Hello everyone and welcome to episode #6 of Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing Podcast. I’m your host Kenny Soto, and today we have our first podcast guest—Sam Hysell
Now, this is when the podcast gets SERIOUS!
Today’s guest is Sam Hysell. Sam is the founder of NOX Media, an agency that helps artists, entrepreneurs, and brands grow and convert audiences online. Sam is also the co-host of the Music Business Podcast and has experience working with and consulting a range of Fortune 100 companies, venture-backed startups, and industry titans/entrepreneurs.
In this episode, we talk about digital marketing in the music industry, Instagram Reels and Tik Tok’s political issues, core skills a digital marketer needs to have in 2020, and more.
Full Episode Transcript:
Sam Hysell 0:00
Record this computer and send you the files as backup.
Kenny Soto 0:03
Great. Great. All right. Hello everyone. This is Kenny Soto, the host of Kenny Soto’s Digital Marketing podcast. I am here with the podcast’s first guest. His name is Sam Hysell. And he is the founder of NOX media, an agency that helps artists, entrepreneurs, and brands grow and convert audiences online. Sam is also the co-host of the music business podcast and has experience working with and consulting a range of fortune 100 companies, venture-backed startups, and industry titans slash entrepreneurs. Welcome, Sam.
Sam Hysell 0:42
Thank you, man. Honored to be here. How are you doing today?
Kenny Soto 0:44
I’m doing great, you know, just trying to survive the whole 2020 vibe with COVID. He was like I’m playing a game of Jumanji.
Sam Hysell 0:53
Yeah, and rolling rollercoaster for sure. But so on keeping on. Yeah.
Kenny Soto 0:59
So what I wanted to go over today is your journey as a digital marketer. And for our audience, the listeners who are listening to this podcast, I want them to hear your story and hear how you are surviving and thriving as a digital marketer in 2020, during COVID-19. So my first question for you is, can you give us a little bit of your background, and how you got into digital marketing?
Sam Hysell 1:32
Yeah, for sure. So I mean, it’s been more or less doing digital marketing-related work for almost the past 10 years, I think when I first started doing it, I was working at a startup in New York City, and my objective was to sell. There was actually classes for aspiring technology entrepreneurs, teaching them the lean startup methodology, which is a way in which you can go about testing your ideas to make sure that whenever you are executing upon an idea, it tends to be based upon certain assumptions you have.
And it’ll either fail or succeed based on those assumptions. So it’s better to learn whether those assumptions are true or false sooner rather than later. So this methodology is all about teaching people how to invalidate or validate those assumptions. So while I was in college, if we’re going to start up, we were trying to sell calssess as in person, or we’re running right at that point, started learning how to run email marketing, campaigns, marketing across social media, that was kind of my first like, step into the world of digital marketing. And then over the course, the next 10 years, and I had different mentors, I was working on my own projects, my own personal brand, I was consulting with different brands doing marketing for b2b, was working with one company for almost two years as a b2b company.
And there was very much like thought leadership content marketing based marketing, so lots of written articles, email marketing. And then were you and I crossed paths, Kenny was working at VaynerMedia, under kind of Gary Vaynerchuk, who, and obviously, there’s always been very much kind of like a digital marketing thought leader. And a lot of the success he’s had has been due to his big personal brand. So he created a division within VaynerMedia, where he was kind of replicating what he had done for his own personal brand, for other entrepreneurs, musician. So it was really cool getting to work there and work with some incredible entrepreneurs and help really quickly build up audiences online there.
So then, that kind of gave me a lot of the covenants encouraging me to jump off and start my own thing. Because I was just so passionate about the music industry. So that’s kind of what I decided to leave in lunch and snacks, just because it really was important to me to work with that sort of customer so that I was really passionate about so kind of took advantage of all the skills I had acquired throughout the years to start this company.
Kenny Soto 3:49
And what does NOX media do? Can you go more in depth on what what is the main mission and the main service?
Sam Hysell 3:56
Yeah, for sure. So I think the mission right now is largely to create an unfair advantage in breaking new emerging music acts. So what we actually do is we focus on helping artists grown and convert audiences online, we really do that by focusing on four core areas. One is building and establishing what is the overarching kind of brand strategy and style. So I think there’s a lot of what makes an artist unique, who is their target audience?
