Why & How Musicians Should Be Using Medium
Medium is not just a platform for “writers” it's for creators...
In a letter to Medium members sent moments after they sign up, CEO Ev Williams writes:
“120 million people read on Medium every month and over 20,000 times today someone will publish on Medium to share a story, an idea, or a perspective with the world. Each one has a chance to influence others, plant a seed, perhaps even start a movement. Medium is creating not just technology, and not just content, but a new information ecosystem — one that is open for everyone to participate in, but without submitting to the lowest-common-denominator.”
That’s the ecosystem you’re joining.
Before getting to the why, how, and who of using Medium, it makes sense to tell you what Medium is.
What is Medium?
Medium is a blog publishing platform built for people. Medium is designed to elevate quality and original ideas, provide a clean reading experience, foster engagement, offer depth, and surface viewpoints. It also compensates those who publish on it.
As a writer, you can join the Medium partner program, which allows writers to earn money for the content they publish on Medium based on engagement from Medium members. Stories set as eligible to earn money in the Medium Partner Program are put behind the metered paywall and can be read by those who have a Medium subscription, as well as those readers who have free reads on their account.
The bottom line is when you post, you earn. For artists, I see Medium as an extension of their brand where the artist is able to own the complete narrative, without traditional admin responsibilities.
Why Should Artists Be Publishing on Medium?
There is money to be made on Medium. Medium is not just a platform for “writers”; its integrations make it a platform for creators. It’s commonly confused as a place exclusively for writers because those currently publishing on the platform have yet to innovate on it, leaving open an opportunity for artists to access the first immutable law of marketing: the law of leadership.
In the opening chapter of Al Reis and Jack Trout’s The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, readers are introduced to the law of leadership: It’s better to be first than it is to be better. We’ve seen the first-mover advantage playout in music over the past year, starting with Lil Nas X’s YeeHaw Challenge on TikTok that catapulted him to the Grammy awards, on Triller where Chance The Rapper and Lil Uzi Vert were the first to promote their own songs on the app, and even with Grammy-nominated dance duo SOFI TUKKER’s emergence as the leaders of Livestream.
Each of these artists saw an opportunity in a new platform and went all in.
The problem with those platforms though is that none of them directly compensate you for posting content on them. Medium does.
Few artists are even on Medium today, and of those who are, they aren’t consistently posting nor maximizing its capabilities.
Beyond direct daily earnings from the platform, Medium directs traffic to artists other channels that directly compensate them: YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music.
This is all done with backlinks — links from one website to a page on another website.
Beyond linking to your earning channels, artists can also direct traffic to their website, newsletter, and social media profiles.
What’s even cooler is that as the artist, you own the entire narrative.
To offer an additional advocation for artist movement onto Medium, consider the law of the opposite. In short, the law of the opposite says if you’re not the leader, then your strategy is determined by the leader. Today, artists have the opportunity to be leaders of the migration onto Medium.
In a parallel vein, in a marketing piece titled What Non-Violent Revolutions Teach Us About Marketing, we learn that success usually comes from doing what is unexpected. In this same article, we learn that marketing doesn’t have to be boring. Sure, Medium is a platform for words, but take a tour and you’ll quickly realize it embeds photo and video too. Just sayin’.
If anything, test Medium out, or tease it. Gary Vaynerchuk, the loose-mouthed wine salesman turned marketing guru, openly shares his content strategy that focuses on a piece of pillar content, and how he teases platforms. By testing and teasing Medium, you’re prepared and agile.
Neil Patel called Medium the rebellious, super-smart younger sibling to traditional blogging and an appealing playground for adventurous marketers looking for new ways to associate their brand with great content. “Adventurous marketer” sounds a lot like “opportunistic artist” to me.
If the endorsement of a New York Times Bestselling author that Forbes called a top-10 marketer, and President Obama recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30, isn’t enough to activate movement, consider what Ira Glass says is the most important thing you can do to be original.
“If you want to be original, the most important possible thing you could do is do a lot of work. Do a huge volume of work” — Ira Glass
How Musicians Should Be Using Medium
An appropriate place to start is with some principles for using Medium, that should be followed like a guide:
In your bio, include your website so those who discover your profile can continue to discover your art.
End each story with a signature (see below) that has links to all of your social media channels, streaming platform profiles, and newsletter sign-up landing page.
Don’t think you have to limit yourself to writing.
Don’t think that even if you want to write that you need to be contributing to Medium as if they were pages of your diary.
Always publish your stories behind the paywall.
Use backlinks — hammer this home.
Okay, let’s go.
The law of candor suggests that candor is disarming. On Medium, you have the opportunity to share the real you, emotions included, to an audience that has previously only known you as a performer. Now, they can meet you as a peer.
From studying the marketing strategies of successful non-violent revolutions, we know the power of humor.
“If you’re hoping to get a mass movement going within a very short span of time in the age of the internet and other distractions, humor is a key strategy.” — Srdja Popovic
The leaders of Otpor!, the movement that toppled Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, knew politics were boring and they wanted everything to be fun, but more importantly funny. People talk about funny things. Now, you might be thinking we’re not starting a mass movement, but you’re wrong. You are. You are aiming to mobilize a mass movement of a core commodity in the attention economy and direct it towards you.
Observe the law of extension
Yes, this is a new platform, but don’t change your brand for it. If you’re not a songwriter, then don’t become a diary writer. In time you’ll find what works. If you still have the desire to contribute, but find a bit of creative writer's block, ask for some help.
