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Spotify Ad Studio Revisited

Spotify launched their Ad Studio platform early last year. I was giddy with excitement.

For the first time, I could make potential fans hear my music. If they liked it enough to click through, my entire catalog was at their fingertips, AND I’d earn royalties on every play. Maybe I’d even earn enough to pay for the ads! What could be better?

My results, for one. It’s hard to see how they could’ve been worse.

I chalked it up to a lack of targeting options. I wasn’t able to target fans of specific bands, or even reach my own fans. Instead I was stuck targeting the overly broad and ambiguous “Electronica” genre. I’m not sure what “electronica” even means these days, but that was clearly the closest option to synthwave.

Recently I learned that you can now target fans of specific bands. The giddiness returned.

Was my enthusiasm justified? Read on.

My Spotify ad

I’m not going to walk you through the ad creation process like I did last time, since little has changed.

Instead I’ll share my ad and the thinking behind it. It’s pretty straightforward.

ad audience

I left the high-level targeting rather broad, because last time I didn’t see any benefit to further restricting age, gender, or platform.

This time I was able to specifically target fans of The Midnight, who are the center of the synthwave bullseye for me. Most synthwave is instrumental, so being able to reference another artist with male vocals and a focus on solid songwriting was exactly what the doctor ordered.

One cool feature of Ad Studio is that they’ll record your ad for you if you provide the script. Last time I did it myself, but I figured a female voice would prove more enticing to the overwhelmingly male synthwave fanbase.

ad script

Here’s how it turned out:

I don’t see how the ad could be any better:

  • It immediately calls out the target audience (synthwave fans)
  • The music sounds just like The Midnight
  • The artwork screams synthwave

If you disagree, let me know how I can improve on it and maybe I’ll try out your suggestions!

Here’s how the ad looked on mobile:

In a word, glorious. Let the clicking commence!

A false start

The first version of this article was posted a month and a half ago. My results were pathetic due to a bug in their platform that switched the targeting from “The Midnight” to “Genre – All”.

Luckily, you can stop ad delivery any time you want, without exhausting your entire budget.

Here are my “Genre – All” results after five days, at which point I pulled the plug:

What percentage of listeners would you guess clicked through? 10%? 2%? Nope.

Not even one-tenth of one percent.

24 new listeners, meaning people who hadn’t listened to my music in the past 28 days, listened to an average of 2.3 songs. That’s 55 streams for nearly $80.

Hours after the post went live, support let me know about the bug, and eventually refunded the $80 I spent.

My Spotify Ad Studio results

It took a few days to get another ad up and running, because the same script I used in my first ad was rejected.

That one started off with, “Are you a fan of The Midnight?”

I mean, how perfect is that? The answer has to be “yes” because my target is… fans of The Midnight.

Turns out I had to settle for less than perfection:

Your voiceover can only mention artists whose content is being promoted. Remove the mention of all artists whose music is not being promoted from your audio voiceover.

Makes you wonder why the first ad was approved, or why the voiceover team recorded it in the first place. I’ve seen Spotify ads tutorials that call out other artists by name!

Despite that handicap, I was still quite pleased with the results.

Spotify Ad Studio results

What jumped out at me is the frequency. With Facebook Ads, I’ll typically disable an ad set long before the frequency gets that high.

I emailed support to ask what I could do to bring it down. Here is their response:

Yes, that frequency is higher than the average we would see (2-3). This is the average over the lifetime of the campaign however. We have a cap in place on a daily level so as not to play too much to the same user. If you wish to bring down the frequency, I would recommend opening up the targeting. The ad is delivering at a higher frequency because this audience is on the smaller side. Here are some options:

• Changing fan targeting to genre targeting. I’m aware however that you may not want to do this based on our discussions about your previous ad.
• Add some other artists to fan targeting that would be similar to The Midnight. Adding some artists with larger listenership but a similar audience/style would help a lot.
• Open up the age targeting.

Give one of those a try and hopefully it will help with the frequency.

So on July 30 (about halfway through the campaign), I added several other synthwave artists:

It didn’t really help, likely because everyone who is a fan of those other artists is also a fan of The Midnight. They are to synthwave what Nirvana is to grunge, Metallica is to metal, Star Wars is to sci-fi, Tolkien is to fantasy, and Kermit is to frog puppets.

