Interview of the Week- Samir Bangara, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Qyuki

It is highly unlikely that any individual in today’s digital world is not influenced by social media. Celebrities who were unapproachable earlier, are now detailing their personal life on various platforms. Social media users now know what their favourite stars wear, eat, drink-through these platforms. 

This has opened up a new avenue for brands to project themselves and at a cheaper cost. But gaining attention is becoming increasingly difficult for brands because every business, big or small, is present in the online world. This has also made consumers wary about the trust factor. To win over the consumer’s trust, brands and digital marketing agencies are developing innovative digital marketing strategies and one of the most reliable amongst them is influencer marketing. 

In recent years, influencer marketing has become one of the important tools for digital marketers. Brands are investing a significant amount of time and resources into executing successful influencer marketing campaigns. 

To know about the role of influencer marketing in music promotions, we spoke to Samir Bangara, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Qyuki for our Interview of the Week. 

Co-founded by Samir Bangara, A.R. Rahman and Shekhar Kapur, Qyuki is a data-driven new media company which discovers & invests in India’s most influential KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) to help them rapidly grow their audience, create content and launch scalable D2C brands. Qyuki also exclusively manages a host of talent across YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

1. How has music marketing changed with the advent of short video streaming platforms and digital influencers?

Lately, independent music is being promoted on par with film music.  Promotions often involve a launch party, a tour, and visits to radio stations in various cities, depending on the budget. The next step is to close deals with the streaming partners which differs by platform. It can be a monetary deal or if the artist is backed by a big label it could be a part of their deal with the label. A good deal would help in getting the right placements of their content on the platforms. This is very critical as the money an artist can earn on streaming is 5-10 times than from video streaming platforms. 

The recent IMI report also suggests that 75% of the revenue is generated through streaming out of which only 25% is through video streaming. So music streaming platforms form an important construct in the business which is evident by the number of platforms that exists and new ones entering the market. 

Some artists prefer not to be involved deeply in the promotions as they feel it dilutes their core artistic role. Slowly they are also realising that it’s impossible to market a track well without the artists backing it fully, just like the star cast of a film promotes a movie at launch.  it 

For ensuring YouTube streams, a planned marketing strategy is of utmost importance as it acts as a digital hoarding for the song. Targeting advertisements towards people who view your content rather than just buying the cheapest generic views is important and there are several strategic advantages of buying fewer but rightly targeted views than just chasing a number blindly. 

2. How does a song become viral?

In recent times it has come to bear that chronologically the short video format platforms are the first in the marketing domino effect and Tiktok is clearly the largest in this space.

Gajendra Verma’s Tera Ghata was the first Tiktok that created a hit. It has over 150 million audio streams and around 300 million YouTube views without a dollar spent on marketing. In this era, a song is judged to be viral if it crosses 25-30m  views on YouTube and so 300 million views are super viral. Generally, a song hits this figure when it is backed with a huge marketing budget. So how did this song become super-viral? The credit for this goes to TikTok. Initially, the song got off to a slow start. Then some creators on Tiktok created 15-second sketches lip-synching the track which started getting popular. Since Tiktok does not have any native external links to YouTube, viewers have to actually physically search for the video. This spikes the YouTube algorithm which values organic search requests from its users and the platform then starts recommending the track to other users – creating a virality.  YouTube popularity feeds audio streaming promotions, as well as Radio, plays as its seen as a good editorial indicator. And there you have it – the break-down of creating a viral track. 

3. What is the role of traditional media, viz radio and TV, in terms of marketing music in the digital age?

I won’t dwell on TV much as its great branding to be on TV but it’s not necessarily a great business driver. the target group or TG of  young people who actually drive virality is not the TV first. They are digital natives and thus you can appreciate the stand. Lets back up a bit. When the internet arrived in the late 90s, everyone thought newspapers would be dead. They are still around – a bit bruised but still very relevant. Television didn’t kill radio. Music streaming sites did affect the music industry till the music industry figured out how to stop resisting and embrace streaming and guess what – there’s a lot of money the labels make in streaming now. So for the foreseeable future, all these will co-exist. But in all this, digital is definitely going to get stronger but the avatars it takes will keep evolving i.e YouTube to Facebook to TikTok and Instagram, etc. 

Between radio and streaming platforms, the latter generates way more revenue but on a branding and marketing perspective, they are roughly on par. Radio plays are largely an editorial call Therefore the focus the content gets on the radio also depends on track’s performance on YouTube and music streaming platforms. However, the big labels have an advantage because they have long term catalogue deals which naturally have some influence on editorial calls. That’s business! If I were a station and had a large number of songs coming from a label I would be more lenient towards it when it comes to editorial calls and plays too. It’s nearly impossible for an artist to do all of this alone. This is where the value of a business manager comes into play. There is a difference between a creative manager and someone who manages your business aspect. An artist needs someone to manage them to cut business deals, without that it’s impossible to survive.

4. The difference between using a traditional celebrity versus a digital influencer for the marketing of content.

In the current digitally dominated era, the influencer is the nucleus of marketing online. Let’s break this down. To ensure the ‘virality’ of a song on platforms like Tik Tok and its domino effect on other platforms as discussed earlier, the influencer’s role becomes critical. It’s important to understand the difference between influence and advocacy at this point. The easiest way to define this is – Influence is about reach and advocacy is about trust. When Shahrukh Khan promotes  Hyundai Santro car or Lux Cozi undergarments that’s influence. Everyone knows he doesn’t drive it or wear it! But people remember the brand nonetheless  However when it comes to a digital superstar, right from Kylie Jenner talking about her lipstick brand or Mr. Faisu about his 2407 Crush Deo spray using a Deodorant spray, there is a level of trust which is created. This trust becomes the defining factor for customers to buy. A digital superstar has more advocacy than a traditional one simply because they are from that world and are relatable.

digital marketing

I recently posted an info-graphic on my Instagram account about how our artist Mr. Faisu who in  2019 had 7.7 million comments on Instagram .which was 1 million more comments than Ranveer Singh, Salman Khan, and Virat Kohli combined! The point here is that the level of engagement in the specific target audience is so high that even with far lesser following he had more comments which roughly translates to  15 times the engagement of a traditional media superstar. This is a pathbreaking development from the context of marketing.

It’s equally important to understand that there is no question that the traditional media superstars still enjoy the greater brand value and make infinitely more money. But depending on the category of what needs to be promoted and in what medium, there could be interesting alternates or combinations that marketers need to explore. How are the budgets chalked out?

For pricing, YouTube and Instagram are the two barometers. YouTube from a pure content perspective and Instagram from a brand value perspective. If someone has numbers on both platforms that’s a big win but its rare. To give you some numbers, an artist with a million followers on Instagram charges around 1 lakh for a story that lasts for 24 hours A post is more expensive because of it’s stays forever in the feed. If you bundle stories with posts the pricing could be 3 5 lakhs as a package. A smart agency won’t draw out a marketing strategy like a sprint race but more like a marathon because a  brand would need multiple promotions at various stages. An informed intermediary is essential in such cases otherwise the conversation can become quite baseless and impractical at times with no ability to enforce deliverables. For YouTube, the pricing really depends on the creators’ clout and the content format. Deals start at under 1 lac and could be as high as 1 cr on the top end plus production costs associated with music videos or vlogs etc.  

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