Join a Medium management team
A performer might not want to be bothered by the trivial task of uploading and managing online channels, and that’s OK. That’s why musicians have managers. If you’re fortunate to have a day-to-day type team member that can manage or even ghostwrite for you, access them. If not, consider hiring a Medium manager to grow you. A note to artist management companies would be to designate one person for all your artists so that person can evolve into a Medium master.
Leverage your newsletter
Each month, non-paying Medium members can access up to three free articles behind the paywall. To encourage membership and drive conversion, in your newsletter share a minimum of four pieces published on Medium, and in order, make the most exciting one fourth. Your fans will have exhausted their three free reads and become a member because they want to see your final piece. Medium’s earnings are calculated based on member reading time and will include reading time from non-members if they become members within 30 days of reading your story so being consistent in sharing your links in your newsletter will drive conversions, create loyalists, and increase earnings.
Premier yourself on Medium
There are pros and cons of securing a premier with a media platform. The pro is exposure to their audiences the con is they’ve probably published 30 other pieces of content that day so you’re not the focus. Whether you’re releasing a song or a music video, control the entire narrative and all eyes by premiering it yourself. Consider the value of the user flow: The fan arrives on Medium where for every second they read your post, you are compensated, then your embedded content or links send them to either YouTube, Spotify, or Apple Music — platforms where their engagement also earns you money. You're maximizing the value of your fans.
Intimately share your journey
Intimate sharing allows you to increase the equity of your brand through the law of candor. Medium can be a diary portal for your fans. Send notes to your fans when you’re healing. Send thank you’s to cities after a concert, a short 2–3 paragraph love letter each night that your write after performing; share to Medium with an image from that night, and then you add to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram swipe-up. Even share other sides of who you are. Intimate means familiar, or close, not always romantic or vulnerable. Leverage this direct channel.
Share the details behind the lyrics of each song on an album or EP, or even share the details of the two-day music video shoot. Growing up, MTV and VH1 had Making The Video and Behind The Music, respectively — bring it back. You could even film your own episode, upload it to YouTube, then embed that video in a Medium piece where you share a paragraph or two about it. This is creating one piece of pillar content and distributing it wisely, maximizing its value on various platforms.
Life on the road
Commit to hosting a daily diary on Medium where you share a daily note from the road on your next tour. Support it with a short video of what your day looks like, when you can. Again, this video can be uploaded to YouTube, Facebook, IG Live, and TikTok as well, and still be just as valuable on Medium because, in addition to the video, you share a personal note and the Spotify links to songs in the video for fans to stream (💰).
Complete a 30-day challenge
To form the habit commit to 30 days of sharing something to Medium. ShareTour Tales, shareBehind-the-Lyrics, share links to songs — don’t be afraid to share a one-minute read that only links to a music video and two-paragraph behind-the-scenes story. Use this time to discover, explore, and innovate on the platform.
You’re an artist, so surely once you learn Medium, you won’t have any issue generating ways to use it and by now if you don’t realize, fans love you, and fans love to get to know you. The best way to do that is with original, authentic, behind-the-scenes content.
Justin Bieber used YouTube to create a docu-series called Seasons, which broke a YouTube streaming record. You may not be the Biebs, but allow that to be a proof of concept that fans are interested in your behind-the-scenes moments. It’s why music docu-series and music documentaries exist, and why tours, when they can, bring a full-time content person on the road with them to capture their day.
Anything you create can be supported and distributed on Medium. That’s a fact.
For an interesting case study, learn about The Players Tribune, a paywall platform that publishes first-person stories from athletes, providing unique insight into the daily sports lives of our favorite athletes. Now re-word that: a paywall platform that publishes first-person stories from musicians, providing unique insights in the daily artist lives of our favorite stars.
You can create your own personal player’s tribune.
The Player’s Tribune published Dear Basketball, by Kobe Bryant, a love letter to the sport on his way out. It published You Can Be Anything by Sky Brown, an 11-year-old skateboarder inspiring young girls around the world. It published Everyone Is Going Through Something by Kevin Love, beginning with his first panic attack, and it published 5 Reasons to Get Hyped for the 2015 Women’s World Cup by Megan Rapinoe in 2015 before she became a World Champion, again.
The Artist’s Tribune doesn’t exist, but Medium does. In time, though, someone will open a music-focused publication, and you’ll want to be the first in there too. A cool title would be AUDIO or The Green Room, and you could attract existing music journalists to lead it. (Time won’t allow me to do this but I’d be happy to advise an opportunist wanting to.)
Even without having an established publication, we’re seeing major names publishing on Medium.
Because it’s easier than managing a blog, and they can own the narrative.
Tony Robbins used Medium in 2019 to share his response to BuzzFeed’s Editors and Board of Directors.
Elizabeth Warren has published five times since the arrival of Covid-19.
Jeff Bezos used it to get ahead of an extortion attempt.
We’re even seeing musicians dip their toes.
In April of 2020, Grammy Nominated Kah-Lo published Don’t Let The Quarantine Monster Get You Down, and in late 2019 Sophie-Hawley Weld of the 2x Grammy Nominated Duo Sofi Tukker published 10 Days in Silence. In both of these stories, we, as fans, got to know the artists a bit more as people.
We got to feel like we were friends.
Ultimately, the choice is yours, but wouldn’t you be interested in reading Lizzo’s nerves on the eve before winning her first Grammy award, or the behind-the-song story of how Tyga contacted Curtis Roach to hop on Bored In The House — not from a perfectly optimized veteran of music journalism, but from the stars themselves?
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