages with no additional content.

Such music-related stickers and emoticons take off because they feature big stars and are released in partnership with messaging apps or are simply another paid marketing tool available from messaging apps. Keep in mind that giving away free superstar stickers is good for both user retention and recruitment by the apps themselves.

DIY Sticker Opportunities Finally Emerging

With that in mind, I've been looking for opportunities that would open things up for DIY and indie artists who can't partner with messaging apps because not that many people know who they are.

Until quite recently messaging apps wanted the sticker/emoticon market under their control. Why?

Last year Line brought in $338.4 million in revenue. Last spring it was claimed that Line was selling around $3.1 million worth of stamps each month.

If correct, that's over 10% of revenue. Letting users make and distribute their own stickers would undermine that.

Now Taiwan's Cubie, which has apparently always been a frontrunner in such things, has made it possible to create custom stickers and share them with friends.

I checked in with Tech in Asia's Josh Horwitz and he confirmed that users can share stickers they've created on Cubie and that, to his knowledge, "none of the major messaging apps – WeChat, Viber, LINE, Kik, Kakao – have this feature."

Get In Now While The Getting's Good

So a potentially disruptive shift that could undermine the paid sticker market is occurring. Whether that actually plays out remains to be seen but, more importantly for DIY musicians, it likely means more such tools and opportunities for creating stickers and emoticons to distribute for marketing purposes are on the way.

This opens up the potential for viral spread of creative stickers by artists who are relatively unknown. It also means artists with a strong visual image have another opportunity to capitalize on that look.

I believe it also opens up the possibility for bands that have a strong image that is viewed as anti-social or out-of-the-ordinary to step up. I'm thinking of Slipknot stickers as I write this.

Given that such musical genres as metal, punk, goth and more underground examples can build an international following of people who identify with something that speaks to their sense of alienation from or anger towards mainstream society, stickers can play right in to that.

And that's just one possibility for who might benefit from DIY messaging stickers. I believe a big opportunity is opening up.

Start checking it out now and avoid the rush. There is a world to win. Go win it.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is currently relaunching All World Dance. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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1 Comment

  1. LOVE this insight. Mostly because I work for a custom sticker manufacturer and can see so many ways that digital stickers can pave the way for physical expressions of personalized band branding. Thanks so much for this! Now I’m going to have to go make a sticker to put in my email sig ha!

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