Digital Marketer Darren Hemmings Talks Online Branding, Music Marketing Strategies


DH at AxisHere digital marketing veteran and former head of digital marketing at [PIAS] shares his knowledge of online branding for artists, marketing strategies, and the use of bots.

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Guest post by Veselina Gerova of The Message

Behind The Artist is a Q&A style interview series featuring the people behind the artists; the marketing heroes you don’t hear about that often. They are the ones who help artists build a brand and a strong online presence. We decided to approach these marketing gurus and ask them all about their thoughts on online branding of artists, bots and strategies. They share their thoughts, expertise and their vision for the future.


Darren Hemmings has plenty of experience in the digital marketing sphere. He was previously Head of Digital Marketing at [PIAS]. Later on he founded Motive Unknown, a strategic marketing consultancy focused mostly (but not only) on the music industry. Some of Motive Unknown’s clients are BMG, Run The Jewels, Alt-J, Domino Records, Moby and many more. We reached out to him to ask about his thoughts on bots, marketing strategies and online branding in the world of artists.

Can you tell us a bit about you and what you do? 
Sure. I am MD of Motive Unknown, a strategic digital marketing agency based in the UK. Our clients cover artists such as Run The Jewels and Moby, labels such as BMG and Domino, and broader brands such as FIIL headphones, Studytracks and… loads more 😉

You’ve been in the music industry for a while. How important do you think it is for musicians to connect with their fans online? 
It is everything. Digital is now the bulk of people’s interactions with artists, be it socially or simply by streaming digital music or video. So making connections there is everything and remains the key to developing a highly engaged fanbase.

What are some of the best ways that artists can reach their fans online? 
Well social media remains the key one, and really I think its about using whatever profiles the artists feel most comfortable on. It isn’t something you can force. Some of our clients prefer Instagram, others Twitter, others Facebook. It totally depends. The main thing is that communication is authentic. 

Is it important for musicians these days to be innovative when it comes to technology?

I’m sure it isn’t important to be innovative so much as authentic. Innovation doesn’t – in and of itself – give you a more connected fanbase. A great idea that’s well executed and just happens to be innovative? That will work. But innovation for innovation’s sake? Not so much IMO.

The band Run the Jewels is a client of Motive Unknown and it has its own Messenger bot. How do you think this has affected the band’s social media strategy? 
I think we’re in early days of using messenger bots, but I think there’s a distinct evolution coming in which Facebook Pages will shift in their function, and where bots will supplant some of that in pushing a more intimate communication with fans.

What can musicians use a Messenger bot for? 
High quality, relevant, messaging that is one-to-one rather than one-to-many. A post on a Facebook Page is an announcement; an address to thousands if not millions. A message via a bot feels more personal, because much like email it feels more like it is addressing you personally. 

Should artists have a strategy when it comes to Messenger bots?
I think all artists should have a content and communication strategy where possible. Where bots are concerned, I think it is something evolving quickly, so I’d encourage artists to engage with it sooner rather than later. 

How do Messenger bots differ from social media postings in your opinion? 
There’s more intimacy. The engagement rate is high, and I think there’s more potential to drive awareness and response – far more so than with an organic Facebook post at present. 

What are the marketing advantages of having a Messenger bot? (for artists)
The higher level of response (compared to a Page post for example) and the more direct nature of how you connect with fans. It feels more valuable because its almost like getting a text message from the band directly. I love that.

As an experienced marketer, do you think a Messenger bot can help with one’s brand building?
Absolutely. With messaging you have the opportunity to create something far more qualitative. When connections feel more direct and more intimate, the response to them will be stronger – and that is incredibly valuable. 

What do you think the future of Messenger bots will look like? 
I’m not sure. I think at one end of things you could see more machine learning-led interactions that will be far more AI-like. At the more basic end, messaging could well become Email 2.0 as a means to draw direct responses that demonstrably push not just engagement but sales and revenue.