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Feed Is Automating Social Ads For Musicians

June 16, 2021

Joshua Jacobson and Nick Edwards founded Feed with entrepreneurial artists in mind. The U.K.-based company has a simple premise: make digital advertising as painless as possible for musicians and managers. 

Currently in closed Beta, Feed is a platform that automates social media marketing and helps artists find, nurture, and grow their fanbase by turning organic social content into ads. The platform has plenty of features either in early stages or on the immediate roadmap, including advanced performance insights and analytics. 

But the core function is simple: connect your account, tell Feed where you want the ads to lead people (i.e. Spotify, merch store etc.), set a small daily spend, and continue posting your organic content as you normally would.

Interested in trying Feed's closed Beta? Use this referral link to jump to the head of the line and start using Feed.

Founding Feed

Edwards and Jacobson took different paths to their common convergence — Jacobson as a digital specialist for labels like Warp Records and Transgressive Records, and Edwards as a classical-singer-turned-investment-analyst-turned-record-label-founder. 

Before Feed, the pair formed a label called archForm and worked with a handful of up-and-coming artists. They used their experiences and lessons learned to build the foundations for Feed. 

"One artist we were working with is a Finnish songwriter and producer named INKA UPENDO," Edwards tells RootNote. "Right at the start of releasing her first EP, she got selected to play Reading and Leeds, the second biggest festival in the U.K., on the BBC Introducing stage. We thought, 'Great, they're going to film it and we're going to have this great content.' We ran it as an ad and it didn't really do that well, but we also ran it alongside this random Instagram story where she was talking about how to pronounce 'Mauritius,' and it just did so much better than the professional video. Just this organic, everyday content in the artist's own voice. That was sort of the beginning of thinking about Feed." 

Control What You Can

In an industry where it seems like so much might be out of your immediate control, digital marketing is a surprisingly reassuring constant. But a lot of artists and managers might feel it's beyond their grasp. 

Trying to land blog love, editorial playlist placements, third party playlists, magazine articles, influencer support and so on tends to dominate the discussion when it comes to indie artist promo. But none of that is guaranteed to actually lead to fan growth. "It's like the cherry on top if you get picked up for a playlist or by a magazine," Edwards says. "But the bread and butter is digital marketing. You don't have to spend crazy amounts of money and it's the most controllable part of promotion." 

So why, then, does it still seem difficult to convince artists to spend money on digital ads over something like an influencer campaign or publicist? For one, there's still a learning curve with digital marketing, and the concept of diving in to Facebook Business Manager or Google Ads yourself is much different than hiring somebody to tap their network. But as platforms develop and paradigms shift, Edwards and Jacobson are seeing more creators at all stages of their careers want to take the leap.

"[Building Feed] would've been less possible five years ago," Edwards says. "Now feels like the right time — the mentality of how people think. This trend of more and more artists wanting to be independent and having the tools to do so."

The Three Things That Make Feed Different

The idea for Feed originates from three major digital marketing pain points that Edwards says affect nearly all of the music industry. For starters, small budgets.

"Other platforms out there just aren't realistic about what budgets are," Edwards says. "You might be spending only a few dollars a day. So we built Feed specifically to start with those budgets and up." In fact, Edwards recommends smaller artists start out with something as simple as $5 a day — but plan to spend this money for a longer, sustainable period of time, as opposed to trying to spend a bunch of money right around the release of the song. 

The second biggest pain point relates to ease of use. "Feed requires no marketing knowledge to use it," Edwards says. "I like to say it's so easy your grandma could do it. I'm not sure how true that is [laughs] and it might be a bit of a cliché, but the point is we're designing it to be mobile first and super simple to use."

Lastly, Feed is being built to reduce the amount of time spent specifically making marketing content. Feed uses your existing social media posts, testing various posts and leaning in to the posts most likely to get additional engagement. "It's literally no more work for [artists]," Edwards says. "It just plugs into what they're already doing." That's because at the end of the day, if an artist is being themselves and fans are reacting to it, that content is going to do much better than a super slick ad that immediately feels, well, like an ad.

The Indie Advantage

Edwards says that while independent artists and managers certainly have their fair share of work cut out for them, they also have some unique advantages when it comes to social media ads. 

"It’s kind of the same as a startup," Edwards says. "You have much more control of your own destiny; you can make decisions quickly, without baggage, and you can be really flexible with what you do. It’s exciting to think that you can go in any direction."

One thing he stresses for new artists is to not think of themselves in a constant state of competition for the eyes and ears of another artist's fans.

"You’re probably finding a slightly different set of people right at the beginning," Edwards says. "People who are really interested in discovering new artists. You’re not necessarily competing directly with massive artists. And all you need to build traction is a little bit of audience growth."

Focus On The ROAS

In marketing speak, ROAS stands for "return on ad spend." Which basically means, how much revenue you brought in compared to how much money you spent. In most cases it's presented as a multiple, so something like a 2.5x ROAS signifies that for every dollar you spent advertising, you brought in $2.50 in return. 

It's one of the most basic ways to deduce the efficacy of your ads. Though it's not the only important factor — for instance, ROAS doesn't account for whether or not the ads are ultimately profitable. Let's say you have a 2.5X ROAS, which means it costs you $1 in advertising to sell something that you charge $2.50 for. But what if that product costs $1.50 to make? Then your costs for advertising ($1) plus your costs for making the product ($1.50) equal the amount of money you bring in per sale ($2.50). That means you're breaking even, not making money. 

So, you know, just beware that ROAS isn't the sole important factor in sales. But it is a huge one — and one that Edwards and company want Feed to help artists and managers better understand. 

"In terms of business objectives, some artists and managers just want to go for top line growth, get noticed, and get signed," Edwards says. "And that's fine. But I do think people can overlook the value of the audience they already have — what can you do with 2,000 fans that you're not doing already? You might be able to make way more money just selling tickets and merch to 500 people. We want people to be able to focus on, 'How can I generate income now?'"

Which ultimately means it's down to the quality of fan you cultivate online, not how many people you can expose your music to at once.

Building Feed For The Future

Edwards says that even in Feed's closed Beta, they've already learned so much.— including what they still don't know. "I'm always surprised by what posts people most respond to," Edwards laughs. "I haven't gotten better at predicting it. You just have to trust the data at some point."

But that's part of the beauty of letting Feed react to content that is gaining traction and leaning in to it with ad spend. The long term goal of Feed is to be able to incorporate multiple social platforms. The user would simply enter a budget and hit go. 

But for now, Facebook and Instagram provide more than enough opportunity for artists to experience meaningful growth via digital ads. "You can see genuinely good results with $5 a day," Edwards reiterates. "It doesn’t have to be crazy. As long as it’s consistent."

Right now, the Feed team is working on optimizing conversion ads so that artists can better track their return on ad campaigns for things like merch sales and ticketed events. Those are considered more "bottom of the funnel" ads, meaning the people most likely to purchase from you have already "funneled" their way to the bottom and consumed your content along the way. Edwards is optimistic to begin testing those ads this summer and to open up Feed beyond a closed Beta in the Fall.

"Ultimately we want to help people make informed decisions that positively impact their business," Edwards says. "And to get people thinking long-term as well. Not just the short-term vanity metrics."

Interested in trying Feed's closed Beta? Use this referral link to jump to the head of the line and start using Feed.

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