Frequency woes aside, here’s what $250 got me:

Are you impressed? I’m impressed!

Let’s do a little back-of-the-envelope math:

1300 new listeners x 6 streams per listener = 7800 streams x $0.004 per stream = $31

I didn’t expect the streams to pay for the campaign, but hey, they covered about an eighth of it!

The post campaign window is intriguing. If I’m understanding it correctly, people heard my ad during the campaign, and then listened to my music as much as two weeks later.

Did they just happen to remember to look me up? That strikes me as unlikely. I emailed support for clarification, because I didn’t see anything in the FAQ. Their response:

Correct, we have a two week attribution window. So if someone who heard your ad listens to your music up to 2 weeks after the ad played, they will be attributed as a new listener from your ad. This would be common practice in a lot of advertising including display ads you would see on Facebook, Google, etc. Listeners may not always click on your ad there and then as they may not be able to (driving, working out, etc while listening) but our research has shown that they may listen to your music at a later date.

Now that I think about it, that makes sense. I often save stuff I read about online to a “check out” playlist to peruse later.

A solid percentage of those new listeners likely became new followers, as my follower count went up quite a bit:

I can’t attribute that all to the ad campaign though, as I’ve been running multiple Spotify PR campaigns. Details to come!

Intent rate is defined in the FAQ as: “The percentage of listeners who took actions showing intent to stream the artist again in the future. Actions include saving the artist’s music (by tapping the heart icon or “save”) or adding it to a playlist.”

I’m not sure if 11% is good or bad. Let’s compare notes!

Finally, here’s who my ad was served to. Recall that I restricted age to 25-45.

In summary, the usual synthwave sausage-fest. Last I checked Facebook Audience Insights, synthwave fans are 90% male.

Spotify Ads Studio conclusion

The moral of the story is: targeting matters.

Specifically, appropriate targeting brought my 0.09% conversion rate up to 9.80%, and my “stay away from Spotify Ad Studio at all costs” recommendation up to “give it a shot!”

I’ll be doing just that in a couple weeks with a new 4-track single, and if that produces positive results, with a new album in October.

I’ve got a couple suggestions to improve the platform for artists:

  • Swap out the vague Intent Rate metric in favor of New Followers, Song Saves, and Playlist Adds.
  • Include our music in the Discovery Weekly playlists of the listeners who hear our ads. Conversion rates would go through the roof!
  • Integrate Ad Studio reporting with the Spotify for Artists dashboard

Feel free to add your own suggestions, and share your results, in the comments!

If you’d like to hear more of my promotional escapades, be sure to subscribe to my How I’m Promoting My Music This Month email newsletter.

Better yet, join me on Patreon for a behind-the-scenes look at my creative process and promotional efforts!

19 Comments

  • Reply
    darrylgirard
    July 17, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Did they refund your $80?

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      July 17, 2019 at 12:29 pm

      I requested a refund, but I haven’t heard back. Technically I haven’t paid for it yet, so maybe they’ll just void the entire campaign.

  • Reply
    Jesse
    July 27, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    Hey Brian – in your last mail out you mentioned you’re working with a Spotify PR service. I expect you’ll be covering that experience once results are in but wondering if you’re willing to mention which service you went with ?

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      July 31, 2019 at 10:50 am

      I’ve run two campaigns with two different services: Virtuoso and Midnite Blaster (who I also wrote about SoundCloud promo with).

      • Reply
        Zae
        August 16, 2019 at 7:45 pm

        Hi Brian, would you please tell us about your experience with Virtuoso? Thanks.

        • Reply
          Brian Hazard
          August 16, 2019 at 8:11 pm

          I will be writing about it in great detail! Hopefully in the next few weeks.

          • Zae
            August 19, 2019 at 2:30 pm

            Thanks, Brian. We’re anxiously waiting for your review. And we owe you a huge debt ♥️

  • Reply
    Tieran (@TieranOfficial)
    August 2, 2019 at 8:13 am

    I’ve now run 2 ad’s and my conversion has been .22% and .32%. I know my ad’s aren’t bad because I’ve run them on Facebook targetting the same artist. I contacted Spotify and they ensured me that the ad wasn’t accidentally targetting “all genres” like your original one did. I’ve spent a total of $270 for 120 POTENTIAL new fans and none of the streams are getting me paid. I don’t know how you’re getting such good numbers but I would like to see what your final campaign results look like. Any updates would be great cause I’m close to giving up on them completely.

