Are we overlooking music streaming platforms for advertising?

Music has been a prime form of entertainment for centuries. The way that we consume music, however, has adapted overtime, with consumers preferring digital services or streaming sites. The most popular streaming platforms include the likes of Spotify and Apple Music, while services with smaller user bases, like Tidal, are growing. But as they continue to grow, is it possible that we’re overlooking the reach that these platforms have? Could music streaming platforms inspire even more brands to advertise through more engaging ad placements?

The numbers

Apple Music and Spotify have been locked in contest to see which is the superior streaming platform. Spotify remains on top with over 250 million monthly active users (more than 100 million of which are paid subscriptions.) Unofficial sources however mention that Apple recently took over the majority of the market in the US, surpassing Spotify’s paid subscriptions. The Weeknd is currently the most streamed artist on Spotify with over 60 million monthly listeners.

What advertisers are currently doing

Music streaming services typically use their platform to get more customers by signing exclusive deals with artists (Drake released his album Views for a week, only Apple Music), although this has become less common compared to the platforms initial release.

Apple Music is not supported by advertising at any subscription level which contrasts the likes of Spotify and SoundCloud. Spotify offers users the choice to pay for the service or use it for free with the inclusion of adverts. Users get the occasional ad to enable 30 minutes of ‘ad-free’ music whilst SoundCloud runs a similar system, in which an advert plays at the end of every few songs. Advertisers are currently accessing over 150 million users that use a free account on Spotify alone.

Audio advertising is hugely successful across both free streaming services, as well as in podcasts. Joe Rogan has recently signed a deal with Spotify for his podcast in a deal worth a reported $100 million. The intelligence used in Spotify, Apple and SoundCloud, creates personalised playlists for users, which presents the opportunity for brands to reach the right listeners at the right time with their audio ads. Take a look at how juice brand Tropicana tapped into this mechanic.

In 2018 Spotify partnered with Malibu to create an enticing Halloween campaign for their listeners. As a product that is typically associated with summer, Malibu (or ‘Maliboo’, as they rebranded for the campaign) targeted specific Halloween playlists with 3D audio ads, a homepage takeover and an interactive microsite that aligned their drink as the perfect partner for the spooky season. The results from this campaign gave the brand a 120% boost in message association, while also providing a 48% lift purchase intent of those who were exposed to the ads.

BBC partnered with Spotify to promote their newest documentary ‘Seven Worlds, One Planet.’ This partnership included the release of 7 exclusive videos for users to watch, as well as a playlist and other exclusive content. This was the first global takeover of Spotify, opening up the road for other advertisers to follow suit.

Nike have also partnered with streaming sites to create playlists surrounding their brand values and products. For example, Nike Women created a playlist for their users to listen to when running, associating their running collection (and by extent the brand) with upbeat music to put their users ‘in the zone’.

So what can you do?

When it comes to platforms to advertise on, your automatic assumption is to partner with the first two streaming sites that come to your head. Unfortunately, Apple Music rewards its loyal fan base with limited ads. Consumers currently pay £9.99 a month for ad-free & unlimited access to the streaming service, so advertising access is not feasible at this moment. But the likes of SoundCloud, presents the same opportunity as other sites, but on a smaller scale.

So, what are the opportunities that you could look into?

Home page takeover

A similar idea to TikTok. Brands can take over the front page of Spotify through display ads. This means when users arrive onto Spotify, the visual ad is one of the first things that they will see.

Partner with the brand

Creating a partnership with a music streaming service will create association and relevance. Alternative Partnerships could entail exclusive offers for either the streaming service or your brand:

‘Sign up today for 10% off *brand*’

‘Buy this product and get 1 month free of Spotify’

‘Follow our Soundcloud for exclusive playlists’

Make a playlist

Creating a playlist can create an emotional connection with your audience. Music is known for evoking human emotion and can be the perfect format for creating a genuine connection with your listeners and consumers. Be creative when creating your playlist, for example, a popular trend in social media has been compiling a list of songs with the titles forming a sentence.

Associate your brand with lifestyle or timely moments

Calendar moments such as Christmas, summer and Halloween have synonymous connections with music. But sometimes it’s those nuanced, lifestyle-led moments that brands can really align with to connect with their audience on a deeper level. Just think of the music you particularly like to listen to whilst running, cooking, or even falling asleep to. Brands can utilise this to express their values through a particular time of the year or lifestyle moment that really resonates with their brand.


Podcast advertising targets engaged listeners. Music listening is arguably passive, meaning users may not be paying attention to the content, but podcasts are different. Podcasts are engaging, and users are there to listen to the topic spoken about.

Brands have the option to either partner with the podcast or run seamless ads at designated points in the podcast. It can be argued that users have a sense of loyalty to their favourite podcast, meaning they’re more inclined to listen to an advertisement directly spoken from the host themselves.

What to takeaway

People love music, and the numbers that are currently using streaming platforms speak for themselves. But as music lovers ourselves, you have to be wary of how you’re going to tap in. Music is often an escape for a lot of people, and brands must ensure they do not negatively disrupt that experience for them.

While brand takeovers and visual-led content perform well elsewhere, to attract an audience on an audio-focused platform with visuals is going to be a difficult task. But if you are to go down this route, you must captivate this audience in a way that is not going to takeaway from what they’re there for – audio.

It’s essential that we acknowledge that this is an audio-first platform. When people listen to music, are they concentrating on the music? Not all the time and not consciously, but they’re still aware of what they’re listening to.

Can it be argued that we are overlooking this platform? Definitely. But it’s all down to your brand’s objectives. There’s scope to push advertising on the platform outside of audio, while also pushing the boundaries of consumers’ audio experience. You just have to work out how your brand can tap in.

Jack Watkins