I mean, these are questions you should ask even if you’re working on a brand, right? What is it? What’s the unique value proposition that your brand brings to the table? who your target audience segment on the style side? What’s the aesthetic you’re trying to create?
So first, we kind of establish what’s this overarching brand, strategy, and style, then we’ll work to actually create content. So whether we’re doing in-person shoots are virtually producing podcasts. We’re constantly creating content, both capturing it and then turning it into social optimized content. So creating content calendars, and then we’re post to get across different social accounts, running ad campaigns, deploying various tactics to help ensure that we can get as much distribution exposure as possible across these different social media platforms.
Kenny Soto 5:12
Perfect. And I’m assuming that your business has shifted or has changed due to the current events with COVID-19. So can you highlight and give some examples of how, because of COVID-19 things have changed? Or if they haven’t changed? Why?
Sam Hysell 5:31
Yeah, I mean, there’s definitely been some changes. It’s a no-specific order. I think one change. I mean, first of all, digital marketing has only become more important because it’s the one way, I mean, it’s one of the few ways in which you can actually engage with your target audience and customers right now. I think like in-person events, and activations kind of off the table sponsoring sports, like a lot of these other mechanisms of trying to get consumer attention are kind of off the table. So it’s been nice, it’s a good time to be in the world of like social media and digital and content.
I think what’s also nice too, is that I think, even if you look at major television production companies broadcasts or CBS ABC, one thing that COVID has done is it’s normalized, like relatively lower production costs. So if you think about it, even if you’re watching TV, sometimes you’ll see like Skype is how they’re hosting interviews and conversations with guests, which is nice because now that means it makes it you don’t need previously, you would have had to have like a 10 $15,000, like studio equipment, budget studio videographers, I mean, now it’s acceptable across a range of different businesses to do this sort of stuff. And I think it’s made that it’s really damaged, lowering the barriers to entry even more when it comes to like creating high-quality content online.
Um, I mean, I guess the last thing for me, for our business and NOX and really like staying afloat, I think it’s been adapting and really working to adapt, who we’re working with different customer segments, as well as our credit core value proposition. So we’ve been working with certain brands that we’re focusing a lot prior to COVID on in-person activations. But then we’ve kind of pivoted to do virtual events and help them up their game when it comes to social media marketing.
In other instances, even the types of musicians we’re working with, like in some genres, and some artists we were working with, they were focused a lot on live events and performing shows, and they didn’t necessarily make as much money from like streaming and royalties when people listen to their music on Spotify.
So we’ve had to kind of shift away from that customer segment, instead, focus on artists that are doing better on streaming, because streaming, and people are still streaming just as much music. I mean, there’s been a little bit of change, but not nearly as much as like the live music live event side of the music industry. So we’re kind of adapting our value proposition and adapting our customer segments, we’ve been able to be able to grow and have some of our like best ones ever, which has been great to know, I’m just gonna keep it up.
Kenny Soto 8:10
That’s good to hear. You mentioned virtual events. Can you elaborate on, What do you see as a virtual event? And how do you set it up?
Sam Hysell 8:22
Yeah, I mean, I think it might just be a fancy way of saying like live streams, but I think ways in which you can really engage community bring them together. I mean, I think it’s not necessarily something where you want to just try and like copy-paste, like everything that you did it in person, like IRL event into like an online format.
So I think what people want to be entertained, they want to be educated. So finding fun, engaging content concepts to do that in a live stream way can be very valuable. But then I think what’s also important beyond just running like a live broadcast is like you’ve never want to, in marketing create, just like flash in the pan moments where it’s just this put a lot of effort into this thing that lasts like one day.
But rather, you want to create a moment build a lot of buzz and a lot of hype anticipation leading into that, as well as coming out of it. I think there’s a lot of interesting ways if you’re doing a live stream to like repurpose tons of content coming out of it. If you’re doing a pet a virtual panel where you have three different guests. And it’s 45 minutes, chances are, you’ll have like five to 10, at least different video clips or like quotes, you can pull and then you can now use that as content for the next couple of weeks across your social. So when we think of virtual events or live streams, that’s kind of how we’ll tend to think about it. +
Kenny Soto 9:38
Okay. Now moving aside from what we’ve just talked about, I wanted to ask more of a tactical question. You service, a lot of musicians, a lot of artists, if you were an artist or musician, starting off in 2020, with all the things that are going on right now. How would you approach building your audience from zero?
