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Behind The Music (Video): How Important Are Videos to Both Artists and Brands?

5 minute read | April 2014

By David Bakula, SVP Client Development, Nielsen Entertainment

If you’ve caught yourself replicating PSY’s dance moves or have ever done the “Harlem Shake,” then you’re direct proof of how music videos can capture people’s attention. Some of the most popular videos of the past few years have been music videos, including those for the hit songs “Blurred Lines,” “Wrecking Ball” and “Harlem Shake.” And that’s good news for artists who benefit from increased exposure and additional forms of revenue.

To capitalize on this success, many brands today are jumping on the music video bandwagon and incorporating products into big-name artists’ videos. If executed well, a brand’s integration can improve consumers’ perception and attitudes towards the brand. And it’s not just awareness that increases with exposure. These subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) integrations of brands and music can also boost brand perception and purchase intent for even greater impact.


Streaming helped boost music consumption in 2013, with total* music streams up 32 percent over the previous year. And in 2013, Nielsen data contributors reported over 57.1 billion music video streams out of the 118 billion total streams. The top two total streams are instantaneously recognizable as video hits: Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” and PSY’s “Gangnam Style” were streamed an astounding 490 million and 280 million times in 2013, respectively. With their appealing dance element, visual appeal, and fan spinoffs, these videos were viral and sharable, contributing to their exposure. Despite being video-driven and successful in streaming, these tracks performed more modestly on the sales side.

Audio streaming (excluding video) closely aligns the sales charts—many of the same songs appear among the top 10 of both. The top two music audio streamed songs included Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” and Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.” These songs were also the second and third best-selling digital tracks of the year, with 6.1 million and 5.5 million units sold in 2013, respectively. While total streams (inlcuding videos) for these two hits were lower than for Baauer’s and PSY’s videos,  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ and Imagine Dragons’ top-selling songs were still streamed an impressive 257 million and 171 million times in 2013, respectively.


Music videos help artists in two big ways: exposure and revenue. Typically music videos are produced and released in the early stage of a song’s release cycle, intended to drive exposure through additional channels for fans to consume whether they’re shown on TV, streamed or played in a public area. For some artists who have videos with viral appeal (artists like Gotye and Ylvis are great examples), they can be a huge driver for music sales and help to build the story to radio. Meanwhile, when brands enter the picture and strategically place products in music videos, it can produce a new revenue stream for the artist while also building exposure for the brand. In a time where music consumption is shifting across various mediums, these partnerships, if chosen well, can be effective for both sides.   


Plainly stated, music video product placements work. In a new study, Nielsen found that not only do people notice brands in music videos, but these videos can contribute to a lift of 8 percentage points, on average, in purchase intent and improved perception. Even in the cases where the brand product placements weren’t as noticeable, overall awareness increased. In essence, these videos can present a more organic alternative to a blatant endorsement, which can be less effective with certain music genres.

Beyond awareness, music videos also provide the opportunity to show off unique selling points about products. For example, Avril Lavigne’s “Rock n’ Roll” video showed off the Sony Ericsson Experia phone’s waterproof feature when she answers it after taking it out of a glass of water. And the artists’ endorsement through usage and product placement within their videos will also boost perception of a brand. As is always the case with this art form, however, the truly creative benefit the most.

Brand placement in music videos can take a variety of forms—from Miley Cyrus using EOS lip balm in her “We Can’t Stop” video to Katy Perry taking a selfie with her Nokia phone in her “Roar” video. However, we’ve learned that a brand’s effect actually reflects how it’s placed rather than the number of on-screen seconds it gets. Our research found that it’s possible for products that have 5 seconds of exposure to create 35 percent (or even higher) brand lift, the same as those that are on the screen for 35-60 seconds.

Overall, these partnerships can be beneficial to both artists and brands. For example, in 2013, Miley Cyrus’ wildly popular “We Can’t Stop,” featuring both the EOS lip balm placement and a second with her Beats Pill, was a video hit as the sixth most-streamed on-demand song with 151 million streams. And given the short time needed for a brand to have an effect, artists don’t always have to be concerned about brand overexposure while brands don’t have to worry about how much time their product is shown to see results. At the same time, unlike other types of video—like TV or movies—music videos can go viral. When a new song comes with a video element and becomes a viral story, artists—and brands—can achieve consumption and exposure levels that straight audio (and advertising) cannot always garner.

*Does not include Pandora. Streaming reporters include: AOL, Cricket, Medianet, rdio, Rhapsody, Slacker, Spotify, YouTube/VEVO, and Zune.


Nielsen’s Music Video Brand Impact measures brand integration impact for 17 brand integrations across 13 music videos that span four genres. The online survey was fielded from December 2013 through January 2014 amongst approximately 6,000 music video viewers aged 13-54 (alcohol brands were only served to respondents aged 21-54). Respondents were those who were willing to watch a music video in the respective genre—ensuring that the brand integration impact is reflective of actual audience for each specific music video. Each music video was shown to respondents during the course of the survey with the true motive of the survey masked.

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