If you’re looking for a way to engage and grow digital audience and boost video views — and maybe help discover the next Billy Joel — Newsday has an idea for you.

For years, a few people on our digital team had been kicking around the idea of a Battle of the Bands contest in Long Island, New York. When we finally made it happen in 2016, what started as a fun summer contest blew up into a company-wide project. The simple voting interactive tool incorporated multiple Newsday departments including editorial, social media, multi-media, design/development, marketing, advertising, and community affairs. 

Our goals for the project were simple:

  • Increase local video views.
  • Use social media to drive people to our app/Web site.
  • Create a unique way to reach Millennials.
  • Generate something that is truly cross-departmental.

We asked local musicians to upload their videos of original songs and music; share some details about their band; and tell readers why they think they should vote for them. Our audience watched and voted for their favourites. The top 10 bands with the most votes advanced to our panel of judges, who ultimately crowned a winner.

When Newsday invited local musicians to enter its Battle of the Bands contest, they had no idea how big it would get.
When Newsday invited local musicians to enter its Battle of the Bands contest, they had no idea how big it would get.

Since this was the first year of the contest, our hope was to get a few dozen entries and somewhere between 10,000-25,000 online votes. Instead, Battle of the Bands became the talk of the local music community — thanks to a major push by our social media and marketing departments.

We spent way more time than we might want to admit on details such as exactly how the logo should look, colours, and the precise wording of social media messaging that would appeal to Millennials. The efforts were well worth it:

  • 81 bands entered and used social media to drive their fans and supporters to the contest.
  • Resulting in 324,744 page views and 58,660 unique visitors.
  • With approximately 100,000 votes cast.

The numbers speak volumes. The contest exceeded all of our expectations and then some!

In addition to the main voting interactive, we created more than a dozen pieces of new content, including a photo gallery of the 10 finalists, a “meet the judges” feature, and an interview with the winning band.

We also shot 13 Facebook Live videos, reaching 1,708,488 people and generating 91,899 video views. And we were able to share exclusive footage with our sister television station, News12 Long Island, as well as cross-promote with a partner radio station.

The contest prize was a music video shot by our award-winning multi-media team. Though we had never done anything like it before, the end product was an MTV-style music video, accompanied by a behind-the-scenes photo gallery and “making of” video, which premiered on newsday.com.

In terms of sponsorships, the interactive portion of Battle of the Bands was sold to a local college. This created buzz with a number of local music venues, who contacted us to see if they could host the winning band and work with us on future events. In the end, our winning band ended up as the opening act for Andy Grammer at The Paramount, a prominent local music hall.

Overall, the contest was a big success, and we are planning to run it for a second year. Which goes to show you, those ideas you kick around in brainstorming meetings should be given a chance every now and then — the results might just surprise you and truly pay off!