Sam Hysell 10:04
Great question. I think the couple different things. I think for starters, you got to understand what may see, I think a lot of marketing as an artist is being authentic to who you are as a person. And I think if you look at just personal branding in general, it’s kind of like, I mean, this goes for like a career too.
But it’s like, what are you good at? And you think about like a Venn diagram with three concentric circles. It’s like, what do you love doing? What are you good at? And then to some extent, like, what can you get paid for, I think, for an artist is like, what do you like good at? What are you interested in? And what do you love doing? And if you really pressed into those that will lay the foundation for your overarching brand? So who are you? What makes you unique? What are the things you’re into? And ultimately use that to inform other types of content you want to create?
Because I think that’s really setting up the strategy. But if I had to be very specific, right, what do you need to do to start building momentum, it’s like, consistently creating content, building partnerships, and CO creating content with other influencers. And then if you have paid media budget, like running ad campaign, so you can ensure that you’re getting in front of your target audience, maybe that’s paying for a shout out your hip hop artists on an Instagram page, like at rap that has millions of people interested in rap.
Maybe it’s running a Facebook Instagram ad campaign just so you can target people that are interested in similar artists and drive them to streaming music on Spotify. I think if you haven’t really focused on three things, it’s like consistent good content, and continuing test number five type of content, you’re creating partnership development.
So finding ways to cross-pollinate and CO creates content with other partners that already have access to your target audience. And then paid media paid media is how you can really guarantee you’re getting in front of your target audience.
Kenny Soto 11:50
Now, diving into distribution, specifically, what are your thoughts on TikTok, as a distribution platform for musicians?
Sam Hysell 12:01
Yeah, I mean, I think TikTok is super valuable, I think TikTok is a platform where you’re more likely to go viral than any other platform, I think just the way in which the algorithm works. It’s like using the for you page is just short surfacing, new ton of content that people are going to follow.
Whereas almost every other social app you use is really dictated by people that are already kind of in your like, social network. thing, it’s super valuable. I think you got to pay attention to what’s trending on the platform and be creative and putting your own spin on a trending concept.
I think if you consistently do that, like the chance of you having a video that will take off will be really big. So I think it’s super valuable. I mean, it’s interesting time right now we’ll see what happens when it comes to like, the political landscape and whether or not TikTok remains illegal in the US. But I do think it’s a platform where the likelihood of like explosive, organic growth is higher than it is anywhere else.
Kenny Soto 12:53
Yeah. And even if it’s not legal anymore in the United States, I’m sure there will be a copycat platform that comes up just to serve.
Sam Hysell 13:00
I mean, even Instagram is getting ready to roll out like Instagram reels, which will be like 15 Second, very similar to like Tik Tok music-centric video. So, we’ll see. I mean, I think even Instagram stories kind of were largely derived from like, Snapchat’s functionality.
So I think, in that sense, that’s not I mean, stuff that’s hanging in there. But Instagram is definitely, the throne right now. So we’ll see, they might dethrone Tik Tok, but they’re the new kid on the block right now, that’s doing a great job.
Kenny Soto 13:31
So from a overhead, like a higher-level standpoint, if, let’s say I’m a digital marketer, and I want to get into specifically publicity, personal branding, and marketing in the music industry, what skills? Do you think I should have to make myself attractive to startups, midsize agencies, large agencies? Or what? Do you think I should have to create a team to start doing my own thing in that in that space?
Sam Hysell 14:03
Yeah, to the skills. I mean, I think generally, being very analytical is really valuable. So to the extent that you can analyze what other artists are doing well, or I think as a great marketer, you need to constantly be analyzing and testing things.
So that just having that ethos of constantly testing, seeing what’s working and doubling down on what is, and pulling back on what’s not is a critical skill. I think another thing is really understanding a lot of that. I mean, when it comes to marketing, I mean, there’s a bunch of different channels and ways you can go about marketing, email marketing, search engine optimization, paid media ads, social media, marketing, within social media, you have all these different platforms, I think, really identify what are a couple of the channels that you think are really important.
