As a digital marketing agency, a lot of the work we do involves paid media - often social advertising with carefully curated targeting. A recurring request we see from our clients, often before we even get started, is asking that we distribute their digital ad budget so that it only targets the U.S. market. From a logical perspective, it makes complete sense to only target ads towards audiences in markets where you know you want to build a fan base of real people who you can re-engage for show promotion when the time comes. But, from an ad-buying perspective, there’s a little more nuance. Beneath the surface, there’s an advantage to targeting your ads to international audiences with cheaper cost-per-results and even potentially a Spotify algorithm “hack”. This may seem counterintuitive, but by targeting internationally, you can actually build your presence in your own country. Here’s how it works.
How & why to expand your ad targeting to international markets
When building digital ad campaigns to promote Spotify streams, you might, by default and human logic, only decide to target your home country such as the United States, and maybe even Canada and western Europe. You might be thinking - I have a limited budget, so what’s the point in targeting listeners in countries I’m likely to never travel to? And of course - your home country plus other, close by or easier to travel to markets are no doubt important regions, which should absolutely be included in your targeting. But what shouldn’t be excluded is the rest of the world.
When targeting globally, first make sure you are only hitting countries where Spotify is even available. Take a look at Spotify’s availability around the world, here. Mexico, South America & Asia are areas with tremendous amounts of users and listenership. In fact, Mexico City is the top Spotify streaming city in the world, followed by Santiago, Chile.
Consider your genre too before blatantly targeting all over the map. As genres blend and new music is exposed to various areas, you may also be surprised where new fans might exist. For instance, in pop music, it’s imperative to be targeting all over the world. That’s one of the genres that are universally listened to - it’s “popular music”. However, pop is absolutely massive in Asia, so you may want to put some of your budget there. Alternatively, rock music is huge in South America, and Country music is increasing all over the globe
Another thing to note when targeting internationally is the disparity in cultures and how they may interact with music and content differently. Other cultures might even be more apt to share and engage with something because it stands out more in their space than in your own country where it's lost in the noise. Examine how your music and creatives might resonate with certain areas – if the sound or creatives are influenced by (or reference) those cultures.
Including international markets in your targeting is cheap(er).
Before we get into the aforementioned “algorithm hack,” let’s talk about perhaps one of the best advantages of international targeting -- the low cost-per-results. If you’re running ads to your Spotify, then the clicks (or conversions) are extremely cheap - sometimes even up to 10x cheaper than the United States. Meaning, for the same ad budget you can get far more bang for your buck targeting other countries. For example, you spend $1,000 on an Instagram story ad directed to your Spotify single. In the U.S. maybe you get a cost-per-click of $0.20 and so you receive 5,000 clicks to your Spotify profile. Internationally, the cost-per-click will be far less, maybe $0.05 so you get 20,000 clicks to your Spotify profile. Same budget – way more results.
Ok, so now for the elephant in the room. Why are those clicks so cheap? Is it all spam, and no conversions to streams?
First - the cost is much cheaper because of less competition for ad space. And as far as conversions – that’s slightly more of a gray area..
You do need to be wary of using clicks as your only measure of success on an ad, but that’s true no matter where you’re targeting including the United States. Clicks are meant to drive traffic, but users might actually be exiting out or simply not streaming after they click on your ad.
That’s why digital marketing requires monitoring and optimization. Track your ad campaign as much as you can and cross-reference the data with real conversions by keeping up with your DSP analytics, like Spotify or Apple Music for Artists. If you’re seeing a ton of clicks on your ads, but your streaming numbers are staying stagnant, then turn off or pivot those certain ad sets that aren’t performing.
Again, that is something you should always be doing, regardless of targeting. But, when targeting internationally, this is why it’s especially important to have multiple ad sets broken down by region to see what’s working where and allow you to make any necessary changes. At Venture, we’ve actually removed some countries from campaigns altogether, because it wasn’t worth targeting for the number of clicks vs. real streaming conversions. While others like Mexico & Brazil convert extremely well. It’s up to you to monitor and track where your clicks and streams are correlating and coming from, and adjust and optimize as you go.
So, yes - you may have to be more diligent in your monitoring and optimization as you expand your strategy to target international audiences. These are audiences that you are less familiar with, and may engage with advertising in a different way than you expect. But don’t let this misconstrue your view of the world. Targeting internationally doesn’t mean it’s all click farms in third world countries. There are still real music fans excited to engage with content in Indonesia, Chile, Singapore, etc.
Getting Noticed By Spotify’s Algorithm
And then there’s that algorithm thing. Getting Spotify’s mysterious and all-knowing algorithm to notice you can sometimes feel like searching for the fountain of youth. And true, it is a complex system which takes multiple factors into account. But, it is designed to build individually curated playlists like Discover Weekly, to introduce new music based on a user’s preferences and history, as well as popularity. So, besides the genre and the mood of the song, it ultimately places songs also based on traction. It picks up on songs that are gaining positive feedback, no matter where that is in the world. So if you spend $1,000 for those 20,000 clicks internationally vs the same for 5,000 clicks in the US.. this is where that ripple effect kicks in.
Let’s say you push your pop song heavily into Asia. It gains traction and essentially becomes a hit. It starts building streams, you gain followers, those fans save your song, they repeat it, and it gets added to their user generated playlists. That then creates a snowball effect for Spotify’s algorithm. Spotify picks up on the attention and starts pushing it further and further. Eventually landing you on algorithmic playlists such as Release Radar & Discover Weekly’s around the world, including your home country. It can even continue from there, possibly getting you on Spotify’s editorial playlists and suddenly you have mass global exposure. Those streams that triggered this effect also cost you fractions of what it would cost you in the United States. You were able to get far more streams because your marketing budget went further, and therefore triggered Spotify’s algorithm to help push your song even more.
Our recommendation: always diversify your marketing spends
To be clear, we aren’t telling you not to spend ad money in the United States, especially if it’s your local market and where you’ll eventually be touring. You absolutely need to be building fans here. Canada and western Europe are still crucial markets to advertise in as well not only for touring, but also just as major music consumer markets. But we are recommending that you diversify your marketing spends globally and don’t ignore the rest of the world. It can have a massive impact. There are around 144 million monthly Spotify users, but more than 80% are outside of the United States – and international users keep growing as the service expands into new territory. Make sure to dedicate some of your budget to finding those users too.