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Views May Vary: How Formats Impact Music Marketing


Formats rule everything around us. 

Thumbnail dimensions dictate how we engage with music’s visual identity in 2019, just as vinyl’s max storage capacity once defined ‘proper’ album length. Put another way, if the Siris and Alexas of the world can’t tell curious users who produced a song upon request, a generation might appreciate producers less than they could have. Views (more precisely, the way the YouTubes and Instagrams of the world define views) belong in the same boat.

Play counts indicate reach and, in many instances, generate royalties for rights holders. When public, they become social currency, functioning as heat checks. Validation. Invitations for the uninitiated. Someone scrolling through their feed might come across 10 videos in 60 seconds. Might a Twitter user stop their thumb to take a better look at mind-bending animation or watch an adorable puppy meet a baby tiger? 100%. That said, the number associated with each clip has its own gravitational pull. 

When we come across a post with 2.3 million views, we want to see what’s up — the digital equivalent of a Stanley Milgram experiment. If you’re walking down a city street and see 100 people all looking in the same direction, odds are you will too. Basically, attention yields attention, which means it’s a big deal that the biggest hubs for video consumption don’t agree on how much attention is needed to trigger one view. The minimum watch time required varies. These format parameters impact just about everything: the money visuals make, recommendation algorithms, and any opportunity that impressive digits help unlock. 

Imagine walking into a meeting with a DSP and proudly pointing to the 300,000 IG views your mini music video garnered as proof that you’re rising fast. Now imagine Facebook suddenly changing the minimum required watch time on Instagram from three seconds to five seconds. Your views drop 40%, and your case isn’t as convincing as it was moments ago. Such a random policy shift probably isn’t in the cards for a massive social network, but the point remains: Know the rules that govern the success of your work so you can use them to your advantage. Innovation happens when talented people turn formats into playgrounds.

Simple Steps to Apply This to Marketing

1). Turn the minimum required viewing restrictions into creative challenges to structurally tailor visuals to different platforms: e.g. dynamic intro cards, front-loaded supercuts, striking closeups, or meta devices — turning the running time into a message to the viewer (“You’ve been watching for X seconds”), or ‘puncturing’ the smartphone viewing experience (the illusion of shattering glass). 


2). Flip maximum viewing time into a different challenge — brevity. Condensing your best ideas can yield special results, e.g. Tierra Whack’s forever-relevant Whack World experiment, which leveraged Instagram’s 60-second ceiling for video clips into a recipe for concise songs that proved more is not always better. 

3). Isolate your performance data to clearly identify which platforms actually engage with you most, or exhibit the most commitment. 100 10-second-minimum views are harder to achieve than 100 three-second-minimum views. If you have to choose between investing in one or the other, it might just be worth exploring the option with the highest view minimum.

4). Ignore convention and avoid grandiose rabbit holes. A music video might feel like it should be two minutes and 30 seconds. An ad might feel like it should be 15 seconds. But if the minimum upload requirement is three seconds, or the minimum length to earn a view is 10 seconds, why overextend yourself? 

5). Remember views are really just a means to an end. If you earn 100,000 views on IG and your followers increase by 2%, the campaign probably wasn’t a success, whereas if 1000 people watch your YouTube video and 40% subscribe to your channel, that’s a massive win, relatively speaking. Views are integral to positioning and pitching an artist’s story. Views are also vanity metrics. Don’t let it consume you.

6). Let art lead. Constraints can compromise creativity as quickly as it can fuel brilliant new ideas. It’s important to stay aware of how platforms evolve, and how that can impact your performance, but it’s just as crucial to start with an artist’s vision.

How Different Platforms Define Views Differently

(These numbers are subject to change. Unfortunately many platforms shy away from confirming view definitions so we’ve done the best we can to aggregate and will update as/when new information is made available.)


  • At least 10 seconds (YouTube Analytics won’t track anything shorter)
  • An algorithm calculates the number of views to report and publicly display by aggregating ‘quality’ views and discarding the opposite, e.g. non-human sources.
  • Views can come from native sessions and all embedded sessions (whether someone watches a video on YouTube or on a website that features a YouTube video)

YouTube TrueView In-Stream Ads

  • At least 30 seconds (if video is 30 or more seconds long)
  • The entire video (if video is at least 11 seconds long and less than 30 seconds long)
  • At least 50% of the video must be visible on your screen
  • These ads contribute to public view counts and do trigger royalty payments to rights holders. However, YouTube recently banned TrueView plays from contributing to their music charts. 

YouTube TrueView Discovery Ads

  • The instant someone clicks an ad to play it
  • At least 50% of the video must be visible on your screen
  • These ads contribute to public view counts and do trigger royalty payments to rights holders. However, YouTube recently banned TrueView plays from contributing to their music charts.



  • At least three seconds 
  • Videos must be 100% visible on your screen

Instagram Feed

  • At least three seconds
  • Repeat views do not count
  • Self-views count only the first time you watch your own video
  • Videos must be 100% viewable on mobile 
  • Views only come from native, in-app sessions.

Instagram Stories

  • The instant someone opens a story

Instagram Live

  • The instant someone joins


  • At least three seconds
  • Videos must be 100% viewable on desktop and at least 50% viewable on mobile
  • Views can come from native sessions and all embedded sessions (whether someone watches a video on Facebook or on a website that features a Facebook video)


  • The instant someone opens a story 
  • Views must be 100% viewable on mobile
  • Views only come from native, in-app sessions.


  • The instant someone joints a session, they contribute to the viewer count
  • The instant someone with an account connects to a session’s chat, they are added to the viewer list



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