Expert Advice: Conducting a Content Soundcheck with Amber Horsburgh (Part I – essential groundwork)
Guest post by Amber Horsburgh*
Content Soundcheck Part I: Essential groundwork for social media strategy
Part of an artist’s job is social media.
The biggest artists harness its power to build their brands and businesses. When used right, social media spreads music, connects artists, expands your audience and provides leverage when signing a deal or booking shows.
Just as artists entertain on stage, they need to entertain online. But, many get stuck on what exactly to post and how to push through that feeling of being self-promo-y or spammy while still making content that connects with fans.
This three-part series helps you do a Content Soundcheck on yourself. The Content Soundcheck becomes the foundation of your social media strategy based on your own audience, artistic tastes and scene.
- Sparking new ideas
- Becoming more efficient at creating content
- Prioritizing the most important social channels
It’s not a one-size fits all checklist.
Part I: Provides a step-by-step guide to doing a Content Soundcheck
Part II: Runs through a case study of Bankrol Hayden’s Instagram strategy showing how to apply the Content Soundcheck
Part III: Expands the Content Soundcheck to your fanbase
Before you get started, save a copy of the Content Soundcheck audit spreadsheet to Google Drive (File > “Make a Copy”). It’s prefilled with equations to save time.
STEP #1: MAKE A LIST OF 5 ARTISTS IN YOUR SCENE
How long it takes: 30 mins – 1 hour
We’re digging for content and channels that work best for your contemporaries. To get 5 artists you’ll make a list of 20-30, so aim for volume and cull as you go.
Where to look:
- SoundCloud “fans also like”
- Spotify “fans also like”
- Google search “people also search for”
- Songkick, venues from tour dates in major markets, e.g.: NY, LA, Atlanta
- TikTok “suggested accounts”
- Ask friends who you remind them of if you haven’t quite honed your sound yet
Things to keep in mind when choosing similar artists:
- Artists around your level, i.e.: 50% larger or smaller than your audience.
- Artists at a similar career stage.
- Don’t be fussy with genre. Music listeners are genreless. Don’t be surprised to find suggested artists making pop music when you’re a rapper. You are looking for content that sticks with your audience who’s listening habits could include Dua Lipa, Yung Pinch, and Fleetwood Mac in the same playlist.
STEP #2: DETERMINE WHAT YOU’LL AUDIT
How long it takes: 1 min
Once you’ve got 5 artists, decide what channels to look at.
Don’t analyze every channel, unless of course, you’d like to. Focus on the channels with the largest followings as well as your weaknesses.
E.g.: if you’re not on TikTok but you’ve wondered if you should be, then study that. If the bulk of similar artists’ followings are on Instagram then look at that.
STEP #3 START CRUNCHING NUMBERS
How long it takes: 2 – 3 hours
Copy the 10 best performing posts of the past 6 months for each artist noting the number of likes, comments and plays in the spreadsheet.
This uncovers patterns for what works and what doesn’t.
I.e.: Image posts might work better than video for tour announcements. If you catch this then you won’t make the same mistake.
STEP #3½ WRITE DOWN PATTERNS
How long it takes: No extra time
As you go through posts, notice when one does a lot better than another. Ask yourself – why?
Is the shot blurry?
Is the artist small and unrecognizable in the picture?
Is it a fan shout out?
Have they used a video that takes too long to get into?
Do bright colors or moody, darker shots work?
Does the artist post more or less than you?
Jot those thoughts down.
STEP #4: BUILD YOUR STRATEGY
How long it takes: 15 – 30 mins
Bring all your learnings together to make your rubric. A simple framework that makes social media manageable, executable and efficient for you.
Summarize patterns into rules in these three categories. Be as specific as possible:
Things you need to do you’re not already.
I.e.: get a TikTok account. Learn light video editing to make Stories more engaging. Reach out to friends to collaborate and do a few shoots together. Celebrate upcoming 1 year anniversary of a single.
Mistakes you’ve been making compared to other artists.
I.e.: Stop using Instagram filters – use VSCO instead. Do video posts to announce tours. Posting low quality shots to IG Feed, stick to Stories instead.
Things you’re already doing that work for you and your contemporaries, i.e.: Shouting out displays of fanaticism like fan tattoos. Participating in challenges. Editing photos to maintain a high-quality aesthetic. Sharing BTS from the studio, video shoots or tour.
The Start / Stop / Continue framework is your social media best practices. You use this to guide your team, direct creative partners, and keep you on track as you create content and build your fanbase.
This is the best social media advice you can get because you’ve built it on competitive insights and self-reflection. Not from a generic bullet-point list online. You’ve built it with you in mind so it’s manageable, and executable allowing you to get back to making music.
Now delve into Part II: Bankrol Hayden, Instagram Case Study HERE where this exercise is applied to the rapper’s Instagram approach.
*Amber Horsburgh is a music strategist based in Brooklyn.
As former SVP Strategy at Downtown Records she helped artists build brands including Mura Masa, Smino, Tommy Genesis, Chet Faker/Nick Murphy and Cold War Kids. On the flip side, she’s helped brands like YouTube Music, Sonos, Samsung and Google Play connect with audiences.
She runs Deep Cuts – a semi-regular music strategy newsletter for artists & marketers that goes deep into effective artist marketing strategies (subscribe here).