August 15, 2017

Mixcloud: On A Cloud Of Its Own

Following his insightful contributions on the Founders’ Panel at the Figaro Digital Marketing Conference last month, we spoke to Mixcloud’s co-founder Nikhil Shah, to learn more about one of the world’s leading online sharing platforms for creators, DJs, podcasters and radio stations. Founded eight years ago, the platform connects listeners around shared interests, bringing together a diverse array of music micro-communities under one virtual roof.  We caught up with Shah to learn more about how Mixcloud tailors its content in order to remain relevant to its broad collection of audiences, which were built from the ground up.

Building Identity and Community From The Ground Up

Shah and his co-founders recognised that there was an opportunity to create a platform for sharing and discovering music and to build a home for radio content online. To get to where they are now, Mixcloud had to develop its identity from the ground up – by deploying what Shah refers to as a “bowling pin” strategy. The team initially began by catering to specific users: “we really focused on targeting the London DJs in genres such as techno and bass music, which are specialist niche communities. We managed to get some well-known leaders on board early on, and then it scaled quickly over time as we built a wider catalogue”. Starting small, with a focus on meeting the needs of a specific group, meant that Mixcloud could build its audience over time in a way that was relevant to specific users from day one.

A Service That Is All Things To All People

Part of Mixcloud’s uniqueness is that it is a service that suits a variety of audiences. “We were very active initially to ensure we were relevant to specific audiences – in the first couple of years, we focused on the creators of music, and then we expanded to broader genres. We’ve ensured that when you land on the site as a user or listener, it’s a service that can be all things for all people.”

It’s important for the platform to cater to the DJs and producers who upload their content to the service. “We have built a brand that really cares about creators. Initially, we focused on them and were really proactive in encouraging certain DJs to use the service, and we ran our own club nights and organised meet-ups”. As well as catering to the content producers, the experience is also personalised to every individual listener. “Whether you’re a jazz enthusiast or a grime lover, the service tailors its experience to your tastes”, explains Shah.

The three-way relationship between Mixcloud, the creators, and the listeners, is one which the platform is careful to not overpower. As Shah explains, “our brand takes a bit more of a backseat in the experience, and one of the challenges is striking the balance between having brand awareness and cut-through, but not being too strong in that relationship between the consumer and the creator that they’re listening to through us”. By doing this, the brand is able to maintain its role as a platform and a service, whilst not getting in the way of the listening experience.

Encouraging An Onward Journey Of Music Discovery

One of the challenges Mixcloud faces is encouraging users to continue exploring music through its service. “Our job, when the user lands on Mixcloud, is to encourage them to go deeper – to encourage them not just to listen to that one thing and then disappear, but to have an onward journey”, Shah explains. This is reflected in the social media strategy, which is focused on driving the Mixcloud community to share to their own audiences. “If we build the right tools and the right expectation to encourage a user to share our content, we can have a much bigger impact on our user base”, explains Shah.

Broad Partnerships For A Broad And Diverse Community

The personalisation of the experience suits both its users and the brand partners that Mixcloud works with. Because the platform’s audiences are so varied, the partners it works with can be equally broad and diverse. “Mixcloud can provide a music and content strategy that is really relevant to a brand and what they stand for, and then find the right way to amplify its content to the right audience. That’s done through the different tools we have on site, to make sure the right listeners see the content on a brands channel.” The unique targeting variables used on the platform include targeting by upload – a lot of brands, for example, like to target people who are creators, because they know they will be influential. The platform also carries out genre targeting as part of its native advertising, which ensures a hip-hop mix from Adidas, for example, will be put in front of the right kind of listeners for that genre.

Culture Marketing  

The insight Mixcloud gains from working with a variety of tastemakers means that the team have a unique understanding of DJ, music and audio culture. Staying true to this culture is essential to its brand partnerships – “often we see brands announce partnerships that just don’t make sense, that don’t work with the culture”. Mixcloud, on the other hand, works closely with its community to ensure it creates cultural programmes that make sense for its brand partners, resonate with their audiences, and also contribute to the music culture it works within.

This deep understanding of culture and unprecedented access to the people leading it on the ground is driving the direction the company will be expanding in: “We’ve seen a strong desire from our brand partners to help them understand culture in a deeper way – we are therefore in the process of launching a sister agency, which will help brands achieve this”. This brand interest in culture, Shah argues, is due to a major transition in content and advertising, where there is a growing role for cultural insiders to work with brands. Mixcloud’s sister agency is currently in beta with a full launch expected later this year.

Mixcloud’s ability to provide relevant content to its users and retain its authenticity is achieved by staying true to the music culture it has developed from. Its personalised service, which caters to a wide variety of audiences, works well for both its users and brand partners. It means relevant content will reach the right kind of listeners, suiting both the listener and the brand. The unique elements of its business mean it is successfully disrupting and competing in a crowded industry, and forging ahead in a league, or a cloud, of its own.

Click here to watch Nikhil share his insights on the Founders’ Panel at our Figaro Digital Summer Conference.