Out-of-the-box ABM

Extend your marketing mix outside the "Facebook/Adwords" box

3 min read

Billboards Still Strike a Chord in the Music World

So there you are, strumming along with your latest hit song . . . or, it would be a hit if only people knew about it. Or knew about your band. Whether you’re launching a new release, a new musical group or announcing your next concert date, billboard advertising is a must. Still relevant after all these years.

Hollywood’s Sunset Strip has been the iconic home to music industry billboards for decades. Since the 60s, actually, when record label Elektra put up enormous hand-painted billboards to promote The Doors. Yep, hand-painted. Originally, the Sunset Strip billboards were painted by hand in sections which were then installed together, a process that took about 10 days to complete.  

History that inspires

As a professional photographer, Robert Landau understands the power of imagery. His book Rock ’n’ Roll Billboards of the Sunset Strip captures the imaginative vision, vibrancy and even outlandishness that continues to make Sunset Strip a must-visit for music fans from around the world. Watch and listen here as he talks about what it’s like to photograph the billboard landscape.

Landau and Peter Spirer, director and producer at Rugged Entertainment, also made a film based on Landau’s book, called Sign O’ The Times. They joined us on our OOH Insider Show to talk about their experience. They believe billboards offer a “fleeting moment in time” -- an “opportunity for brands, entertainers or artists to connect with an audience in a way that is larger than life,” making an emotional impact and inspiring viewers to take action.

Musicians know how to get creative

Today, billboards remain both art form and a performance marketing channel. Over time, they have become much more elaborate, as creators found ways to add props, extensions and lights to get noticed. One of Robert Landau’s favorite examples: the Pink Floyd billboard promoting The Wall, which literally grew brick by brick. This attention-grabbing approach has not been lost on marketers outside the music industry, who also now design “outside the board” and in 3D to deliver a can’t-miss message.  

Like everything else, the music industry has changed dramatically in the past 50+ years. But billboards have managed to transcend those changes, remaining a top choice for music professionals from labels and talent agencies to performers themselves who need to reach a mass audience.

In 2021, pre-event promotion for the Juno Awards featured nominated artists on billboards near their home towns. Jazz singer and pianist Liala Biali tweeted the locations in Vancouver to her fans so they could go take selfies with “her.” Of course that went viral.

Spotify goes omnichannel with out-of-home (one of OOH’s best moves, by the way) for their annual Wrapped campaign. They combine mobile and social promotions with an extensive outdoor showing to announce which artists and groups are the year’s most popular. Users pick the winners, so they’re automatically invested and engaged when they see the billboards.

Taking it on the road

Of course not everyone is ready to strut their stuff on the Sunset Strip. No worries, though. Rolling Stone says, “Artists seeking their big break can start small with OOH.” And companies like MilkMoney are helping them make it happen, with billboard campaigns that promote top artists and their brands:

  •         84% of their clients are first-time billboard buyers
  •         35% are in the music/entertainment Industry
  •         80% are independent businesses

Their work is proof that billboards aren’t just for Hollywood anymore. LA to NYC, Seattle to Miami, they’re popping up in markets coast to coast. As well they should. Because maybe your band is getting its start in Seattle (hey, it worked pretty well for Ray Charles and Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana). Or in Boston, where not everyone actually works in the tech industry! You can check out Milk Money’s billboard scene on Instagram.

Expanding your OOH playlist

Aspiring artists can start small with local billboards that build name familiarity, promote newly-released CDs or videos and invite attendance at live performances. Partnering with a venue or store makes this even more affordable and also adds credibility. But out-of-home offers more than billboards. You can tell your story on:

  •         Transit ads on buses or taxis
  •         Posters and guerilla wild postings
  •         Street furniture such as bus shelters and benches
  •         Kiosks in the mall

You can go digital with billboards that display live-streamed music videos or video ads on smaller screens in local bars, at the mall or other venues around town. You can reach a mass audience or choose OOH placements that target viewers that are tuned-in to your genre.

It seems fitting that out-of-home, a music industry advertising channel which got its start about the same time as The Beatles, would be just as enduring as the Fab Four’s music.  And the future looks brighter than ever. However billboards continue to evolve, they offer an engaging, memorable connection between musicians and music marketers and their audiences wherever they are in the real world.

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