I think in the music industry, specifically, I think it’s social media marketing. I think like PR is important. I think influencer marketing is really valuable and it’s The platform is like TikTok. And another interesting platform is like SMS or there’s a lot more text message-based marketing to build up skills and deep understanding and experience and leveraging certain channels.
From there, I think it’s a matter of really like building up the actual experience and like growing a community and selling stuff, I think like the skill, I mean, there’s some like softer skills, resourcefulness, being able to stay focused, be productive. But I mean, if you understand how to test and refine tactics, and you under any have a good understanding of different marketing channels, you’re able to test and refine across those, and you have all these other like base level, like good job skills, being productive, being able to prioritize Well, being able to collaborate well with teams. I think that those will be some of the most like foundational skills that I recommend. Yeah.
Kenny Soto 15:53
Perfect. And I have two more questions. In regards to what you just mentioned, can you elaborate more on SMS marketing and text message marketing? And why do you feel it’s essential?
Sam Hysell 16:07
Um, I think texts is interesting because if you look at like email, I think email marketing, right when it was getting started, you had open rates that went through the roof. So if I were to send an email to an email list, you’d get over 50%. Like, maybe even like over 70-80% of people would actually, like, open, and read your emails, I think anytime. I think all marketing channels like rise and fall and come and go. And I think to the extent that you can always be an early mover on a channel is where you’ll win, because that’s when it’s the least competitive and before it’s too saturated.
So I think we’re seeing an interesting thing happen, that’s very synonymous to what happened when email marketing just started with text because of the fact that it’s not completely saturated, yet, by other brands competing to get in your, like SMS inbox, people are more likely to open those messages and click through so the click-throughs. And open rates on SMS relative to email is like through the roof. So I think that’s why it’s super valuable. With that said, you can’t treat it as alike, it’s a blessing and a curse because it’s a very intimate place, like persons like a phone. So it’s not about just being constantly promotional in general.
Yeah, and another general like marketing principle to is in I mean, in Gary’s words is like Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. But in other words, it’s like, you need to focus a lot on like nurturing and growing and engaging with your community, and not just trying to convert them. Like whenever we’re creating content, like we’re always thinking it’s either like, fun content to grow and engage the community or it’s like conversion-centric, where it’s promoting a specific initiative, we’re trying to get people to click a link or purchase something.
If you’re only doing that conversion-centric, like hard-hitting call-to-action stuff and text. Like it, people will consider that spam very quickly. But if you’re trying to actually like, have some level of like meaningful one-to-one conversations at scale, like then I think it becomes really, really powerful.
Kenny Soto 18:10
Perfect. And my last question would be, either in general news or in business news, what is something that has excited you this week? That’s caught your attention?
Sam Hysell 18:24
Yeah, let’s see. Let me think it’s general news or businesses. I think the
Kenny Soto 18:36
what’s on your radar, what’s stood out the most innocent, doesn’t necessarily need to be this week, it can be just this month, what’s something that comes to mind that you think all professionals should be thinking about?
Sam Hysell 18:48
Yeah, I mean, I guess one thing that’s come to mind, I mean, I think, news-wise, I mean, I’m always paying attention to upcoming features. So on different social media apps, I think Instagram starting to roll out Instagram rails, which could dethrone Tik Tok. Interesting. TikTok is like a political battle. And the fact that I’m I get shut down is interesting. I try not to read too much into that, because rather just keep pushing forward. And if it happens, it happens, but not get too hypothetical. To say those are, those are big things. Met, those are some of the big things that come to mind.
Kenny Soto 19:24
Perfect. Thank you so much, Stan, for your time. Where can the listeners find you online?
Sam Hysell 19:32
Yeah, you can check out I also run a podcast called the music business podcast. So if you’re interested in the music industry, just search music business podcasts in whatever podcast app. Otherwise, maybe find me on Instagram at Sam Hysell
Kenny Soto 19:49
Perfect. And for those of us still on, I’ll be adding this to the show notes. Again. Thank you so much, Sam, for your time.
Sam Hysell 19:58
Appreciate it. Kenny. Keep up the great work man.
Kenny Soto 20:01