Expert Advice: Conducting a Content Soundcheck with Amber Horsburgh (Part III – fan personas)

Expert Advice: Conducting a Content Soundcheck with Amber Horsburgh (Part III – fan personas)

Guest post by Amber Horsburgh*

Content Soundcheck Part III: Finding your niche in celebrities

Just joining us? Read Part I and and Part II if you’d like to catch up.

Veteran songwriter, producer and publishing executive, Ralph Murphy, who’s penned hits for Shania Twain (best selling female country artist of all time) wrote exclusively for women out driving at 7 a.m.

He called it “drive time mentality” – the state of mind his songs need to punch through. At 7 a.m. this woman wants three things: local news, local weather and local traffic. But, what she gets from the radio is an ad for every two minutes and a presenter that talks about everything else except those three things. Frustrated and anxious, when a song finally comes on, she’s predisposed to hate whatever is played. You have :45 seconds to win her, what happens in the first :45 to do that?

This acute understanding of his target audience brought Ralph so much success. He wasn’t writing for everyone. He wasn’t even writing for women at other times of the day. He was writing for women in a drive time mentality.

Content strategy works on the same premise. You’re creating for yourself and the audience you want to reach. Many artists fall in the trap of only creating what they see working for others. You’re much better off making ideas around your own story and your relationship with your audience than chasing trends.

Audience personas for social media provide a filter for creative ideas, guidance on subject matter, tone and partnerships in content creation. They can be used more generally to identify relevant collaborations, touring plans and appearances. 

This article talks about how to identify an audience persona and use it to guide a content strategy.

Ralph Murphy’s drive time mentality worked because it was so extreme. Audience personas should have energy and emotion to inspire ideas. But, most of the time marketers talk about audience personas as the personification of data…

“Artist X’s audience are 18-24 year olds, skew male, college-educated, use SoundCloud, Spotify or YouTube to find new music, like fashion and live music, and read Hypebeast.”

This description is too bland to inspire or evaluate ideas. 

A better persona would be a celebrity. Celebs provide that extreme character description. They are more visual than the above flat audience description so they can guide anyone you’re working with on the right path.

For an artist like Bankrol Hayden (who was the focus of Part II), suitable celebrities to represent his audience persona could be: 

  • Travis Scott because he represents the top of the game in Bankrol Hayden’s genre. He lives as both a rapper and celebrity having achieved superstar status providing inspiration of what a mega-successful career would look like.
  • Addison Rae because of her Gen-Z audience and prolific TikTok presence. The Content Soundcheck showed TikTok as an influential platform for Bankrol Hayden and his contemporaries so appealing to Addison Rae would guide content toward growth with this audience
  • Carmelo Anthony as a superstar basketball player with crossover interests and consequently media as Bankrol Hayden’s audience, i.e.: his ambassador role with Nike Air Jordan’s and work empowering the next generation of kids in his city.

The best way to identify your celebrity persona is to ask you and people close to your project (band mates, manager, friends, label reps) –“What celebrity should follow me but they don’t?”

Collate the answers and choose one that feels spot on to you. From there, paint a picture of who they are. In doing so you’re creating an audience persona that has the same energy and emotion Ralph Murphy’s 7 a.m. drive time mentality did.

Questions to help paint that picture include: 

  1. Who follows them? Why do they like them?
  2. What do they think is funny?
  3. What tone do they post in?
  4. Where do they live?
  5. What other artists has the celeb championed in the past? 
  6. What products do they use?
  7. What charities do they align with?
  8. What makes them rage tweet?
  9. What type of videos do they reshare?
  10. How produced are they?

Using celebrities to represent your target audience works because it’s simple. You can get creative with who they are: celebrities of the past or present; draw from fashion, sports, world leaders or film to give you a colorful picture of your target audience.

As you create content ask yourself – “What would we need to create to get our celebrity to RT this?” This becomes the filter that gets everyone on the same page to know you’re moving toward the same direction.

If you know your target audience and the content they want, your marketing will hit harder.

This 3-part series detailed how to properly identify your target audience through celebrity personas, as well as research your competition to see what content works for the category. When put together, it is the basis of a solid social media content strategy that is unique to you and memorable to your target audience allowing you to up your social game.  

If you missed Parts I and II of the Content Soundcheck, you can check them out below:

Content Soundcheck Part I: Essential groundwork for social media strategy

Content Soundcheck Part II: Bankrol Hayden – case study on Instagram strategy


*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).