Free on Google Play

Ariana GrandeBlake SheltonImagine DragonsLorde


Penny Gap

The Penny Gap is a phenomenon that we experience in almost all of our retail campaigns. We’re typically trying to get interested consumers to purchase music. The idea behind the penny gap is that regarding price, the biggest hurdle to overcome is to get a consumer to pay anything at all (even just a penny) for a product.

So what should a label do when it has an artist with a free album at Google Play and the penny gap isn’t an issue? It’s free, it’s a superstar, so there will be a huge number of downloads, right? Of course. However, Google Play pays out revenue share based on your suggested retail price. So if the album is free, labels still earn the same amount from those downloads as they would if the album was priced at $9.99. Labels can ride the free downloads they’ll get organically, or they can be just the right amount of greedy, support the sale with some digital marketing dollars and see downloads and profits increase exponentially!

Unique Tactics

There are strategies and tactics from these campaigns that overlap with how we approach standard retail campaigns. However, there are also several unique tactics to consider.

Creative and Messaging

“Free” is a powerful word in advertising. We mention price in our retail campaigns as a way to qualify our clicks. In this case, the lack of a price is an incentive. There shouldn’t be a single ad running that doesn’t call out “FREE” in big bold letters.

This sale only lasts for a week. That should be made crystal clear. We don’t want someone to see the ad or click on it and think they can get the music later. Creating a sense of urgency in ad messaging can encourage users to take action in the moment. Our banners for Imagine Dragons left no doubt that there was one only more day to get this album for free.

Google Play Fans

The artists that have been featured in these campaigns have massive core audiences on Facebook. Since these promotions only last a week, it can be difficult to reach all of them. What we do however, is put a microscope on that audience and hone in on that artist’s core fans that ALSO like Google Play. While there’s no penny gap to overcome, Google Play is not the market share leader. Ads targeting all of an artist’s fans will include many users who prefer other methods of music consumption. The overlay ensures that we’re hitting those likely to be most interested in Google Play promotions.

Past Purchase

In our retail campaigns, we exclude users who have clicked on a smartURL for the current album we’re promoting. In our free Google Play campaigns, we’ve seen success targeting users who have clicked on smartURLs for this same release in the past. These could be users who switched from iPhone to Android, users with multiple devices, or people who use multiple services who are taking advantage of the opportunity for a free download.

Measure Success

We’ve developed a model that helps us track and project overall sales for free Google Play campaigns. The data is based off of a conglomerate of daily sales across different genres for Google Play albums. It’s important to set a goal at the start of the campaign. Are you aiming for 400K, 500K, 800K? Through daily communication and monitoring we can see how the campaign is pacing towards that goal. If we’re going to cruise to it, do we want to pull back spend and let it ride? If we’re falling behind, do we need to ramp up everywhere to ensure we hit that goal? As with all of our campaigns, everything is happening in real time, and with the ability to get sales numbers on a daily basis, we work with our clients to make sure that each of these campaigns is a home-run without fail.

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