Digital music consumption is a continually evolving market that has undergone massive changes even in the last few years.  While advertisers slowly begin their return to YouTube in the wake of brand suitability concerns, music is a category that should be on any good marketer’s radar.  The transition from digital music downloads to streaming platforms has been rapid and shows no signs of slowing down. While most would agree that the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play dominate the scene, YouTube has emerged as a sneaky competitor and their prominence is greater than you might think.  

In 2017, video streaming accounted for 55% of all music streaming across various platforms.  The data shows that YouTube garners the majority of that 55%, solely supporting 46% of all music streaming on the internet; a claim that Spotify or Apple are unable to make.  The difference, of course is that most of this activity is from unpaid subscribers, but YouTube is seeking to change that in the very near future.

In recent years, YouTube has doubled down on their commitment to becoming a fully-fledged music streaming platform. Statements from Google reps indicate that they will be placing a large focus on trying to get users to become paid subscribers for YouTube Music.

[Google’s ad strategy will] frustrate and seduce’ YouTube’s free users. It’ll have exclusive videos, playlists, and other similar offerings that’ll entice music fans.  – Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s Global Head of Music

This will mean more opportunities to run ads against musical content on YouTube as growth continues to spur.

Brand Suitability Considerations

Running ads against musical content can be risky however.  Artists are notoriously hard to predict with regards to what their content might contain.  Even a typically “clean” artist can sometimes release content that would be considered negative for brands to run against.  The challenge becomes how to scale advertising efforts against music content without risking a brand suitability violation. Exclusion listing and inclusion listing are great tools for more static content, but music is far more dynamic than usual content on YouTube.  3rd party services that include technological solutions like audio/transcript analysis can be hugely beneficial in protecting a brand from a violation. Another concern for advertisers should be the frequent use of playlists. Listeners often turn on playlists in the background while they do other tasks; meaning some ads might fall on deaf ears.  In order to mitigate those concerns, it’s likely that audio-driven ads would perform better on this form of content. However, in spite of these concerns, music is simply too big to ignore when it comes to advertising on YouTube. Music’s dominance on YouTube is not only probable, the data shows that it is imminent.

Key Takeaways on YouTube Music Trends

  • Inclusion List Channels that resonate with your audience
  • Exclusion List Channels that would reflect negatively on your brand
  • Take note of Video Tags and cross-reference with Keyword Lists
  • Audit campaigns to ensure brand-suitable content alignment