Nicki Bluhm’s Van Session Covers and the 1% Youtube Rule for Artists
What you’re seeing above is a great music video cover by Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers of the Hall & Oates classic I Can’t Go For That. The band has been recording from the dashboard of its tour van for some months, presumably between traveling from show to show. These great performances have been dubbed the “Van Sessions,” have been posted to Youtube and nicely curated into a playlist here. If you’ve seen it before, you’re in good company: This video hit the Internets on March 23, 2012 and has steadily been racking up views thanks to posts on Reddit.com, shares among friends on Facebook, showing up on Buzzfeed, thedailywh.at, boingboing.net and isnichwahr.de, among many others. You can see these stats (if the uploader makes them available) from video’s Youtube analytics, the little bar graph button under the video.
The 1 % Rule of Youtube Music Videos
We’ve talked about it before, but by 2010 analytics, Youtube is the number one place people discover music online. If you’re an music artist and your music isn’t on Youtube, you’re making it hard for listeners / viewers to find you, and maybe even frustrating your fans. In our Nashville Rock Your Net workshops, we’ve talked about ways for artists to… strategically use Youtube to attract attention and engage with an audience. How important it is to title and tag the videos properly, fill in the descriptions, and include links to places you wants fans to see.
Keynote speaker at many of our workshops, Gavin Mikhail, has had great success in his own music career with cover songs on Youtube — not only amassing hundreds of thousands of views, but “converting” those views into clicks to action. That action may be to come to a website, download a free song and signup for a mailing list, and even buy a song (or more). From his experience, he can count on about 1% of views to convert to action.
Not only has Gavin strategically chosen the songs he covers to raise the likelihood of higher views, but he’s also obtained compulsory licenses to sell the download of the recorded cover song (generally costing about $0.09 per song). This is money most artists leave on the table — providing a download of the same song that is in the video. If artists like Gavin can generate hundreds of thousands of views per song, that 1% adds up — and because the songs are forever searchable, his “old catalog” videos can continue to bring in clicks. Additionally, by Gavin taking the initiative to license the song for pay download, more money goes into the pocket of the songwriter, as well.
Setup Buckets to Catch the Drips
The series of Van Session videos had received tens of thousands of views, but at this point, none as many as the I Can’t Go For That cover. From March 23 to April 2, 11 days, while NBG’s H & O’s cover video was “going viral — collecting some 400K views,” its Youtube description matched many of the other Van Session videos, including general links to the bands website, links to social media, and a link to the band’s existing albums on iTunes, but nothing specific to the cover in the video.
Remember, the Internet is a series of tubes. Through those pipes flow the traffic of your fans — and with it their attention, eyeballs, and sometimes even their wallets. Artists must plan out what they provide on the Internet. Artists should try to funnel the traffic where they want it to go (by including trackable links to websites, social media, and stores), and always watch for opportunities to engage with those people along the way. Think of it as a plumbing schematic, making sure the spouts pour into the right funnels and that there are buckets are under the joints to catch any potential drip. For DIY artists, setting up these buckets is crucial because it’s the drips that add up.
React and Adapt
About a week after that one video began to increase its views, NBG (and its team?) added some new links in the descriptions of all the Youtube videos. Trackable links — using a great URL shortening services called Bit.ly — allows them to see when people clicked and went to web sites that are not their own website — like Facebook, iTunes, etc, so they could see how effective their efforts were.
On April 2, a new trackable link was added to the I Can’t Go For That cover which provided a free download of the mp3 song in the video, in exchange for subscribing to the band’s email list. This pop-up “widget” provided thru Topspin appeared over the video itself, not requiring the fans to leave the video just to add their email and download the song. Note: that in-page pop-up setup is important because the fewer steps the better — traffic analytics show that with every hoop you require a user to jump thru, fewer people will take the time to make it thru the next hoop toward your goal.
Since April 2, you can see the band’s click stats to the free mp3 download link here. As of 4/4/2012, there were about 3500 clicks to download the song for free. If all the people (not likely, but let’s suppose) who clicked the link actually downloaded (something that isn’t public, but the band would be able to see in their Topspin backend), that’s some 3500 names on their mailing list. Many may not be new, as surely some existing fans were signed up to the mailing list. They’d also know what subscribers as a result from this video were new from their Topspin data.
From April 2 to today, according to the provided Youtube stats, the increase in views of the video was somewhere between 100k to 200k. The clicks Bit.ly reports attributed to Youtube were about 1,350. That puts the clicks right around 1%, following Gavin’s 1% rule!
If 1% holds true, had the bucket been in place to “catch the drips” to add fans to their mailing list from day one on this video alone, that number could be 7,000.
Money Still on the Table?
Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers did take advantage of the hundreds of thousands of views that their creativity warranted. Hopefully they’ve added some newly excited fans to engage with via email and social media.
But is NBG still leaving money on the table?
Youtube is running ads against their video, which may be bringing in some additional revenue. Others may also be paying attention, including Daryl Hall himself, as well placed ads for Live From Daryl’s House videos are popping up at the top of recommended videos.
But what if NBG went a step further to attain a compulsory license for this cover song — they could be offering it for sale (besides giving it away for free) and maybe even offer a compilation album of Van Sessions for all of their great Van Session renditions. Services like GreenLight Music can simplify the licensing process dramatically. Looking at the cumulative views of the 16 songs listed in the band’s Van Sessions playlist, well over 1.5M, if Gavin’s 1% rule held true, those drips certainly add up.