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      August 2, 2019 at 10:47 am

      Just updated the post with my latest results!

      You can confirm the targeting on the ad details page. It’s in the right sidebar.

      • Reply
        Tieran (@TieranOfficial)
        August 2, 2019 at 12:21 pm

        I’d be extremely happy with those results. Congrats! Hopefully it leads to some consistent growth.

  • Reply
    Peter Szalontai
    November 20, 2019 at 8:51 am

    Thanks for the great article and congrats for the blog :)!

    I like your suggestions but as much as it would be awesome as a musician to get your stuff in the discover weekly, i’m also a listener 🙂 and i think that would kill the purpose if that playlist then would practically become an ad filled with paid for songs. Also, in the previous article about Spotify Ads you mentioned they don’t allow other artist names in the script, I think that’s logical because all smaller names would try to ‘climb on the back’ of bigger ones so it could be abused.

    I have a question as well: i have run a facebook ad for my band using a smart link as website url for the Listen now button. For about 30$ i got 10k reach and about 300 outbound clicks, and that seems quite alright i guess. What was letting me down though that i didn’t really see this 300 clicks appear as listens in the statistics of spotify or other services. I have about 80-100 streams per week so it should be noticable i think and i barely saw a small increase if any. Do you have any idea what could explain this ?

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      November 20, 2019 at 5:17 pm

      I hear you on Discover Weekly and allowing other artist names. All other ad platforms that I know of let you do the latter, but I totally see your point.

      Unfortunately I share your pain in regard to Facebook ads. I have yet to crack the code!

      For my latest album, I have 3732 clicks through to my Feature.fm Smart Link. Of those, only 329 clicked through to a service, less than 10%. Worse, only 44% of those clicked through to Spotify, which has been my focus. And for most of the campaign I had previews disabled, so it’s not like they previewed the song and decided to pass.

      You can set up a conversion campaign with Feature.fm to measure clicks through to Spotify, which I did, but I haven’t been able to generate those conversions at a cost I’m comfortable with.

  • Reply
    heartscore
    November 21, 2019 at 1:12 am

    I get the message “We’ll reach out once Ad Studio becomes available in your region.” I am located in germany, so this is US only in the moment?

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      November 21, 2019 at 8:41 am

      I’m not sure, but I checked the FAQ and noticed this:

      “If you are based in the UK or Australia, we will need to verify your VAT/ABN upon sign up. We will email you once your VAT/ABN has been confirmed.”

      So apparently it’s not US-only, but maybe it’s just the three countries.

  • Reply
    Darryl Reeves
    November 26, 2019 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Brian, your article was excellent. It answered some questions I had swimming in my mind so thanks!

    Do you think or have you seen that by targeting similar artists, the algorithm has put you in playlists along with those similar artists? Have your “Fans Also Like” become the artists you targeted in your ad? Is there any influence on the algorithm from plays obtained from the ads?

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      November 27, 2019 at 1:29 pm

      I think it’s safe to say that you could steer your “Fans Only Like” toward a particular artist by advertising to fans of that artist, since you’d be broadening the pool of listeners that listen to you both. That should affect algorithmic placements i.e. Spotify’s perception of where you fit in as an artist, as well.

      I’ve used some of my “Fans Also Like” as targets, but most are indie synthpop bands from the 90s, many of them no longer active.

  • Reply
    Darryl Reeves
    November 27, 2019 at 5:31 pm

    Ok thanks.

    I remember hearing that Google adwords ads don’t influence the seo rankings on youtube (still not sure that’s correct). That’s why I’m asking. If ad plays on Spotify influence the algorithm, that’s pretty darn useful.

    And even if the bands are old, if they’re still getting loads of plays presently then it’s no essentially different than a current artist, right?

    • Reply
      Brian Hazard
      November 30, 2019 at 1:24 pm

      I’m not sure the ads influence the algorithm to necessarily get you more plays, in the same way that you might from organic plays. But I’d wager the recommendation engine isn’t aware of the ads.

      As for the old bands, it’s more a matter of demographics. Fans of those bands aren’t the listeners I’m currently trying to reach. For the most part, fans of 90s synthpop are distinct from fans of current synthwave. I think!

  • Reply
    Darryl Reeves
    November 30, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Gotcha! And you’re awesome!

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